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Alcatraz: fun while it lasted?

Jonathan Kiefer | April 2, 2012 | Lifestyle Story City Life Reviews Culture

Clint Eastwood did it in a 1979 film; MythBusters deemed it logistically possible in 2003; and now, Lost creator J.J. Abrams is giving the concept a supernatural spin. In his new show, Alcatraz, all of the inmates, who vanished in 1963 when the prison closed, suddenly begin reappearing in 2012, without having aged or been in any way rehabilitated. So far, that has made for the periodically cheesy adventures of a cute detective (Sarah Jones) and her historian–comics geek sidekick (Jorge Garcia), along with a few scenery-chewing villains and Robert Forster as a fleeting father figure—all of them supervised by Sam Neill as some vaguely sinister Fed. But it has also made for slumping ratings and lukewarm (or worse) reviews, so we figure it’ll be off the air in no time. And that’s too bad. Below, three reasons we’d just as soon stay on the island a little while longer.

1. Alcatraz soothingly evokes the televised synthetic sci-fi adventure shlock—complete with fashion nostalgia for earlier decades—that so many of us grew up on in the more innocent ’80s. Fact is, no show or movie can redeem the Rock from souvenir T-shirt kitsch, nor should any even try. Periodically cheesy adventures are what this place is all about.

2. Having established a heroine who suffers from a backstory roof-toppling trauma straight out of Vertigo and drives a Mustang fastback just like Steve McQueen’s in Bullitt, this show knows how to tread on hallowed entertainment-history ground. (Never mind that most of it was shot in Vancouver.) The longer it’s allowed to continue, the more likely it is that we’ll be in for random riffs on later classics such as So I Married an Axe Murderer and The Rock.

3.The San Francisco of Alcatraz is obviously a friendly town, where even hard-core criminals—no matter how disoriented by having just time-traveled five decades—can promptly become acclimated, with jobs and housing and all the resources they need to continue even the most nefarious escapades. Is this not just how we want the world to think of us?


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