Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Best New Television

Alcatraz doesn't necessarily set the world alight, but this jail based mystery is still thoroughly entertaining nonetheless. On the 21st of March 1963 America's most famous prison was shut down and its 302 inmates were transported off the island. That is at least how the official version of events would have you believe. In actuality they mysteriously disappeared, but now 50-years later some of the nastiest inmates in history have suddenly started reappearing, seemingly not having aged and bent on repeating their previous crimes. A small FBI task force headed by badass Agent Hauser (Sam Neil) with a little help from detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and Dr. Diego Soto (former Lost favourite Jorge Garcia) are tasked with recapturing the '63s' in modern day San Francisco. Featuring other fantastically nuanced characters in Dr. Sengupta (Parminder Nagra) and enigmatic prison Warden Edwin James (Jonny Coyne), Alcatraz certainly has a solid foundation. It also helps when that master of mystery J.J. Abrams is involved in proceedings.

Awake has a particularly interesting premise. After a tragic car crash which killed both his wife and son, detective Michael Britten discovers that every time he goes to sleep he switches between two realities; one in which his wife survived and the other in which his son did. Throughout, Britten is unsure which of the two realities are real, as this otherwise normally functioning man begins to wonder if he's losing his sanity. Fascinating, as well as heart-wrenching stuff.

Not exactly 24, but Kiefer Sutherland's Touch is another show which sparks one's intrigue. Left to care for his late wife's autistic son Jacob (David Mazouz), Martin Bohm finds it tough connecting with the boy - made more difficult by the fact that he is mute. However, it's not that Jacob is unwilling to communicate, but that people just don't understand him. When it becomes apparent that Jacob sees the world in numbers, Martin and social worker Clea (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) figure out that they correspond to a series of seemingly unconnected people and events yet to unfold. It's difficult to accurately describe Touch, but think something of a cross between Babel, Crash and Person Of Interest and you're some of the way to understanding what this is all about. The only problem I foresee is that Touch looks very episodic. There's no real 'hook' so to speak and it's difficult to see what direction it can go without some overall arc. Nonetheless, the pilot was impressive, and genuinely...ahem...touching.

Out of all the new shows, The River is probably my favourite. When famed TV explorer Dr. Emmett Cole (Bruce Greenwood) mysteriously disappears deep in the uncharted Amazon basin, wife Tess (Leslie Hope) and son Lincoln (Joe Anderson) mount a rescue mission. Funded by a TV network on the understanding they get no holds barred access, the search party encounter ever stranger and unexplainable phenomena as they delve deeper into the depths of the rainforest. While The River resembles elements of the found-footage genre familiar to the Blair Witch Project, it actually remains stimulating for an otherwise dated technique. This can be pointedly creepy at times which is understandable given creator Oren Peli was the man behind the Paranormal Activity movies.