Monday sees the UK premiere of Alcatraz, a new US series from JJ Abrams screening on Watch.
The show’s premise is simple enough – almost 40 years ago three hundred inmates and their hards vanished from Alcatraz, only to start re-appearing on the streets of modern day America.
A task-force headed by Sam Neill, himself one of the first police officers to arrive at the deserted prison, is waiting to catch them before they return to their killing ways.
Fans of Torchwood and Whitechapel may find some familiar tones and elements – there’s a secret base under a major tourist landmark and an Alcatraz historian (played by Jorge Garcia) who joins the team.
Joining Garcia and Neill are Sarah Jones as San Francisco Police Department detective Rebecca Madsen and Parminder Nagra as scientist Lucy Banergee.
The opening episode is one of the best I’ve seen in years, eschewing the lazy ‘Oh, watch a few more episodes and it’ll get better’ approach that other shows – Terra Nova I mean you – hide behind.
Shows which start well tend to go on to achieve great things, less so those which expect an audience to sit through half a dozen poor episodes before they see a glimmer of talent or appeal.
The premise is pretty much established by the time the second advert break comes along and the team assembled and gelling pretty soon after. Nothing is more indulgent than forcing the audience to sit through an hour of foreshadowing of the inevitable.
The longevity of the series – as well as my interest – will come down to how flexible the format turns out to be. Killer turns up, resumes killing, has to be caught, isn’t going to hold the attention for too long.
But episode one is well worth tuning in for and good enough that I suspect the writers have factored this in…
Tuesdays at 9pm from 13th March on Watch