6 Things to Know About J.J. Abrams' Alcatraz - Including How It Is (And Isn't) Like Lost

Will the jailhouse rock? We’ll find out when Fox’s Alcatraz — the newest series in J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot collection — debuts this Monday at 8/7c (before moving to its regular 9 pm time slot next week). Certainly, the drama, which mixes the procedural with the mythological, has a captivating premise: A crackerjack team races against time to recapture a bunch of mysteriously reappearing inmates from another time altogether — 1963, to be exact.

During a Vancouver set visit arranged by Warner Bros. TV, TVLine got the scoop on the premiere (and beyond!) from the show’s stars and executive producer.

Hot Video: J.J. Abrams Invites You to Alcatraz

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE | Rather than trying to solve a crime, the trio at the center of the show – Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones), Alcatraz expert Dr. Diego “Doc” Soto (Jorge Garcia) and enigmatic G-man Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) – are on a manhunt. And they have to find these bad guys quickly, because they’re “resurfacing in present day and still committing their heinous crimes,” describes Garcia. Moreover, the team has plenty of “unanswered questions,” he continues. “How come this is happening [at all]? Because there’s this very odd tear in the fabric of what we think is reality, to have people suddenly resurface after disappearing and having [them] not aged at all.”

THIS IS NOT LOST | The prisoners of Alcatraz may be (cough) lost in time somewhere, but the show is not like Abrams’ island drama. “It’s nice that there’s people from Bad Robot that are so hands-on in this production, because that really brings the quality of the show to another level,” says Jones. “[But] this is a different show entirely.” For starters, viewers can jump in any time and enjoy the stand-alone episodes, as each week, a new villain takes center stage. Another way the series differs from the ABC drama? “I wear a lot more clothes,” jokes Lost alum Garcia.

THE BADDIES ARE REALLY GOOD | You’re usually not supposed to like the criminals, but executive producer Jack Bender believes the show’s antagonists will be exceptions to the rule. “The killers that our writing team [is] coming up with are going to be complex and equally haunted and haunting,” he says. “Ideally, after we’ve done a season of this show, [everybody] should have their favorite killer. Almost like they were on baseball cards.”

Alcatraz Nabs Rookie Blue Detective

THINGS GET PERSONAL | For the serious-minded Rebecca, the quest for answers is driven by one thing: Her grandfather has a connection to the famous prison. “The closer she gets to solving these crimes, regardless of if she believes them or not, the closer she gets to her grandfather,” previews Jones. “The closer she gets to her past and unlocking some things in her family history and trying to figure out who she is.” Meanwhile, an upcoming episode will reveal “a traumatic experience” in Doc’s past, which sheds light on “where his original obsession with criminology may have begun,” teases Garcia.

Winter TV First Impression: J.J. Abrams Once Again Has Island Fever, With Fox’s Alcatraz

THERE WILL BE A LAUGH OR TWO | When the drama gets too dark and heavy, you can count on Garcia for a much-needed dose of comic relief. His Doc may be an Alcatraz know-it-all, but “he had no idea what he was getting involved in, so the way he handles things, to me, it brings a lightness,” says Jones. But while there’s “a little bit of Hurley” in Garcia’s performance, “you accept him as a totally different guy,” promises Bender. “He’s doing a brilliant job acting in this.”

YES, YOU WILL FIND ONE LOST REFERENCE | The Once Upon a Time pilot doesn’t have the monopoly on Lost nods, so look for “a great one,” hints Garcia, “on the back of the book.”

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30 Comments
  1. Brandon says:

    The more Bad Robot shows get away from serialized concept the less interesting they are. “Undercovers” was abysmal and “Person of Interest” is just another bland CBS procedural. “Fringe” works best when they’re focusing on the larger, on-going storylines.

    • Kvivik says:

      Person of Interest isn’t a procedural, at least in my opinion. And I think it’s fabulous. They’re starting to get to the past life of Finch, and Carter is getting more involved.
      Undercovers could have been alot better. It was just getting interesting with the reveal that there was a suspicious goal the CIA had for getting them back in the game. But it was really too little, too late.

    • Justin says:

      Person of Interest is only part-procedural. There is a definite serial concept in regards to Finch and Reese’s past, plus the machine itself, which makes it a very diverse and awesome show.

    • Ddriz says:

      As the others wrote, I don’t think you’ve actually seen “Person of Interest”, Brandon, based on your comment. It’s got tremendous backstories for all its characters (including the computer) which the show is revealing to us, bit-by-bit, at a really good pace. And the show is giving us morsels about the future to chew on. I do agree that “Undercovers” wasn’t worth the Bad Robot brand.

    • gcem says:

      Person of Interest is one of the best shows going these days. Never miss it.

    • GoGi says:

      You are definitely right. Fringe lost so many viewers because in the beginning of season two it was abysmal. They threw away the mythology and concentrated on the weakly disaster. Only after the producers realized that they must accept the inner weirdness it became a critical and fan favorite. Just look how much buzz it produces now as compared to earlier, even though less people watch it.

