August 29, 2005


Implausibility isn't a crime in 'Prison Break':
The Fox series about a man attempting to break his brother out of prison is a comic book, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. (Robert Lloyd, August 29, 2005, LA Times)

"Prison Break," premiering tonight on Fox as either the last new series of the summer season or the first new series of the fall, does not waste any time in establishing itself as completely implausible — which is a smart move indeed.

By getting that matter settled at the top — as young Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller, "The Human Stain") contrives to get himself thrown into prison, one particular prison, to break out his brother Lincoln (Dominic Purcell, "North Shore") before his impending execution for the murder of the brother of the vice president of the United States — the show can pretty much go where it wants to afterward. If you're still on board at the end of the two-hour pilot, directed by Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour") — and even without much in the way of action, it holds the interest quite handily — you will have long since stopped peppering the TV screen with inconvenient questions. If the show is not absolutely critic-proof, if it is a convocation of clichés and old tropes, it is forearmed with a response difficult to argue with: "Yeah, so?"

It's a comic book, basically, a B-movie, a pulp fiction, and low enough in the cultural reckoning of things to set its own rules with impunity. It is a low-resolution reality the show inhabits. Though Michael will occasionally frown over some bit of prison violence or unexpected obstacle, he is a fantastic man of steel, or anyway of steel nerves, who strolls into a maximum-security prison as though it were a Kmart, and faces the toughest guys in the world as if he were asking them what aisle to go to for envelopes. Part of the pleasure of the series is that particular pleasure of watching a super-heroic character who can't fail.

Michael has worked out a terribly complicated plan to not only get his brother out of prison but out of the country, with a lot of money. (The plan, which is in a sense the series' main asset, will be revealed only little by little.) It seems to have necessitated a degree of research that would under ordinary circumstances keep an army of librarians and private detectives busy for a year, and, as often is the way with these things, it requires that a host of other characters, whose part in the plan is unwitting and therefore unpredictable, respond predictably. Whatever else happens, Michael does have a head start. He's a structural engineer who, by an Incredible Coincidence, happened to be in charge of an earlier retrofitting of the Very Prison in which he and his brother are confined, and for easy reference — this is the pilot's big reveal, so close your eyes now if you don't want to know — has had them tattooed, in coded heavy-metal images, onto his body.

See, if he had enough back hair he could just have the plans crocheted.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 29, 2005 7:29 AM

I can't believe they are using the last name Scofield. That's my last name. I can't decide if it is cool or not. I don't think I've ever seen it used by anybody in the entertainment industry, as fiction at least. Guess I'll have to watch the show now.

Posted by: Scof at August 29, 2005 2:47 PM

Sounds like it'll make Mission: Impossible plots seem plausible.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 29, 2005 5:42 PM

Paul Scofield - great actor.

Posted by: obc at August 29, 2005 6:49 PM