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A compelling new sci-fi island mystery from “Lost” writer-producers J.J. Abrams and Elizabeth Sarnoff, “Alcatraz” tonight reveals that all 256 criminals incarcerated on the Bay Area’s island prison in 1963 (as well as 46 guards) all mysteriously vanished into thin air. And they’re starting to reappear, un-aged, to murder in the year 2012.


If Fox’s promos and logos don’t work hard enough to make “Alcatraz” remind us of “Lost,” there are loads of flashbacks. Also, Jorge Garcia turns up as an Alcatraz expert.


The pilot also feels a bit like “Fringe,” in that it follows an hot young blonde cop who finds herself drawn into a super-secret government conspiracy.


Garcia’s co-stars include Sam Neill (“Happy Town”), Parminder Nagra (“ER”), Robert Forster (“The Descendants”), and Sarah Jones (“Sons of Anarchy”).


Neill, 64, plays Emerson Hauser, who served as an Alcatraz guard at the time of the bizarre disappearances, and today heads an agency charged with rounding the missing bad guys up now that they’re popping up in the present day. Forster, 70, plays another former Alcatraz guard who happens to be the uncle of the San Francisco detective played by Jones.


Tonight’s first two episodes of “Alcatraz” are more entertaining than Bad Robot’s recent “Undercovers” and “Person of Interest” pilots -- but nowhere near as amazing as Bad Robot’s pilots for “Alias,” “Lost” or “Fringe,” which featured scripts written or co-written by Abrams himself.


One key advantage “Alcatraz” has over Bad Robot’s newish CBS series “Person of Interest” is there are still big mysteries that remain unsolved by the end of the first two episodes, most importantly why these convicts have jumped nearly five decades into the future. (There’s much to suggest that something significant happened to these fellows between their disappearances and reappearances.)


A fascinating, eyebrow-raising new mystery presents itself at the end of tonight’s second hour.


There’s no way to pry me away from next week’s installment. Which is a lot more than I could say for “Undercovers” or “Person of Interest.”


The New York Times says:


... an appealing concoction that, at least in the first two episodes, serves up an accessible bad-guy chase each week for the casual viewer but layers on the supernatural for those who want to book in for the long haul. That combination and tasty casting make “Alcatraz” a spunky upgrade over the collection of interchangeable police procedurals clogging the television schedule. ... at the end of Episode 2 a plot twist is thrown in that makes clear there will be nothing simple about this slick series. …


The Los Angeles Times says:


... Undoubtedly "Alcatraz" is among the best the midseason has to offer, and though it may whip like the TARDIS through the outer reaches of time and believability, Abrams wisely included a procedural element to sustain it ...


The Washington Post says:


... good news for people in search of a fairly simple crime procedural with sci-fi overtones; bad news for those viewers ready to delve into a demanding saga — people belonging not only to “Lost’s” diaspora of fans, but also those who gamely opted in for head-scratchers like “The Event” and “FlashForward” and followed them all the way to cancellation. …


The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says:


... a strong, creative pilot filled with beautiful shots of Alcatraz and San Francisco and an intriguing story, too. …


The San Francisco Chronicle says:


... as a coolly edgy quality, similar to that of another Abrams product, "Person of Interest." If "Alcatraz" isn't quite up to the level of that CBS show, though, it's largely because of its overreliance on formula. …


USA Today says:


... reflects Abrams' abiding passion for complicated, fantasy-fueled but character-driven serialized dramas. What viewers know by now with Abrams is that multiple questions will be posed in tonight's two-hour opener that will be answered, avoided or compounded as the show runs on. The mystery is the thing....


The Boston Herald says:


... The two-hour pilot is actually two stand-alone episodes strung together. Fox’s decision to burn them off together spotlights the show’s flaws and formula. Like “Lost,” the show is burdened with flashbacks and divides its time between the present and the prison 50 years earlier. ...


The Boston Globe says:


… does the most important thing it can do with its pilot: Intrigue enough to make us want to see at least one more episode. …


Variety says:


... The pilot's not bad, but offers at best marginal incentive to invest much more time in this piece of the Rock. …

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I thought it was all right, but Sam Neill needs to be given a more likable character. He seems to spend half his time looking at Jones and Garcia like they're something unpleasant stuck to his shoe. And given that Sam Neill was 16 years old in 1963, it's just ridiculous asking us to accept that he was a prison guard then. He doesn't look older than he really is.

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J.J. Abrams' latest series "Alcatraz" got off to a strong start on Monday with its two-hour premiere scoring a 3.3 rating/8 share and 10 million total viewers - the highest-rated drama debut for Fox since "Lie to Me" in January 2009.



Personally I think this is a false number due to nothing else being on. Next week the show is an hour and starts at 9 instead of 8.


I watched the first 30 minutes and my attention wandered... plan to finish it tonight and give my evaluation.

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  • 2 months later...

we've been watchign this as well. not the most interesting thing on TV, but the season falls at a good time between cool shows.


we still haven't wathced the season finally, but given that the show isnt' really that gripping or a msut see, i can see it being cancelled.



the one thing that annoys me about Sam Neils character is that Neil can't pull off the disgruntled boss; even when he's trying to look intimidating or annoyed his lips still quirk in a smile as he's talking. it contradicts the attitude his character is presenting.


but i like Sam Neil, i'm glad to see him still getting work. i loved him as Wosely from Tudors :happy:

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