‘Alcatraz’ Represents Chance to Remedy ‘Lost’s’ Incoherence

COMMENTARY | The trailer for J.J. Abrams’ latest television weirdness, “Alcatraz,” has been released for viewing. The new show, scheduled for the Fox Network as a mid season replacement, has a lot of similarities to “Lost.”

In this case, the island in question is not a mysterious place that seems unstuck in time and space. Rather, it is the all too familiar island in San Francisco Bay that was once the site of the most notorious prison in the United States. The prison at Alcatraz was closed in 1963 and is now a tourist attraction. The remaining prisoners were dispersed throughout the American prison system.

Or, that is what they want us to think.

Some spoilers revealed by the trailer follow.

What actually happened is that all of the inmates and some of the staff of Alcatraz Prison suddenly and inexplicably vanished one night. This fact seems to have been covered up by the government.

Fast forward almost 50 years later. It seems that the men who disappeared from Alcatraz are starting to reappear in the modern age and some of them are up to no good. There also seems to be a purpose to the events that is not altogether clear.

The cast includes Sam Neil as a government agent who is in charge of the investigation of the Alcatraz phenomenon. Jorge Garcia (Hurley from “Lost”) is a geeky expert on Alcatraz. Sarah Jones is an FBI agent.

“Alcatraz,” like “Lost,” seems to be designed to slowly reveal the answers to the mystery over the life of the series. How did the time travel take place? Who is behind it? What is their purpose, if there is a “they?”

One question arises over whether the answers to the mystery surrounding Alcatraz will be more satisfying than those in “Lost.” “Lost” seemed to have been thrown together and developed on the fly, with developments worked on as the series progressed. Ultimately, “Lost” did not seem to so much end as run out of gas and have an ending that seemed more groan-worthy than anything else.

“Alcatraz,” it is hoped, has been planned out a little more in advance, with the ultimate denouement already known by those writing for the show, so that everything seems to flow to it.

Of course, on the other hand, the show might not pick up an audience and might get canceled before anything of substance happens, leaving everything just an unsolvable mystery.

Source: “‘Alcatraz’: Does it look like the next ‘Lost’? Jen Chaney, Washington Post, May 16, 2011

Alcatraz TV Show, Official Site