Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Escape From Alcatraz (The TV Show) 3/13/12


It’s one of those words that sends a shiver down your spine.

It’s that movie you vaguely remember about a bunch of blokes who swam away from the horrible guards on a rock in the middle of an ocean no one had ever heard of.

Well, it seemed like that when I was growing up in Wales at the time. But then the biggest excitement our parents allowed us in Newport was a Cadbury’s flake sticking out of a Mr Whippy cone of a Sunday afternoon.

I saw Alcatraz "The Rock" last year. I was living in LA at the time and, as everyone told me how much I would prefer San Francisco, decided to head up there for the weekend.

I hated it. If I tell you that Alcatraz was the highlight of my SF week-end, that will give you an indication of quite how much I loathed it. And I didn’t even get to Alcatraz. Just the view of it was enough to make me feel better after the horrors of SF.

No restaurants serving after 9pm, an attitude to women dining alone that was positively prehistoric, and by far the scruffiest, dirtiest place I had ever been in the US.

Apart from that, I loved it. Ha!

But I will go back. If only to visit Alcatraz. Which is more than I can say of the TV drama. That, I hope never to visit again.

It promised so much. Big hype, big sets, dramatic music . . . but ultimately never delivered. A better example of style over substance it would be hard to find, and in the absence of a decent script (barely any script, come to that), it relied on stereotypes against a glossy background (grey, of course – apparently, it’s the new black, amongst people who know about such things).

So, we had the unshaven hunk with a mysterious air; closely followed by the petite, pretty, blonde, female cop, whose partner had (of course!) been killed; and then the proverbial Fat Bloke who, quelle surprise, got on rather well with said blonde, when she declared that she wanted him to be her new sidekick.

He could hardly contain himself (actually, that’s a lie: he looks as if he could contain not only himself but at least three families of refugees and a multi- storey car park). I predict his sad demise round about episode eight, series two, all providing the doughnuts and the Big Macs don’t get to him first.

Then there was the proverbial Bad Guy, who turned out to be running what appeared to be a cryogenics spaceship and . . .

To be honest, this IKEA showroom killed it for me at the end of the episode, because by then I really didn’t know where I was and, more importantly, didn’t know whose side I was supposed to be on.

For me, it’s important to know for whom you are rooting at the very beginning of a show, and Alcatraz didn’t have a clue. The hunk who drew us in turned out to be a nutcase and, worse, a nutcase convict from another era.

They missed a trick here and they should never have made him a killer in the pilot episode. There was just too much happening and they over-egged the pudding to such a degree that we had – and still do not have – any idea who the hero is.

Any show, TV or film, must address the fundamental question that any viewer or cinema-goer asks before their seat is even warm: whose side am I on?

After episode one of Alcatraz, I’m on the side of . . . well, any side that isn’t the channel it’s on.

Not only is it the poor man's Lost; it's the poor man's Lost behind bars.

A sad case of not getting my Rock off.

Or this jailhouse not rocking.

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