Anna Silk Anna Silk

Something less than a great escape, Fox's intriguing but formulaic Alcatraz (8/7c), from members of Lost's brain trust, proves a fairly tough "Rock" to crack. Basically a procedural with a 4400-style fantasy gimmick, this twists the America's Most Wanted concept by having its parade of bad guys emerge from the shadowy past: 250-odd inmates of the notorious California prison who vanished in 1963 and are now suddenly returning, without having aged a day, on missions of mayhem.

"No one's going to be able to find them because they don't exist," growls hard-boiled Sam Neill as the enigmatic agent in charge of a secret task force, a walking scowl who knows more than he's letting on. A good thing, because the mysteries of the mythology — Where were they for the last half-century? Who's pulling their violent strings? — are more compelling than the plodding mechanics of the weekly manhunt, led by Sarah Jones as a generically spunky detective assigned to the team, possibly because of her own family connection to the Big Mystery.

Character is initially subsumed by the show's high concept, despite the engaging presence of Lost's Jorge Garcia as a smarter-than-he-looks Alcatraz scholar who comes along for the ride, though he has misgivings once he becomes aware of the danger they're all in. "This isn't a comic-book world, is it?" he wonders in tonight's second hour of back-to-back chases. (Could have fooled me.) Earlier, as the premise begins to reveal itself, he marvels, "Is anyone else's head exploding right now?" I wish.

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