Sam Neill has loads of fun playing an FBI baddie in this new action drama coming to Nine.

I have no idea if Alcatraz will turn into another FlashForward or The Event. So many high-concept dramas open with a bang but quickly turn into a whimper.

This new series is even executive produced by J.J. Abrams, whose triumph Lost is often maligned as the show that dragged out its plot for too long and departed with an unsatisfactory ending (for the record I was unhappy with the ending too, but despite some frustrating episodes it was still a groundbreaking series).

There’s a fair bit of Lost‘s DNA in Alcatraz. The cast includes Jorge Garcia (he was ‘Hurley’). Composer Michael Giacchino again scores the series. There are flashbacks aplenty, science fiction themes -and you may even see something resembling a hatch.

But Alcatraz works hard to address criticism of the genre that episodic storylines were too frustrating. While it has a vast series arc, each episode also contains a self-contained procedural plot.

In this Alcatraz, over 300 inmates disappeared mysteriously one night in 1963, only to reappear in present-day San Francisco. Shades of The Philadelphia Experiment perhaps?

There’s no explanation as to their disappearance, instead leaving its mystery to the series arc.

Homicide detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) is pursuing a killer in the city when she stumbles onto evidence that suggests he was an Alcatraz inmate in 1963 -but inexplicably he doesn’t look a day older.

FBI Agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) knows more about the re-emergence of the inmates and he has scores to settle.

Doctor Diego “Doc” Soto, (Jorge Garcia) helps fill in the blanks about Alcatraz and teams up with Madsen as she becomes more deeply entrenched in the mystery.

Alcatraz is almost two shows in one: a weekly crime procedural, and a gloomy serial. While it doesn’t match the plotting of Prison Break or the complexities of Lost, it does succeed as Sunday night (or in this case Monday night) popcorn-fare.

Flashbacks to the island prison in the 1960s are ominous and darkly-lit, making the most of theatrical performances. Giacchino’s score adds a cinematic edge, but at times overwhelms the drama.

Sam Neill has loads of fun playing an FBI baddie -but Neill doesn’t have a good track record of small screen series. Let’s hope he doesn’t jinx this one.

Nine is premiering the series with a double episode, as FOX did last month in the US, and it works up to a strong final scene in the second episode.

Alcatraz will also expect you to suspend disbelief to enjoy its occasionally over-the-top storyline, but we don’t mind doing that when the pay-off is worth it and so far it ticks the boxes.

Alcatraz airs 8:30pm Mondays on Nine.

9 Responses

  1. Actually it’s most recent showing in the US was adjusted up to a 2.3 in the 18-49 demo and 6.91 million total viewers. Down on the premiere but good enough for Fox considering House is ending and The Finder is fairing even worse.

    So far I’ve enjoyed it but have liked Revenge better. Highly unlikely this will survive in the long term against Revenge.

  2. @ Secret Squirrel

    They are repeating it on Friday after the cricket so it could be anytime. There’s also the Sherlock repeat on GEM at 9.30pm. Plus another repeat according to the electronic TV Guides and the EPG on GO! at 10.20pm on Saturday which clashes briefly with Star Trek: Voyager. You might try them to see if you like it enough to get the DVD.

    If they continue the repeats on GO! I’ll admit I’d prefer 11.30pm or near midnight Saturday is fine although I get it probably is just wishful thinking. As I’ll admit I might be converted to prime time if it wasn’t on Monday and there wasn’t something else I normally watch on.

  3. I don’t care if Giacchino’s music overwhelms the drama. His music was the best thing about Alias, the best thing about Lost and the best thing about Fringe. I’m sure the same will happen here.

  4. Why, why, why does this have to be on Nine? More to the point why on earth would you put it up against Revenge? All things being equal I would favour Alcatraz, but it’s on Nine and with their track record things are far from equal. Revenge it is then.

  5. The ratings for this show have dropped like a bomb in the US. The most recent episode grabbed 6 million viewers and a 2.2 rating in the demo

    At this rate it’ll be lucky if it lasts as long as Flashforward (20 episodes vs 13)

  6. I don’t get the comparison’s to Flashforward or The Event. Those explored one big mystery, while Alcatraz is essentially a cop show but with the mystery as a backstory. For that reason it works much better than the other two.

    I’m loving Alcatraz. As long as the mystery does become too ridiculous or overshadow the rest. But it’s a great show. Shame it’s on Nine.

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