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TV Review: While Entertaining, Prison Break Has Untapped Potential

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Even though most networks, in theory, would like to be able to air original programming all year, FOX is probably the best known out of all of the television networks for making the most out of year round programming, thanks to its inability to air a majority of its schedule during September because of the World Series. This year, the network continues their tradition of getting a head start at the fall line-up by premiering a few shows in the late summer months, starting tonight with the two hour presentation of Prison Break.

Prison Break, much like ABC’s television phenomenon Lost, is centered around a group of characters isolated from the world, and over time we will witness the trials and tribulations of escaping from whatever imprisons them…only in this case, instead of a deserted island, we’re dealing with an actual prison in Illinois.

Within the first act of the first hour, we’re introduced to the two main characters: Michael is an engineer who helped design the prison, which serves as the show’s setting and is played by the wonderful Wentworth Miller, who has guest starred in such previous TV greats as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Popular, Joan of Arcadia and the pilot episode of this year’s Ghost Whisperer; Lincoln is Michael’s older brother, who has been given the death sentence despite being innocent of the crime he was accused of. Lincoln is portrayed by Dominic Purcell who had starred in FOX’s short-lived series John Doe.

Rounding out the cast of characters is Robin Tunney as Veronica, a lawyer (and Lincoln’s ex-girlfriend) who is fighting on their side; Sarah Wayne Callies as Sara Tancredi, the doctor who works in the prison’s infirmary and seems to take an immediate liking to Michael; Marshall Allman as LJ, Lincoln’s troubled teenage son who seems to be heading towards prison as well; and Amaury Nolasco as Sucre, Michael’s cell mate who’s desperate to get back to his loving girlfriend (who’s played by Camille Guaty) out in the real world. Several other characters seem to appear regularly as well, but these are the characters that make the biggest lasting impression from the first two hours.

We see Michael, at the beginning of the series, getting a large tattoo which encompasses most of his upper body before purposely installing himself into prison in order to get to his older brother, who is already arrested and sitting on Death Row by the time we come into the series. He reveals to his brother later that he’s planning on breaking both of them out of prison, something that he can logically do since he helped design the building and has ingeniously tattooed the blueprints onto his very own skin to use as a map.

Throughout the rest of the premiere, we see Michael using different connections he’s found in jail through other inmates or through Sara Tancredi to set the big escape into motion. Meanwhile, Veronica is researching Lincoln’s case to find out if she can’t save him from getting killed on Death Row by using actual evidence and uncovering the truth, which seems to be a far more dangerous and treacherous task than it sounds, considering someone inside the walls of the Secret Service seems to have it in for Lincoln and is making sure that he dies.

The series, while not yet the finest piece of television to hit the airwaves, has a lot of definite potential, especially in series’ stars Wentworth Miller (who some are even calling TV’s “next big thing”), Dominic Purcell, Sarah Wayne Callies and Robin Tunney…all of whom bring a lot more talent than one might think to this project.

The series is executive produced by Marty Adelstein, Neil H. Moritz and Dawn Parouse, who have also executive produced other great FOX series such as Point Pleasant and Tru Calling. Here’s to hoping that this series doesn’t suffer the same fate as their previous efforts, because if this show gets cancelled, there will probably be just as many unhappy fans as there were in the wake of the cancellation of those two series.

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  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Great job Joe — your review is more persuasive than the commercials have been thus far.

  • http://indyjoe.blogspot.com/ Joe

    FOX has always sort of been lacking in the promotion department. It’s a decent show that I personally think deserves a shot…but whether or not they’ll actually give them that is the real question.