henever TV producer J.J. Abrams comes out with a new series, the effort is inevitably compared to Lost, his monumentally popular sci-fi drama that ended its run in 2010. The latest new show to earn the comparison is Alcatraz, which debuted Monday night on Fox. The high-concept crime drama is about a task force charged with solving an awfully strange mystery: Why 300 former Alcatraz inmates who reportedly vanished in 1963 have begun popping up again in the present — not having aged a day — to begin committing crimes. Does the show live up to its Lost comparisons?
Nope: Alcatraz is no Lost, says James Poniewozik at TIME. The thriller is, however, a bit like Abrams' other sci-fi procedural, Fox's flailing Fringe, with its string of weekly "moody crime stories" and larger questions about sci-fi mythology answered more slowly over time. While Alcatraz is "competent enough" in that regard, there's an unappealing "coldness to the show." And unlike Lost and Fringe, there's "no sense that these are characters I want to invest in and spend time getting to know." The bottom line: Alcatraz probably is "not the next Fringe, much less the next Lost."
"TV tonight: Alcatraz"
It could get there, though: Alcatraz blatantly aspires to "be another Lost," says David Bianculli at NPR. It gets a leg up from actor Jorge Garcia, who played Hugo, "arguably the most universally loved character from Lost." On Alcatraz, Garcia benefits from playing a character who is more intelligent than Hugo, but still "just as casually charming." Still, the premiere was quite mysterious, and I'll need at least one more episode to "ascertain how good" Alcatraz really is. But keep in mind, "the last time I really, really wanted to see more of a J.J. Abrams series before committing to it" was after the premiere of Lost — which soon "hooked me for good."
"Get Lost in J.J. Abrams' latest show Alcatraz"
Lost or not, it's a great show: Alcatraz's time traveling premise strains to be believable, "but whoever said a TV series has to be credible to work?" says David Wiegand at the San Francisco Chronicle. The episodic crime-of-the-week structure works well with the overarching story line: Rounding up all of these mysterious prisoners. While there's "a coolly edgy quality" to the show, Alcatraz doesn't sacrifice "a careful attention to detail." And the series is well-served by a game cast of actors, including Lost's Garcia and Jurassic Park's Sam Neill, who "glowers convincingly and often" as the head of the task force charged with solving the weekly mystery.
"Alcatraz review: No escaping thriller's appeal"
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