The first new show of the broadcast networks’ Fall season premiered Monday, and the most praise I can muster is, it could’ve been worse. Prison Break is just ridiculous. It’s just mind-jarringly, staggeringly ridiculous. But if you can kind of squint and pretend you don’t see all the malarkey, it’s not that bad.
Lincoln Burrows has been sentenced to death for killing the Vice President’s brother. Linc’s half-brother, Michael Scofield, believes he’s innocent, so he robs a bank and gets thrown in prison. The same prison as Linc! (Because he gets to choose which prison he goes to!) So he can bust them both out! Because it just so happens he helped design the prison! And he’s got the blueprints hidden in tattoos on his body!! And he smuggled in a helicopter up his ass!!!
Okay, not that last bit, but he might as well have. He planned everything else out, helped in no small part by extreme coincidence. Everyone Michael meets figures into his plans in some way, whether it’s the prison doctor, who happens to be the governor’s daughter, or the incarcerated Mob boss, who can hide them once they escape, or fellow inmate D.B. freakin’ Cooper, who has money stashed on the outside they can use. Or then there’s the warden (a surprisingly low-key Stacy Keach), who, in the most eye-rolling of coinky-dinks, just happens to be building a scale model of the Taj Mahal for his wife’s anniversary present — which structural engineer Michael just happens to be able to help him with, in exchange for favors.
It’s silly, and it’s going to get even sillier, it looks like. Lincoln is scheduled for execution in one month, according to Monday’s back-to-back premiere episodes, yet according to the coming attractions, it’s already been pushed back to 60 days. How will Lincoln keep getting a stay of execution long enough for Michael to carry out his plan? (Via very silly means, I have to assume.) And what if the show’s a success? How tedious will it become, as week after week Lincoln somehow avoids execution, and Michael keeps failing to actually break them out of prison? “Well, you’ve been here two years now, dude. How’s that brilliant escape plan of yours going?” “Shut up!!” And if they do escape, what happens to the “prison” part of the show? I guess they can always change the name to Prison Already Broken.
And still. I was able to disengage from the plot holes and implausibilities, and enjoy the show (not a lot, but enough). I liked it for its actors (even the hammy ones), its style, and its mystery: who really killed the V.P.’s brother, and why frame Lincoln? And Michael’s escape plan, though absurd, also intrigues me in spite of myself. Frankly, I’d rather see more of his plan in action, and less of the characters outside the prison. If we never see Lincoln’s rotten little snot of a son again, it’ll be too soon.
This show benefits greatly from its timeslot, and its early debut. Monday competition is fairly weak for the near future; in fact, it’s basically non-existent for another two weeks. That’s exactly how long Prison Break has to convince me to keep watching.