Alcatraz: Five Facts About the New J.J. Abrams Fox Series

December 06, 2011

Alcatraz: Five Facts About the New J.J. Abrams Fox SeriesThe last time J.J. Abrams and Jorge Garcia worked together, a cultural phenomenon was born in the form of Lost. Now the producer and actor are reuniting on Alcatraz, a mystery-riddled new drama co-starring Sarah Jones, Parminder Nagra, Robert Forster and Sam Neill that is coming to Fox in January 2012.

Before I continue, here's a basic spoiler-free synopsis of Alcatraz: When the infamous prison shuttered its doors on March 21, 1963, it was believed that the prisoners were transferred off the island to other prisons. In reality, the two police officers that showed up to help collect the prisoners that night found Alcatraz to be deserted.

In the present day, one of the prisoners has shown up and hasn't aged a day since his disappearance. The hunt is on to not only catch him, but unravel the mystery behind the mass disappearance of prisoners and guards alike.

I finally got around to watching the Alcatraz pilot recently and plucked out some facts I thought might be useful for you all without spoiling the show. A spoiler-filled review will accompany the premiere in January and attempt to shed some light on what J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot are up to in their new small-screen endeavor.

Almost Real

Abrams love to mix action and/or Sci-fi elements into series he creates or backs. Lost and Fringe filled the Sci-fi requirement, while Alias and Undercovers the action.

Alcatraz, at least thus far, bucks that trend a little much like The Finder. There's definitely something "beyond the realm of possibility" going on in regards to the inmates and staff vanishing. So far, that's been the only hint of anything that would fall on the Sci-fi spectrum. Remove that and Alcatraz is borderline a police procedural.

Alcatraz: Five Facts About the New J.J. Abrams Fox Series

Jorge Garcia = Hugo "Hurley" Reyes = Diego Soto

One of the big draws for Alcatraz is the return of fan favorite Jorge Garcia to the small screen in a recurring role. Since the Lost finale, Garcia has popped up in Fringe, How I Met Your Mother and Mr. Sunshine in small abbreviated roles. Alcatraz puts Garcia back in the limelight on a weekly basis.

Garcia's Alcatraz character, Diego Soto, is not far removed from Hurley on Lost. He writes comic books and has a knack for the most minute details. He also provides the show's only comic relief with well-timed one liners with a pinch of geek flair. An example would be Soto commenting on the idea that children lived on Alcatraz and commuted by boat is "way cooler than the bus."

Back and Forward

The history of Alcatraz, its inmates and staff is as important to the series as the present day events. The pilot starts in the past and revisits it on several occasions, mostly to add backstory to one of the inmates.

With Alcatraz's inmates proving integral to the plot, I wouldn't be surprised if every episode dipped into yesteryear to fill in the holes.

Alcatraz: Five Facts About the New J.J. Abrams Fox Series

Don't Call Me Olivia

At the heart of Alcatraz is Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones), a tough detective who would rather drink in a bar than meet girlfriends for martinis. It's not by coincidence that she becomes entangled in the Alcatraz investigation. Sound familiar?

There are strong similarities between Rebecca and Olivia (Anna Torv) from Abrams' Fringe. Both women defy cutesy, are career driven, and find themselves in extraordinary positions that they were, not by choice, destined to inhabit. They also both work with a cute lab technician and a boss whose past has defined his job in the present.

Do The Twist

Here's a shocker that really isn't. Alcatraz ends with a twist. Not the kind of twist that leaves you on the edge of your seat and waiting on pins and needles for the next episode. The kind that further defines one of the character's motivations and lays the groundwork for how the series might play out.

OK, I lied. Here's a sixth fact: Lost composer Michael Giacchino composed the music for the Alcatraz pilot, but will not be adding any additional music going forward. Read a recent interview we did with Michael Giacchino where he touches upon Alcatraz.

Alcatraz premieres Monday, January 16 at 8pm EST/PST. It will run two hours, double the length of the pilot that I watched.

- Dan Bradley