The week after Supreme Court justices quailed at the thought of children seeing “buttocks” on network television, the producers of Fox's dopey new sci-fi crime-of-the-week series Alcatraz treated the American public to no fewer than 10 graphic murders in its two-hour debut. That's not including the mere wounds, or the prison beatings, or the SFPD detective sidekick who dies after taking the one risk that no fictional SFPD detective sidekick should ever dare: engaging in a rooftop chase when the writers have seen Vertigo.
The show's premise could be some veiled right-wing critique of prison re-alignment. Hundreds of Alcatraz inmates vanished in 1963 and are now reappearing, one at a time, in modern-day San Francisco, where they immediately begin murdering people. The show is CSI meets magic-island JJ Abramsia meets old-timey serial-killer Pokémon: The heroes gotta catch 'em all.
Here's what we've learned from the first episodes:
• During a foot chase, a fit police detective like our heroine can in 15 seconds dash from the top of Telegraph Hill to the Stockton Street Tunnel. She will not be winded.
• The most dangerous parts of the city are North Beach, Fort Mason, Telegraph Hill, and, just north of the Financial District, a giant “Columbus Superstore” that boasts a half-empty 2-acre parking lot that apparently sits on a roof.
• SFPD officers communicate on pricey smartphones, which is surprising considering that the department only got around to providing them with e-mail addresses last summer.
• Best place in town for a secret basement high-tech crime-lab command center? A stone island only reachable by ferry.
• After 10 murders in a week or so, including sniper attacks, the citizens of San Francisco do not freak out. In fact, this is the show's greatest omission. How does the press react? Wouldn't hard-hitting Mike Aldax at the Examiner be cracking the case of these Time-Travel Thugs, these Wormhole Weasels, these Quantum-Physics-Disobeying Goons?
• JJ Abrams' projects are increasingly like Tim Burton's: Even when we expect nothing, they're somehow disappointing.