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Friday, February 24, 2012

Trying to Like Alcatraz

Well, I've been watching Alcatraz - seven episodes so far - the latest J. J. Abrams production.  That in itself was a good reason to watch it.  Although I disliked the ending of Lost, the series at its best was one of the best ever on television.  Alias was also superb, as has been Fringe these past two seasons.  And I'm enjoying Person of Interest.

And there other things to commend a television show about Alcatraz.  The Birdman of Alcatraz is a fine movie, and this television show is about time travel - in my book, you can go wrong about that.

But the problem with Alcatraz is that it doesn't have enough of that.   Although time travel figures in every episode, there's little about the paradoxes and narrative joy of really confronting what it's like to run into much older versions of people you  knew when you travel 50 years into the future.  There are hints of that, intersections with characters who lived through those 50 years, including, especially, Emerson Hauser played by Sam Neill.

It's great to see Neill, probably best known for Jurassic Park, on television (he was great in the Tudors, and years ago in Heartland).  And he does a fine job when he's on screen in Alcrataz.  So does Hurley - Jorge Garcia - who basically plays Hurley as a PhD comic book expert.   So does Sarah Jones (Big Love) as Rebecca Madsen.

But the problem is that emphasis on the individual stories of the people - mostly criminals - whisked into the future gets in the way of the really interesting stuff for me, which is why and how they were whisked.  Without that mechanism more in the limelight and explored, Alcatraz remains little more than a Criminal Minds without its intensity, and with intimations of immortality as yet unrealized.

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The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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