Friday, May 04, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Alcatraz, season 1 (2012) ***

NR, 13, 45-min. episodes
Creators: Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt
Directors: Jack Bender, Paul A. Edwards
Writers: Steven Lilien, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Bryan Wynbrandt, Robert Hull, Jennifer Johnson, Toni Graphia, Leigh Dana Jackson
Starring: Sarah Jones, Jorge Garcia, Sam Neill, Jonny Coyne, Parminder Nagra, Leon Rippy, Jason Butler Harner, David Hoflin, Jeffery Pierce, Jeananne Goosen, Joe Edgender, Robert Forster

I’ve kind of been waiting on this one, hoping to get word whether FOX is willing to renew a show that underperformed for its first season finale. “Alcatraz” was one of the most highly anticipated shows of the 2011-2012 television season. With J.J. Abrams as one of the shows producers, an actor from the hit series “Lost” as one of the main cast members, and a science fiction mystery at the heart of its premise, everyone’s breath was held to see if it might be a new “Lost”.

It isn’t exactly “Lost”. It’s more designed for what’s generally popular in episodic TV. At television heart, it’s a police procedural. But, it is not another “CSI”. At its creative heart, it does fall more in the “Lost” category. I don’t know who had the most trouble accepting this amalgamation, the “Lost” fans, or the police procedural fans. For whatever reason, the show was not the runaway hit everyone had hoped for. At the end of it’s first season, in late March, it teetered on the bubble (see “Up All Night, season 1”). Now, as final deadlines for setting the fall TV schedules are looming, it still sits teetering.

I would be disappointed to see this show go. It isn’t a “Wow! I love this show,” like “Lost” was. But, it has so much potential, and by the end of its brief Spring run I had come to care about the characters and what happens to them. Even more importantly I’m dying to know just why every soul on the Alcatraz Maximum Security Prison Island disappeared in 1964, and why they’re returning unaged in 2012.

It took a while to warm up to Sarah Jones as the lead, Detective Rebecca Madsen. She isn’t the typical too beautiful to be a real cop heroine. She doesn’t persist on charm, but she gets the job done, and in the end I liked her. Jorge Garcia was the masterstroke of the casting as the civilian Alcatraz expert and closeted genius Dr. Diego Soto. His charisma is so natural and his humor so free flowing that he grounds everything. It’s a little difficult for me to remember his name isn’t Hurley, though. Sam Neill is exactly what he should be as the stick up his whoo-hoo man in charge, Special Agent Emerson Hauser. I wished that Parminder Nagra’s character didn’t spend most of the first season in a coma, though. She’s quite intriguing.

The characters of the 1964 Alcatraz are perhaps even more intriguing than the leads. The ultimately interesting actor Jonny Coyne plays the warden, and the prisoners are well cast, bearing the full weight of the show’s sinister feel. Just what is going on with that island? That question does sound familiar, doesn’t it?

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