Fox has recently unveiled its official 2011-12 schedule, and one of the new offerings that has got Tube Talk all excited is new sci-fi drama Alcatraz. Back when the show was still in the early stages, we nominated it in our Pick of the Pilots feature, and now we're going to take a closer look at the latest project from the brains that brought you Lost...
WHAT IS ALCATRAZ? Originally picked up to pilot last September, Alcatraz has been described by Fox president Kevin Reilly as "a pulsing new crime thriller with a really original hook". While investing a grisly homicide, San Francisco cop Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) finds a fingerprint that leads her to an unlikely suspect, the long-dead Alcatraz inmate Jack Sylvane (Jeffrey Pierce). Madsen teams up with Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia) - an expert on the iconic prison - in an attempt to learn more, but finds her investigation impeded by mysterious government agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill).
How has the apparently-dead Sylvane survived? Why hasn't he aged a day since his time at the prison? And will more criminals from Alcatraz return to plague the streets of San Francisco? Madsen is forced to delve deeper into her own family's past to solve the mystery she has stumbled upon, but will she like what she finds?
REASONS WE'RE EXCITED...
J.J. Abrams - Let's face it, J.J. Abrams rarely puts a foot wrong. OK, so there was Undercovers, but we're willing to cut him a bit of slack there. Abrams's name on a project is generally a good sign, particularly with regards to cult and sci-fi projects, so we're hoping that the man who brought us the likes of Lost, Fringe and the recent Star Trek film will be back on top form here. And the fact that he's pairing up again with Lost writer Elizabeth Sarnoff, who scripted the Alcatraz pilot, can only be a good thing.
The Cast - Upping the Lost vibe further is the casting of Hurley himself, Jorge Garcia, in the lead role of Dr. Soto. But the cool cult casting doesn't stop there, with Heroes and Merlin star Santiago Cabrera also on board as Jimmy Dickens, Rebecca Madsen's sweet-natured fiancé. And lest we forget, Jurassic Park legend Sam Neill is playing the shifty Emerson Hauser, in his first regular television role since 2010's Happy Town.
Playing the lead role of Madsen is Sons of Anarchy actress Sarah Jones, who Fox chief Kevin Reilly has referred to as "really special". Also along for the ride are former ER actress Parminder Nagra as Hauser's technician Lucy Banerjee, Brit actor Jonny Coyne as tough prison warden Edwin James, and Jason Butler Harner as his vicious fellow warden E.B. Tiller.
The Premise - During a recent conference call, Kevin Reilly claimed that Alcatraz was comprised of an "inventive blend" of procedural elements and "cool mythology". With the likes of V and The Event both getting the axe, things were looking a little bleak for sci-fi fans this season, so it's a relief that Fox has decided to stand by cult programming. With Alcatraz, Terra Nova and a fourth season of Fringe on the way, Fox is still flying the flags for geeks everywhere!
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING... So how are the guys behind Alcatraz hyping the show? Fox chief Kevin Reilly recently told reporters that the show will "build on the mystery of that infamous prison."
"The name Alcatraz has such equity and mystery surround it," he said. "It's probably one of the most recognised names and icons in our country."
J.J. Abrams was reluctant to give too much away in a recent interview but did praise Elizabeth Sarnoff's pilot script.
"I don't want to give anything away because no-one wants to hear that," he said. "But I will say that it's a beautifully written and surprisingly emotional script. Although [that's] not surprising when you hear that Liz Sarnoff wrote it. She's amazing."
FINAL THOUGHTS... Those guys sound confident, and we're certainly psyched - it's just a pity that we have to wait until the spring to find out if Alcatraz is the next Lost or a big disappointment! Will the public take it to their hearts, or do the cancellations of both FlashForward and The Event after just one season show that viewers have lost their taste for this kind of show? Be sure to let us know if you're looking forward to Alcatraz below!
Watch a trailer for Fox's new series Alcatraz below: