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Is ‘Alcatraz’ just another show trying to be the next ‘Lost’?

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Sam Neill is wonderfully creepy in Alcatraz, and Sarah Jones seems promising as the show’s lead.

The quest for the next Lost continues with Alcatraz, co-created by former Lost writer Elizabeth Sarnoff (although she’s since left the show) and executive-produced by Lost’s J.J. Abrams. Like a lot of Lost copycats, Alcatraz seems more concerned with cultivating an air of mystery than with developing interesting characters, although the first two episodes feature enough intriguing plot developments to make it worth sticking around for a little while to see where things go.

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There’s also the presence of the enjoyably creepy Sam Neill as the head of a shadowy agency tracking down the 300-plus inmates and guards who mysteriously disappeared from Alcatraz in 1963 and are just as mysteriously reappearing, not having aged a day. Lost’s Jorge Garcia is amusing as the nerdy Alcatraz expert who’s recruited to the team, and Sarah Jones is a promising lead actress as the steely female investigator familiar from Abrams-produced series like Fringe and Alias. Those three manage to hint at more to their characters than is offered in the plot-heavy show, which has to dole out both a procedural mystery and elements of the overarching story in each episode.

The show’s flashback structure (with scenes depicting the original incarceration of each episode’s returned prisoner) also panders to Lost fans, although it’s less about character illumination and more about revealing pieces of the mythology that the team is working to uncover. Just piling on the mysteriousness isn’t the way to become the next Lost (which was great because of its boldness and originality), but Alcatraz still might provide some thrills along the way.

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