Alcatraz: Pilot

Uh, Oh, J.J. Abrams, here you go again. Why does everything you touch have to be about secret government cover-ups, corporate black-ops conspiracies, isolated underground bunkers and copious flash-backs? I mean, yes, I loved LOST, well, the first season at least. You know why I loved it? Because it was mysterious. You know why I hated it? Because you knew it would make you money, so you let it drag on until the plot became ridiculous and I “lost” interest. Please, I beg of you; Do not let that happen again.

Okay, so pleas to the producers aside, I guess we should talk about Alcatraz.

As one should surmise from the title, this show is about the inmates of Alcatraz Penitentiary — perhaps the most famous prison in the world. Indeed, though it was only open from 1934 to 1963, it housed some infamous and awful people. The premise for this show is that, upon closing its doors, the inmates of The Rock (all of whom were supposed to be transferred to new prisons) and all the guards just disappeared — all 302 men. Even stranger still, these inmates keep popping up in 2012, committing seemingly random acts of violence throughout San Francisco. Don’t worry, though, fake Alcatraz American Citizens, the US government was totally expecting this happen and has some of their best men…and women…and random authors…all over it.

I am now going to imagine that I am much more famous and respectable than I really am and assume that I could ask the creators/producers some questions. Since I have nothing else to do, I am going to also write their answers.

Did you do any research on the history of Alcatraz Island?
Nope, almost none at all. IN fact, we will make several erroneous statements like, “no one ever escaped from Alcatraz,” and we will completely make up new and less interesting prisoners. We will make no mention of the military use of the island. In fact, I gave strict orders for all show staff to gather information solely from Hollywood.

How did you come up with your three main characters? Like Detective Rebecca Madsen?
Well, we knew right away that we wanted a hard-as-nails female cop. Single, of course, with lots of baggage and dead relatives. I think that is something that is missing on TV…lady cops. Every channel, it is male cops. I mean, look at Law and Order, Saving Grace, In Plain Sight, The Closer, Cold Case, Rizzoli and Isles, CSI, Law and Order:SVU, Prime SuspectCastle, NYPD:Blue. Not since Cagney and Lacey have women been cops on TV. That is how we decided on that. And we just pick the plainest, meanest-looking actress we could find. Sara Jones is not great, but not bad, and we got her cheap.

And how about Dr. Diego Soto?
Okay, so we wanted to go with a real nerd. Someone with multiple useless degrees, like a Masters in History, but who has an encyclopedic knowledge of Alcatraz. Also, he likes comics for some reason, he even writes his own comic. In fact, I think he should just go ahead and own a comic book store. When deciding who should portray this character, the whole room agreed, Jorge Garcia. He is fun and recognizable and comically fat; just, the perfect person to be a nerdy loser.

Lastly, FBI Agent Emersen Hauser?
We needed a connection to both the FBI and to the 1960s. In fact, we disclose in the first episode that Agent Hauser is actually one of the people who discovers that everyone on Alcatraz went missing. So, the criteria for the character were for a grizzled, know-it-all agent with some slight personality flaws. We just asked if Sam Neill could play his part from Jurassic Park, if instead of a paleontologist he was a cop. I think he really nailed it.

Okay, that is enough of that.

I guess I am cautiously optimistic that this show is going to suck me in and not just suck out loud.  Fringe has missing people reappearing,  Castle has a writer/cop partnership, Prison Break had prisons, LOST had an island. What I am saying is there is no such thing as a new concept; there are just ways to change and modify and make old, tired TV new again. Come on J.J. Abrams, et al. Do this thing.

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