DVD Review: Alcatraz – the Complete Series

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MSRP $34.99
STUDIO Warner Home Video
RUNNING TIME 572 Minutes
• Deleted scenes
• Alcatraz: Island of Intrigue
• Gag Reel

The Pitch

Jorge Garcia and J.J. Abrams team up for adventures on a mysterious island.  Again.

The Humans

Sarah Jones, Jorge Garcia, Johnny Coyne, Parminder Nagra, Sam Neill

The Nutshell

J.J. Abrams (Lost) creates a chilling new drama that revisits America’s most infamous prison – onetime home to the nation’s worst criminals. In this thrilling series, a San Francisco detective and an Alcatraz historian investigate the shocking reappearance of inmates of the infamous prison – 50 years after their mysterious disappearances.

The Lowdown

Mystery based television shows face interesting challenges. Creators attempt to keep the viewers guessing the entire time, but must also slowly let answers trickle out before frustration sets in with that same audience. There is also a serious line to toe for these types of shows to be successful. They must be complex enough for the invested crowd to return, but not too intimidating or mythology heavy for new viewers that may be late to the party. Many shows have tried and failed with this formula, but JJ Abrahms has been quite successful in the genre with long lasting hits such as LOST and Alias. With Alcatraz, he tries again and even hopes to stack the deck with Jorge Garcia, a LOST favorite. While the show was not renewed for a second season, it certainly was not a total loss.

The basic premise of Alcatraz finds prisoners that disappeared in 1963 returning to current day, looking exactly the same as when the left, and committing similar crimes. Special Agent Emmerson Hauser (Neil) builds a secret team consisting of Rebecca Madsen (Jones) and Alcatraz expert Dr. Diego Soto (Garcia), to find out exactly what happened to the inmates and why they have returned to their old lives of crime. Like LOST, the show leans heavily on flashbacks to give us background information on the inmate who has returned that episode. It is revealed through these flashbacks, that the “returners” were all experimented on in 1963 at the prison by Dr. Beauroguard and Dr. Lucy Sangupta (Nagra) both of whom are also present in current day, looking exactly as they did almost 50 years ago. All things that took place in the Alcatraz of the past were the watchful eyes of the mysterious Warden James (Coyne). Unfortunately, thats about all we get from the abbreviated run of Alcatraz. It seemed to have some pretty cool sci-fi concepts in store for us with government conspiracies, secret experiments on inmates, time travel, underground monsters, etc. The series ends on a cliffhanger that will never be resolved, which is maddening and will probably make some people wish they hadn’t started watching in the first place.

Besides the intriguing concept, the one thing that really stood out about this show was the work of the cast. In most cases it was really strong, but there were some choices that could be considered distracting as well. Jorge Garcia shined as the brilliant Dr. Diego Soto, a character very similar to LOST’s lovable fan favorite, Hurley. Jonny Coyne and Leon Rippy as Warden James and Dr. Milton Beauregard respectively do a fantastic job creating very quirky and unique characters. Sarah Jones is adorable as Det. Madsen. Almost too adorable to quite pull off the hard nosed detective role. The usually awesome Sam Neil is way over the top as the super intense and angry Agent Hauser. The cameos by Robert Forster as Uncle Ray were always a welcomed addition. The actors that contribute as “convict of the week” are mostly entertaining and are led by Jeffrey Pierce who plays the the first “returner”, Jack Sylvane.

For some reason, Alcatraz never quite caught on. Although the pilot rating was strong enough, it did not meet the expectations of FOX. The pilot was also the weakest episode in the season, and the ratings were never able to recover. I will say that the show did improve each week, and by the time I reached the second half of episodes, I was invested and eager to continue on. Sadly, I did not have that opportunity and was left with an incomplete story. I would still recommend this series for fans of mystery TV, LOST and Jorge Garcia.

The Package

Alcatraz: Island of Intrigue is a brief behind the scenes look at the history and challenges of shooting on location at Alcatraz. The set also contains a number of deleted scenes. Some are interesting and make you wonder if their reveals would have popped up in subsequent seasons. Some are throw aways with no significance. The gag reel included is brief, but entertaining.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars

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