Alcatraz: JJ Abrams’ Next Island-themed Endeavor

I saw this show on TV the other day.  It’s written by JJ Abrams, it’s about a bunch of people stranded on an island, the main character’s name is Jack, Jorge Garcia plays another main character, and it contains time travel.  Sound familiar?  If you’re like me and you had an unnatural obsession with “Lost” it probably does.  FOX looked to be aiming straight for the Lost crowd with its new drama “Alcatraz”, and at least for me, the advertisements worked; I was hooked before it even started.  But can Alcatraz live up to Abrams’ previous television masterpiece?  Can it be the next Lost?

The short answer is no.  Despite the borderline absurd similarities listed above, Alcatraz really isn’t like Lost at all.  It is more of a detective/cop show with a supernatural twist.  Its premise, that all of the prisoners of Alcatraz disappeared in 1963 and are reappearing now, is interesting to be sure, but the structure of the show seems to put more emphasis on the hunt for the criminals than on the mystery surrounding their sudden reappearance.  Rebecca Madsen, played by Sarah Jones, is a homicide detective who tries to track down these long-forgotten criminals after they reappear.  She is joined by Dr. Soto (Jorge Garcia), an expert on criminal justice and the history of Alcatraz.  The relationship between these two will likely make or break this show.  Though the mystery and suspense are important and exciting, it is the main characters of a detective show like this that create permanent viewership.  Rebecca and Doc show brief signs of strong chemistry in the pilot, but it remains to be seen in the rest of the season whether this unlikely duo will mesh.

Alcatraz is not Lost, nor is it trying to be, despite the strong allusions to it in the trailer.  Instead it is a twist on the classic detective drama, adding mystery and a supernatural element to a genre that needed something new.  I’m not convinced that the show can maintain its initial mystery and that the main characters have enough chemistry to keep the show going, but it certainly has potential, and I’ll keep watching it, if just to see Jorge Garcia in action once again.

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