From executive producer JJ Abrams (Lost, Fringe), new US mystery drama Alcatraz launches in the UK tonight at 9pm on Watch.
Here are five reasons why you should watch…
After the complicated and convoluted mythology surrounding Lost had scared many people away by the end, and the inherent and more obvious weirdness of Fringe might have been similarly off-putting, JJ Abrams’ latest venture into television provides his most accessible hour of television since Alias.
Whilst the sci-fi premise is admittedly still fairly out there, the show on a week-by-week basis plays more like a standard procedural, with just a little dash of mystery and intrigue thrown in for good measure, hopefully appealing to a wider audience.
The story of Alcatraz stems from the idea that the reason behind the prison’s closure in 1963 was actually because all of the inmates and guards suddenly disappeared, only to now reappear in 2012 to continue with their criminal ways.
Each episode features flashbacks to inside the prison walls leading up to its closure, and while the inmates are all fictional, it’s still a thrilling real-life setting to draw on.
Alcatraz is a remarkable place and one that never fails to capture the imagination, so to see a depiction of what it may have been like to be incarcerated there is an undeniably arresting prospect, while the sense of hopeless claustrophobia at being trapped on that tiny spit of land is well developed by the show.
Garcia – better known to Lost fans (and probably even non-Lost fans) as the loveable Hugo “Hurley” Reyes – is part of the main cast, and he’s just as great here as he was on the Island. The actor once again takes on the role of audience proxy, speaking with the voice of everyone watching at home.
In Lost that meant Star Wars references, and trying to puzzle out the logic of time-travel for us, while here – as a comic fanatic and (conveniently) an Alcatraz expert – it involves lines like “Woah, I bet you have a cool back-story”. Lines like this could seem ham-fisted, but Garcia has such an easy warmth about him that you believe that they’re things that this character would say.
But he’s not just a Hurley clone; Doctor Diego “Doc” Soto is a much more emotionally mature figure, and Garcia sells that added confidence completely.
While Alcatraz episodes are much more stand-alone than any of Abrams’ other shows, there’s still an essential mystery at the heart of the show to ponder. Just how did the prisoners get transported to the present, looking not a day older or any worse the wear? And what exactly is Sam Neil’s mysterious head of the Alcatraz Task Force doing with the prisoners that are recaptured?
The show hasn’t so far pushed these mysteries down our throat, preferring instead to focus on the characters and getting us involved in the case-of-the-week, but the question of what exactly is going on is always lurking on the fringes of the show. Let’s just hope they have a satisfying explanation for it all.
People who disliked Lost tend to jump straight in and attack the sprawling sci-fi weirdness of the plot, usually bemoaning the appearance of that polar bear early on, but what the naysayers never complain about is Lost’s cinematic direction or music. And that’s because the team behind the scenes on Lost was fantastic.
That so many of them are now working on Alcatraz can only bode well. Most notable are director Jack Bender, who was always trusted with directing the more momentous episodes of Lost, and composer Michael Giacchino, who’s work on the same show was so majestic that its influence can be heard on any number of shows that have aired since.
That’s a mighty fine pedigree behind this new show, and if they can recapture the magic that they instilled into Lost, then – with 300+ inmates to tell stories about – there’s no reason Alcatraz can’t become just as big a success story.
Are you looking forward to Alcatraz? Let us know below…
Watch the trailer…