Prison Break: Season One

Television’s pendulum swing — once dominated by the short attention spanned viewer that demanded closure in its 44 minutes of entertainment — has been overtaken by the season-spanning epic, and Prison Break is the latest in the 24-esque serial sweepstakes. It involves Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) deliberately putting himself in the maximum-security prison where his brother Lincoln (John Doe’s Dominic Purcell) is scheduled for execution in order to break them both out. By planning it in advance, Scofield has managed to compile an immense amount of research into possible alliances and contacts within the prison system but more importantly, has accessed the prison blueprints and hidden them in an elaborate tattoo that covers his upper body. Prison Break crackles with the high tension of enclosed spaces throughout the 22-episode arc, which involves Scofield making deals with various inmates who assist him in return for being in on the escape plan; the entourage grows to ridiculous proportions (including a European mob boss, Peter Stormare, and a creepy paedophile played by character actor Rob Knepper). When its focus is the prison, its politics and the personal connections Scofield makes with the warden and comely prison doc, Prison Break is at its best. When it expands beyond the walls of Joliet Correctional Facility (the real prison, closed in 2002, where the show was filmed), it tries to cram an elaborate conspiracy theory involving Lincoln’s frame-up that reaches the highest levels of government. What happens outside the walls of the prison is the show’s weakest link, which isn’t necessarily a great sign, since it’s not too big a spoiler (considering the promos Fox is already running) to give away that some (but not all) of the principles do escape by the end of season one. It’s a smart move to not spread the breakout scenario any thinner than they do already, but it’s a wait-and-see proposition when the inmates try and make it on their own in the world for Prison Break’s second season. The most interesting featurettes include the history of Joliet and the creation of Scofield’s tattoo; the rest are perfunctory promotional materials. Plus: select episode commentary, season two preview. (Fox)