When I saw this advertised on Freeview, I got all excited. Until that was, I discovered that it was actually getting shown on a channel we couldn't receive without paying for and only being advertised on Freeview. I had great anticipation for this namely because a) it looked like Lost to the point it even featured that big guy who played Hurley (one of my favourite characters) and b) because it was by J.JAbrahms who created Lost but was also responsible for the likes of Alias, the latest Star Trek reinvention and Cloverfield!
The basic premise is a simple one. Just as Alcatraz is being prepared to be shut down for good, a large proportion of its inmates vanish. They don't escape....they just vanish. Through a series of flashbacks that occur throughout the rest of the series, a chilling picture emerges. Many of the prisoners, and all those who disappeared, were being experimented on. Worse, now they are turning up in the present having never aged a day with no concept of where they have been in the intervening years.
Detective Rebecca Madsen stumbles across this salient fact shortly after she witnesses her partner killed. As part of a Homicide case, she discovers a fingerprint from an Alcatraz inmate who allegedly died over 30 years ago. Except he didn't die. The records were changed to hide his disappearance.
Dr.Diego Soto (Hurley) is an expert on Alcatraz who has written its definitive history. Madsen turns to him for answers and when they get too close to the truth, the pair find themselves assigned to a secret Task-Force given the job of catching all those inmates who disappeared that fateful night from Alcatraz but are now coming back.
As Madsen and Soto investigate, they quickly begin to suspect that their boss, Hauser, isn't telling them everything and has his own agenda behind catching the lost inmates. Madsen also discovers that she shares a family connection with one of the "missing". And as things progress, so more questions begin arising with less and less clear answers...
This series only lasted for 12 episodes before they pulled the plug due to falling ratings so if you are looking for something to replace Lost then you might be disappointed. That said, the 12 episodes we DO get are very good and really gripping and exciting. I watched them all in about two and a half days after finding the series on my B.T Vision box and though I was frustrated that no answers were forthcoming (and that the series ended the way it did a la Flashforward with a bitch of a cliffhanger that would never be resolved), still I really, really enjoyed this!
It looks and feels like it could've been a really great show and, as far as I can gather, one of the main reasons why it lost ratings was only because it was put up against very strong competition in already established shows. This of course sounded the death knell for something new and quirky that echoed Lost with its potential for leaving viewers hanging. If they had just changed the day it was shown in the States, we might have got more answers....
Unfortunately, that was not the case and so Alcatraz remains as yet another series that will forever remain left in limbo with no satisfying conclusion.
Like I have already said, I can fully recommend this but only if you are prepared to accept that you are never going to know exactly what was REALLY going on.....a strong cast that includes Sam Neil and an intriguing and engaging plot obviously just weren't enough to save this from the scapheap and that is a proper shame....
With so many films and TV series coming and going in today's media world, it is quite hard to keep track of your favourite shows sometimes, I find myself dedicated to so many shows at the same time I've got storylines crossed over and sitting on my couch wondering why Friends has moved to a bar and Joey is being called Barney?!
It is quite rare for me to slip away from a TV series that isn't been advertised and reviewed all over the Internet and people praising it on the bus to their friends. So spotting Alcatraz on an On Demand service, I thought I'd give it a quick peak since it had an interesting name and lots of potential having J.J. Abrams associated with it as an Executive producer; it could prove to be as gripping as Lost! Well, considering it got cancelled after the first season, I'd say maybe not, but then again it could be an undiscovered gem.
===Story and Characters===
The storyline of a show called "Alcatraz" will undoubtedly be about the famous High Security Prison which was located 1.5 miles from the San Francisco shore line and the structure of which still remains as a tourist attraction to this day. The reality of the prison is that it closed down in March 21, 1963 due to the prison costing the government too much money to keep it up and running as well as regular instances of poor practise from the staff, the prisoners upon the shutdown of the prison where moved to prisons around the US where they served out the remainder of their sentences. The TV show however takes a different approach on revolving the plot around that the prison wasn't shut down due to upkeep issues but because all the prisoners and staff disappeared and the shutdown was forced, the official story was made up and nothing was said afterwards. However almost 50 years later prisoners begin to appear aged the same as in '63 with a lust for vengeance and to accomplish tasks they were mysteriously assigned. It is then up to a special secret task force consisting of Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones), a police officer from San Francisco who randomly stumbles into a '63 case, Dr. Diego (Jorge Garcia [Hurley from Lost]), who is an expert on Alcatraz and its prisoners, as well as the main agent in the Task Force, Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), who was a former Alcatraz guard and you find has a lot of deep connections to the place.
Throughout the show, you will be introduced to new prisoners who has reappeared in modern day San Francisco, and they each seem to has a speciality in a specific crime and in each episode you get flash backs to when they were in Alcatraz on their back story. As you watch you being to get to sets of story, in the modern day and in 1963 Alcatraz, and the story slowly beings to merge in the final episodes.
===Thoughts on Story===
When I came into watching a TV show called Alcatraz, I came in with quite strong hopes considering that the Prison has such a strong and interesting history, not only in itself but with the prisoners how were within its walls, containing infamous criminals like Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly as well as criminals who made daring escape attempts and the fact that the prison claimed to have never lost a prisoner to escape to this day. This rich history could produce a fantastic story; sampling from real historic events with slight exaggerations will practically have networks at their feet. So it was to my disappointment to have Alcatraz set with a 'Lost' style story with lots of gaps in the story which leave you wondering and mysteries, which worked fantastically well with Lost, however was a quite a hard pull to do again. Although it was somewhat gripping and I looked forward to each episode, but I always felt a feeling of unforfillment after watching each episode, knowing that it could have been better.
One bit of the show which seemed to un-nerve me in particular is the throwaway attitude to death as in each episode I find people seem to die almost pointlessly with no contribution to the storyline whatsoever. For instance rather than knocking out someone how has walked in on a house robbery, the '63 prisoner will rather stab the witness. It just seems drastic in my opinion.
===Very Disappointing Ending===
Not to spoil anything for anyone still wishing for some reason to see this show, however the ending was extremely disappointing. This was undoubtedly down to the show being cancelled, and a show of its type based of cliff-hangers didn't tie much up during the final episode, leaving us forever wondering.
As I've said numerous times, and have gone on and on about during the review, this show started with high expectations in my mind and I have now been left confused and very disappointed. If the prisoners were based of real prisoners, or at least borrowed some history from the prison, it would have been far more interesting, but it is just a fictional story, based in a non-fictional place. If you liked Lost as I did, this will entertain you as it did me, don't get me wrong, it is a good show, but it should have been much more.