×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Alcatraz

"Alcatraz" concocts a fantastic premise with a dense mythology that essentially creates a procedural -- namely, rounding up a couple hundred long-missing inmates, which in theory (and in success) could potentially keep Fox in episodes until 2020 or so. Yet while the premiere deftly teases those possibilities, the show proves flawed on key levels, beginning with another TV detective who appears to have only recently graduated high school. The pilot's not bad, but offers at best marginal incentive to invest much more time in this piece of the Rock.

With:
Det. Rebecca Madsen - Sarah Jones
Dr. Diego Soto - Jorge Garcia
Emerson Hauser - Sam Neill
Lucy Banerjee - Parminder Nagra
Ray Archer - Robert Forster
Jimmy Dickens - Santiago Cabrera
Warden Edwin James - Jonny Coyne
Associate Warden E.B. Tiller - Jason Butler Harner

Like the J.J. Abrams-produced “Fringe” and “Person of Interest,” “Alcatraz” concocts a fantastic premise with a dense mythology that essentially creates a procedural — namely, rounding up a couple hundred long-missing inmates, which in theory (and in success) could potentially keep Fox in episodes until 2020 or so. Yet while the premiere deftly teases those possibilities, the show proves flawed on key levels, beginning with another TV detective who appears to have only recently graduated high school. The pilot’s not bad, but offers at best marginal incentive to invest much more time in this piece of the Rock.

The series opens with a prologue set in 1963, as guards arrive at Alcatraz to find everyone at the prison known as “the Rock” has vanished. Flash forward to the present, and San Francisco detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones, who had a recurring gig on “Sons of Anarchy”) is investigating a murder when a terse G-man, Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), bigfoots her off the case.

After clues connect the victim to Alcatraz, Rebecca seeks info from her uncle Ray (Robert Forster), a one-time guard there; and a professor, Diego Soto (“Lost’s” Jorge Garcia), who’s an expert regarding all things related to the famous prison.

Clearly, the show dangles several mysteries — foremost among them how these convicts are being unleashed, not a day older, onto the modern world; and who’s responsible for the time-warp. There are also flashbacks, illustrating what happened inside the prison decades ago.

As presented in the pilot, though, much of that feels like an excuse to conduct weekly manhunts for the wayward prisoners, with Garcia providing comic relief and a steely Neill delivering tantalizing tidbits — he obviously knows a lot more than he’s divulging — that invariably sound like lightning should be going off behind him.

That leaves Jones, who simply doesn’t possess enough heft, initially anyway, to carry the show. Ditto for the customary crack team working under Hauser, including “ER’s” Parminder Nagra, which doesn’t contribute much in the two-part premiere.

Although there’s no shortage of romance surrounding Alcatraz — and the idea of hardened criminals becoming dangerous anachronisms is a time-worn concept — there’s a nagging sense these are just going to be (very) cold cases, which will grow tedious without something more, and quickly, to fuel the larger mystery.

Because of the strong ocean currents, Alcatraz was said to be escape-proof (the movie “Escape From Alcatraz” leaves the question dangling), as well as virtually impregnable.

But unless the show can overcome the aforementioned tides working against it, viewers won’t need to engage in any extraordinary measures to plot their own getaway.

Alcatraz

FOX; Mon., Jan. 16, 8 p.m.

Production: Credits: Filmed in Vancouver by Bad Robot in association with Warner Bros. Television. Executive producers, J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Jack Bender, Danny Cannon; co-executive producers, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt, Kathy Lingg; producer, Athena Wickham, J.B. Moranville, Robert M. Williams Jr.; director, Cannon; writers, Lilien, Wynbrandt, Sarnoff.

Crew: Camera, David Stockton; production designer, Zack Grobler; editor, Mark Goldman; music, Michael Giacchino; casting, April Webster. 120 MIN.

Cast: Det. Rebecca Madsen - Sarah Jones
Dr. Diego Soto - Jorge Garcia
Emerson Hauser - Sam Neill
Lucy Banerjee - Parminder Nagra
Ray Archer - Robert Forster
Jimmy Dickens - Santiago Cabrera
Warden Edwin James - Jonny Coyne
Associate Warden E.B. Tiller - Jason Butler Harner

More TV

  • Mr. Peanut to Appear in His

    Mr. Peanut to Appear in His First Super Bowl Commercial

    The monocle-wearing Mr. Peanut is about to offer snack fans an entirely new lens on Super Bowl advertising. Planters, which has featured the anthropomorphic legume for more than a century as its spokes-character, will place him in a 30-second ad slated to appear in the second quarter of CBS’ broadcast of Super Bowl LIII on [...]

  • DRG Boards Sales on Scandi Sci-Fi

    DRG Boards Sales on Scandi Sci-Fi Mystery Series ‘The White Wall’

    Scandinavian sci-fi series “The White Wall” is coming to the international market, starting at NATPE, after DRG picked up international rights to the upcoming project. Finland’s Fire Monkey and Nice Drama, part of the Nordic Entertainment Group, are making “The White Wall” for Swedish pubcaster SVT and its Finnish counterpart, YLE. It will feature a [...]

  • L.A. Teachers' Strike: Hollywood Studios, Unions

    Hollywood Studios, Unions Support Parents and Educators as L.A. Teachers' Strike Rages

    Hollywood unions and entertainment companies have stepped up to support the 31,000 Los Angeles teachers in the second day of a massive strike that’s affected nearly half a million students. More than 50 SAG-AFTRA members picketed at a Tuesday afternoon rally in the driving rain next to the Hollywood & Highland Center with secretary-treasurer Jane [...]

  • R. KellyR. Kelly in concert at

    'Surviving R. Kelly' Producers on the Lifetime Doc's Ripple Effect

    The ripple effect of “Surviving R. Kelly” continues to widen more than a week after the documentary aired on Lifetime, renewing public interest — and outrage — over the litany of sexual abuse allegations against the R&B artist. Lady Gaga and Phoenix have apologized for working with him. Chance the Rapper and other artists are said to [...]

  • Yellowstone

    Viacom Lays Off Paramount Network Staffers Amid Reorganization (EXCLUSIVE)

    Viacom has laid off a number of staffers in its entertainment group, with the majority of the affected employees hailing from Paramount Network, Variety has learned exclusively. A Viacom spokesperson declined to comment. But a source with knowledge of the situation that the number of affected employees was fewer than 20, or less than 2% of [...]

  • The Last OG

    TV News Roundup: 'Last O.G.' Sets Season 2 Premiere Date on TBS

    In today’s TV News Roundup, “The Last O.G.” announces its Season 2 return date and Variety has the exclusive first look at Fox’s new legal drama “Proven Innocent.” FIRST LOOKS Netflix has announced its new limited series “Black Earth Rising” will launch on Jan. 25. The contemporary thriller series stars Michaela Coel as Kate Ashby, a Rwandan girl [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content