      I think if they don’t dig into the mythology, it is going to be just another repetitive show with the same set-up happening every week. They might as well call it CSI: Alcatraz.

    • Hannah says:

      Yes, POI is a procedural. And not a very good one, either.

    • Robert Ariadne says:

      Person of Interest is great. It’s starting to become a serial; you should watch it.

  2. TLG says:

    Why bother? It looks pretty good, which means sooner rather than later it’ll get tossed to the Friday night death slot like so many other sci-fi shows before. Fox is almost done killing Fringe, this one is surely next.

  3. K says:

    I saw the second episode, and here’s the problem–there’s no case to be solved. They know whodunnit, and whodunnit is, if they’re like the killer in ep. 2, a truly sick, twisted individual with no redeeming qualities. And way too much time is spend on the criminal and too little time on developing the protagonists or trying to figure out this whole time travel plot device that should be a bigger part of the story. Also, Rebecca is both miscast and completely lifeless as a character. There is very little to invest in. Blah.

    • Mike says:

      Pretty tough to be invested or for the actors to have fully realized their characters after 2 eps. The show, like fringe, probably will need time to find its footing. You gotta be patient.

    • Eliz says:

      I generally trust Abrams with female characters. They may start off poorly, the beginning of Fringe, but they usually become awesome: Fringe, Alias, Felicity, Lost (I really did not like Juliet at first, but I came around), etc. I’m going to give it six eps. to improve and then, done.

  4. Mikaylah says:

    I like J.J. Abrams, so I’ll definitely check this out. I like Lost, but really just for the character interactions. That is what interests me most.

    • This. The characters and their interactions with each other were the driving point of my interest in LOST, as well. The mysteries were cool, but what I really cared about was the people on the island, and their complicated lives.

  5. Justin says:

    The preview for this show caught my eye from day one. Add in JJ Abrams and Sam Neill, and the premise, and this definitely has the makings for a great show, in my opinion.

  6. Paola says:

    I am thrilled to have another chance to see a show that JJ Abrams had a hand in creating! I don’t understand the previous posts skepticism. television is an escape, and as such, it requires a leap of faith. This isn’t sitcom or (worse) reality TV. You’ve got to let go and enjoy the ride on which JJ takes the audience.

    I’m really looking forward to this premiere. I could care less about time slots! I’ll be watching no matter what!

  7. Bad Breaker says:

    Unfortunately for viewers in Miami/Ft Lauderdale, the local Fox station is having a p*ssing contest with Directv and has been off the air for Dtv customers since midnight Friday. That sent many sports bar owners on a scavenger hunt for rabbit ears before yesterdays NFL game. So I guess no Alcatraz for me (or Glee, AI and others)Booooooooo.

  8. Justin says:

    Another new show taking the easy way out. New criminal every week? Viewers being able to just watch and pick up any single stand alone episode? Not interested at all. Will not be watching this.

    • Dave says:

      It’s nice that you are judging a show before even giving it a chance. I know there has been shows in the past that what the showrunners have stated about the show had me worried but I gave it a shot anyway and was proved worng.

  9. Rachel says:

    Im getting a bit excited when I found out Santiago Cabrera is in it. Though will he still be playing Lancelot on Merlin?

  10. Jessica says:

    What was the nod to Lost on the back of the book? I froze it – the closest I saw was one of his books being called Alcatraz by the Numbers. Was that it?

    • Annie says:

      Haven’t caught it yet. It’s not in the first scene on the boat w/ Sylvane (that’s “Inmates of Alcatraz” and the back isn’t shown). The guy in the gym or health club office is reading something with the back visible but I can’t make it out — way too fast and too far away. Those were the only books I saw in the pilot. Wasn’t the “Numbers” book in the second episode? Unless I’m misreading this, the easter egg was in the pilot.

      • Jessica says:

        I think she looks at the back of Inmates of Alcatraz in the pilot. She’s reading about the author part, which is on the back, before she meets Doc. I had to freeze it to read it, but other than that reference to “Alcatraz by the Numbers” I didn’t see anything that made me think of Lost.

        • Jen says:

          When Madsen was reading the back of Diego’s book it said he is the ‘world’s foremost expert on the Island.’ I’m fairly certain this was the nod to Lost.

  11. Hannah says:

    Saw the pilot, thought it really stank. Won’t bother to watch again.

  12. DF says:

    Saw the pilot & the second episode of Alcatraz. Liked both ALOT. And the plot twist at the end of the second episode was awesome. This is going to be a really good one.

    Btw, like Person of Interest a lot too. Way too early to tell if I’ll end up liking Alcatraz or Person better or just enjoying them both a lot and not being able to make a decison.

    Can’t wait to see more of both shows! Abd Fringe too!!

  13. rich b says:

    cancelled alcatraz and the finder…no more watching Fox. the cartoon network.

  14. rich b says:

    Bones is silly and getting old. why would they cancel two shows that required you to think a bit??

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