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Series debut: Alcatraz Monday Jan. 16 8-10 p.m. ET

In television on 01/16/2012 at 4:53 pm

Alcatraz

Debuts:
Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 from 8-10 p.m. ET on Citytv and Fox, airing regularly Mondays at 9 p.m. ET

Plot summary:
You are familiar with Alcatraz, the prison in the San Francisco Bay that closed in 1963? Well, in this TV version of the story, the inmates were not transferred to other facilities so much as they were … well that’s the whole thing, right? What  happened to these prisoners? And their minders? It’s 2011, weird stuff is happening and, of course, there is a specialized law-enforcement/voodoo division set up to deal with this ongoing hopefully-multiple-season-long  mystery.

Cast and crew:
Sarah Jones (Lone Star, Sons of Anarchy) as Detective Rebecca Madsen

Jorge Garcia (Mr. Sunshine, Lost) as Dr. Diego “Doc” Soto

Sam Neill (Happy Town, Crusoe) as Emerson Hauser

Parminder Nagra (ER) as Lucy Banerjee

Robert Forster (The Descendants, Heroes) as Ray Archer

J.J. Abrams (Lost) is producer and I see Jack Bender (Lost) in the list of directors, for the second hour Jan. 16 (Ernest Cobb). On both counts, my official verdict is: “yay!”

Review in six words*:
Lost meets Prison Break, Time  Tunnel.

Real review: 
Watch it! They had me at “Alcatraz” (Birdman of Alcatraz, starring Burt Lancaster? Huge fan.). That doubled with the addition of the name “Jorge Garcia”, one of my favourite characters from Lost. Tripled when I found out Sam Neill and Robert Forster, two excellent film actors, were in the lineup.

Having watched the first of Jan. 16’s two-hour debut, I can say that my fingers are not uncrossed. I wanted to love the first  hour and I mostly do. There are just enough crumbs sprinkled and just enough pathos to get me hooked into being intrigued and caring about the poor time-lost prisoners caught up in whatever the hell complicated story this will turn into.

Bonus: There are numbers. NUMBERS! Just like in Lost. Did you spot them? 6-3-2-3.

Quibbles? I’m not yet caring too much about the lead, Sarah Jones. She does nothing wrong, but she hasn’t charmed me yet. Maybe her sidekick Soto (Garcia) and Uncle Ray (Forster), along with a family link to Alcatraz, will help draw her out. Also, Parminder Nagra has the worst poker face ever. I am not sure I buy her as a professional secret-keeper.

Other reviews:
It gets an average score of 75, which is pretty darn good, on the site metacritic.com.

* The six-word conceit is inspired by Smith Magazine’s six-word memoir series, in which they invite people to submit six-word memoirs, often on a theme such as Father’s Day, and then publish them. Lovely. Wonderful. An excellent exercise in boiling stuff down. Which I don’t do often enough and thought I’d try here.

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