PRISON BREAK: Tuesday 9PM on FOX – If Nothing Else Is On…
Where was the clamor for a return of PRISON BREAK? The show had pretty much run its course both critically and with viewers by the time it went off the air in 2009 after a 4-season run, and even at its peak it was never zeitgeist programming, the way the original X-Files and 24 were. There’s no novelty to seeing stars Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell reunited, because the two of them have been all over CW’s superhero shows together for the past few seasons. But FOX is increasingly desperate these days, and it seems to be grabbing on to any shred of existing IP it can find.
Prison Break 2.0 is again created by Paul T. Scheuring, who wrote tonight’s opening hour, and it doesn’t try to ring any changes on the formula. In fact, it picks up the story with no more than a time jump, and with just about all the cast members who survived the original seasons back in place, as T-Bag (Robert Knepper), upon his own release from prison, is handed an envelope with a mysterious image of Michael Scofield (Miller) behind bars. T-Bag immediately contacts Michael’s brother Lincoln Burrows (Purcell), and soon enough the band is back together, including Michael’s supposed widow Sara (Sarah Wayne Callies, also starring these days in USA’s Colony), Sucre (Amaury Nolasco), and C-Note (Rockmond Dunbar). Everyone is just as remembered, except that C-Note has converted to Islam, which is convenient, since Michael turns out to be imprisoned in Yemen. The merest wisp of new blood is supplied by Sara’s second husband (Mark Feuerstein), and C-Note’s contact in Yemen (Inbar Lavi, also the star of Bravo’s Imposters).
It’s not just that the characters are the same; so is the plotting. No sooner has Lincoln gotten the photo of his brother than threatening baddies are following him and stalking Sara, and whatever intricate plan Michael has put into place requires T-Bag to be fitted with a high-tech new hand. A hint of mystery is meant to be raised by Michael’s initial refusal to be acknowledged by his own identity.
Anyone who was hankering for more of Prison Break will find their itch scratched by the initial hour, and perhaps the limited 9-episode order will keep the show from some of the desperate plotting that make the original iteration increasingly silly. The actors are certainly comfortable in their roles, Nelson McCormick (another series veteran) directs the premiere with an engaging pace, and location shooting in Morocco standing in for Yemen at least gives the action a vivid setting. But there’s nothing here for non-fans, and no interesting changes for those seeking a reason to rejoin the gang. Prison Break provides nothing more than workmanlike familiarity–but for FOX these days, apparently that’s enough.