When the premise for a new J.J. Abrams TV show involves a mysterious island, an enigmatic authority figure and vague science fiction elements, it’s easy to wonder if we’re stuck in some flashback to 2004.
It’s the premise for “Alcatraz,” a show based around the infamous federal prison that closed down in 1963.
Of course all is not as it seems for the prisoners, who were supposedly transferred when the facility closed down, had disappeared into thin air and are now popping up randomly in present day.
The show chooses not to delve into the inherent mysteries of the premise, instead opting for a monster-of-the-week formula, with Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) chasing after a new convict each episode with the help of Alcatraz expert Diego Soto (“Lost” alum Jorge Garcia) and mysterious FBI agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill).
With Jones blatantly channeling another Abrams heroine, Olivia Dunham from “Fringe,” and the first episode succumbing to tropes and clichés that Abrams is making an unfortunate pattern of overusing, “Alcatraz” borders on the generic.
Although it suffers heavily from its similarities to “Lost” and “Fringe,” it shows plenty of promise when given an intriguing villain (as in the second episode) and some old-fashioned character twists.