A Maiden Voyage to the Rock for Fox's Alcatraz Premiere

Categories: TV

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Christopher Victorio
​Hollywood's craziest premiere this week didn't take place in Los Angeles, it rocked Alcatraz Island.

For the first time since Sean Connery launched the feature film The Rock there in 1996, the isle hosted a premiere party Wednesday night for Alcatraz, a television series produced by J.J. Abrams (Fringe, Lost, Star Trek) debuting Monday (Jan. 16) on KTVU/Fox.

Despite being born here, visiting Alcatraz was something we'd never taken the time to do, but now it's clear we were just waiting for this over-the-top opportunity. Sartorial choices were difficult, and though many advised adopting prison stripes and stilettos for the occasion, we felt most at home in a black shirt festooned with cartoon switchblades.

Much of the press corps for the evening had been flown in from Los Angeles, and they scooped up hand-warmers with particular desperation -- though we don't know where you'd put one in a stiletto.

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Christopher Victorio
The Alcatraz cast.
​We saw a shiny blue new Ford Mustang parked on the island when we got there, and we later learned the auto company had underwritten the event, but we couldn't find the keys to take it for a quick spin around the joint.

The "red carpet" (or step-and-repeat area) was set up in the shower room, where we overheard two servers speculating on how many forced encounters must have taken place there. We marveled at how series stars Sam Neill, Jorge Garcia, and Sarah Jones didn't blink under the floodlights and flashes, serving up only choice body angles. Guess such things become automatic after a time.

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Christopher Victorio
Prison food at Alcatraz, 2012.
​When it came to food, Alcatraz had a "take what you like, but eat all you take" policy and a subsequent reputation for having one of the best meal programs in the federal prison system. But surely no prisoner could ever imagine that people in the mess hall would be treated to amuses bouches of sirloin and shrimp in 2012. (However, we did witness an exchange between former inmate Robert Luke, who served time from 1954-59, and former guard George DeVincenzi,1950-57: the latter seemed excited about the free drinks.)

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Christopher Victorio
Former Alcatraz inmate Robert Luke (1954-59) and guard George DeVincenzi (1950-57).
​The first episode was screened in D-Block, former site of "the hole," and we'd be lying if we said we didn't expect that the story was going to be suitably punishing. After all, the basic premise of hundreds of inmates who were presumed dead returning to life in the present day to wreak havoc on society hadn't exactly made us sit up with anticipation.

We're not going to declare a runaway smash here, but Alcatraz is not terrible. We enjoyed some of the banter (if not a lot of the dialogue) and even its Picture of Dorian Gray elements. Neill, Garcia, and Jones will be the central focus of the plot, it seems, and their interactions in the first show brought enough tension and laughs to leave room for advancement.

But without spoiling any plot points, know this: Most of it was shot in Vancouver.

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