I really, really want to like Alcatraz, but it’s just not the English major Super Bowl that LOST was. One of the drawbacks of the Alcatraz set-up is that it’s the anti-LOST. The reverse of the LOST premise. Instead of wondering what’s happening to all the pretty people on the mysterious Island, we’re wondering what’s happening with the premise. Instead of cluing in on approachable characters, who the audience roots for to solve the mystery that unfolds in puzzle pieces, in Alcatraz the audience is presented a mystery and then doled out characters who themselves are puzzle pieces in the strange goings-on. If these two shows were desserts, LOST would be a great big cake with a gooey inside, and Alcatraz would be a collection of eggs, flour and sugar on the counter which will be a tasty cake someday with a little application of effort. I’m not saying it’s not a cake; it’s just not a cake yet. Which I suppose is appropriate for a show that hinges on time-travel of some sort.

The other character-based sour note (I can’t quite bring myself to call it a “mis-step”) is that… instead of rooting for a dysfunctional family as the audience does on Fringe, we’re all wondering why one of the main characters is the bad guy. Rooting for Hauser is like seeing Doctor Doom in a Fantastic Four uniform.

But on to the observations for this week:

1. It can’t be long before the public learns of the 63s. This week, Cal held… what? Twenty people hostage in a bank and pistol-whipped a security guard? That sort of behavior is going to get out, my friend. And when Hauser shows up to barn-noodle the chief of police every time something mildly interesting happens, even a town where the sheriff is accused of domestic violence is going to notice, yes?

2. Leaving aside the utility of using crazy-ass, dangerous prisoners as stewards at a birthday party for the assistant warden, or whatevs, because, you know, it’s TV, and all… discussing the sexy memory-erasing theories you want to employ on prisoners while prisoners are standing there is probably not the smartest play, Doctor Indian-Shot-in-the-Future. I may not know whyd you are in the future, but I think I smell a reason the sniper may have targeted you.

3. That “I’m Detective Madsen” thing drives me nuts. You’re Inspector Madsen, if you actually work for SFPD. Please, please, please, if you know actress Sarah Jones, just give her the word and have her say “Inspector” instead of “Detective.”

4. Hauser doesn’t know what the keys are for? Doc Soto, who has two PhDs and has studied Alcatraz extensively has no idea about the keys? Subterranean denizen behind doors held locked by laser-cut keys in 1960 don’t know what the keys are for? What the what?

5. A lot of folks are crying in their beers that Cal said “That Mustang’s been following us for a while. Somebody you know?” when they all disappeared in 1963 and Ford didn’t unveil the Mustang until the next year, so there’s no way he should be able to identify the car. You guys have all been watching this show, right? The prisoners show up with re-grooved memories, programmed and prepared. If somebody’s got hotel card swipes and pre-paid credit cards in their pocket, and a mission to perform… it’s not unlikely that whoever’s behind these re-appearances would make everybody watch Bullitt before they go back to the future.

And they were singing from the rooftops again, because our ol’ pal, LOST recapper EJ Feddes is back on the case, recapping Alcatraz for Spunkybean. Click on over; that guy can write.

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