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Alcatraz (TV series)

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Created by
Theme music composerJ. J. Abrams
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes13
Executive producers
  • Alison Balian
  • Robert Hull
  • Athena Wickham
  • Robert M. Williams, Jr.
Production locationsRiverview Hospital, Coquitlam, British Columbia / Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada / San Francisco, United States (pilot)
  • Stephen McNutt
  • David Stockton
Running time43 minutes
Production companies
Original release
ReleaseJanuary 16 (2012-01-16) –
March 26, 2012 (2012-03-26)

Alcatraz is an American television series created by Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt, and produced by J. J. Abrams and Bad Robot. The series premiered on Fox on January 16, 2012, as a mid-season replacement.[1] Switching between eras, the series focuses on the Alcatraz prison, which was shut down in 1963 due to unsafe conditions for its prisoners and guards. The show's premise is that both the prisoners and the guards disappeared in 1963 and have abruptly reappeared in modern-day San Francisco, where they are being tracked down by a government agency, to prevent them from committing further crimes while also determining the reasons for their return. The series starred Sarah Jones, Jorge Garcia, Sam Neill, and Parminder Nagra.[2]

On May 9, 2012, Fox canceled the series after one season.[3]

Plot summary


On March 21, 1963, 256 inmates and 46 guards disappeared from the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary without a trace. To cover up the disappearance, the government invented a cover story about the prison being closed due to unsafe conditions, and officially reported that the inmates had been transferred. However, federal agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill), a young San Francisco police officer tasked with transferring inmates to the island in 1963, is one of the first to discover that the inmates are actually missing and not transferred. In present-day San Francisco, the "63s" (as the missing inmates and guards are called) begin returning, one by one. Strangely, they have not aged at all, and they have no clues about their missing time or their whereabouts during their missing years; however, they appear to be returning with compulsions to find certain objects and to continue their criminal habits. Even more strangely, the government has been expecting their return, and Hauser now runs a secret government unit dedicated to finding the returning prisoners; this unit was set up long ago in anticipation of the prisoners' returns. (The cellblock at this unit has the same configuration as Alcatraz' distinctive two-level layout.) To help track down the returning prisoners and capture them, Hauser enlists police detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and Dr. Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia), a published expert on the history of Alcatraz and its inmates.

Opening: (Narrated by Sam Neill in every episode)

"On March 21, 1963, Alcatraz officially closed. All the prisoners were transferred off the island. Only, that's not what happened. Not at all."

Cast and characters



  • Sarah Jones as Rebecca Madsen, a San Francisco Police Department homicide detective with family ties to Alcatraz; she becomes involved after one of the inmates – her grandfather – is responsible for the death of her partner, directly meeting the task force when investigating the death of the former deputy warden at Alcatraz. She was raised by her great-uncle – a former Alcatraz guard and, later, cop – after the death of her parents, occasionally helping him look over his case files as she was growing up and offering useful insight into his cases, inspiring her own career.
  • Jorge Garcia as Dr. Diego "Doc" Soto, a PhD in both criminal justice and Civil War history, author of books on Alcatraz, comic book store owner, writer, and artist. He claims that he received the PhDs to satisfy his parents, subsequently deliberately disgracing himself in the industry by writing a crime evaluation report using Gotham City as his example so that he could open the store. He went through an unspecified traumatic experience at age eleven involving being abducted, which affected him deeply. Although he lacks field training, Doc's detailed knowledge of the missing Alcatraz prisoners has proven invaluable in helping the task force identify and track the returning inmates.
  • Sam Neill as Emerson Hauser, an FBI agent and former police officer who arrived on the dock at Alcatraz to find the prisoners gone in 1963. Currently heads the Alcatraz Task Force. Although his priority is generally to capture and contain the inmates to find out where they went and why they are coming back, he has shown that he is willing to put innocent lives over the lives of the inmates when the situation directly requires him to make a choice. He studied philosophy at Yale University before he began working at Alcatraz.
  • Parminder Nagra as Dr. Lucille "Lucy" Banerjee, Agent Hauser's technician/colleague and friend. In 1963, she was known as Dr. Lucille Sengupta, who served as a psychiatrist at Alcatraz, and apparently had the potential of a romantic relationship with Hauser before she vanished. She spent some time in a coma after she was injured during one of the first cases, but recovered thanks to a blood transfusion from Webb Porter due to the accelerated healing of certain inmates due to tests they underwent at Alcatraz.
  • Jonny Coyne as Edwin James, the warden of Alcatraz. Although more tolerant of the prisoners, he has been shown to resort to psychological torture in order to learn crucial information about them, such as manipulating Ernest Cobb's attempts to be placed in solitary confinement or threatening to leave Kit Nelson in a small dark room until Nelson admits the truth about his first crime. He apparently vanished with the rest of the inmates, and his present whereabouts are unknown, although he appears to be the only person who knew what was really going on at Alcatraz.
  • Jason Butler Harner as Elijah Bailey "E.B." Tiller, the deputy warden of Alcatraz, whose cynical views of the inmates often put him at odds with James; he was killed in the present by Jack Sylvane in the pilot, although he still appears in flashbacks to the past where he brutally treated the various inmates.
  • Robert Forster as Raymond "Ray" Archer (previously Ray Madsen), Rebecca's great-uncle and former Alcatraz prison guard; he was approached by Hauser to join the task force sixteen years ago, but rejected the offer due to his responsibilities to Rebecca. He now owns a bar and is aware of at least Tommy Madsen's return, although he is generally unaware of the other 63s.


  • David Hoflin as Thomas "Tommy" Madsen (#2002), Rebecca's grandfather and Ray's brother who reappeared in 2012 and killed Rebecca's partner; Rebecca was raised believing that he was a guard at the prison until she witnessed the list of '63s'. He is apparently more significant than the other inmates, as Hauser approached Ray specifically due to his connection to Madsen, with Madsen having been underground for several months since his return rather than the more public activities of other inmates.
  • Leon Rippy as Dr. Milton Beauregard, the head doctor of Alcatraz who reappeared in 2012 and operates under Hauser.
  • Jeananne Goossen as Nikki, a medical examiner in the coroner's office.
  • Jeffrey Pierce as Jack Sylvane (#2024), the first inmate tracked down and captured by the Alcatraz Task Force. While most of his targets fit in with his expected pattern – going after Tiller and his brother, who married his ex-wife – he also went to an unconnected house to acquire a distinctive key from a man's safe. His own ignorance of his reasons for requesting that key suggests that there is another agenda behind the inmates' sudden return.

Inmates (in order of appearance)


There were around 302 people on Alcatraz when they all mysteriously vanished, with fewer than 50 of these being prison staff; the other 250+, referred to by Hauser as the '63s, remain some of America's worst recorded criminals. Each one has demonstrated a ruthless skill in their chosen crime fields of expertise and no compunctions about picking up where they left off. Various inmates underwent mysterious experiments involving their blood being extracted, treated with an unidentified process, and then returned to them, those inmates who underwent this procedure possessing a degree of accelerated healing that allows them to recover from wounds in far less time than would normally be expected.




No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air dateProd.
U.S. viewers
1"Pilot"Danny CannonSteven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt & Elizabeth SarnoffJanuary 16, 2012 (2012-01-16)29679010.05[4]
Years after every prisoner on Alcatraz mysteriously vanished, FBI Agent Emerson Hauser and Detective Rebecca Madsen are drawn into the case of Jack Sylvane, who is on a killing spree. They later find out that Sylvane was in fact one of the inmates in the prison. Joined by Alcatraz expert "Doc" Soto, Hauser and Madsen race to stop Sylvane and solve the mystery of Alcatraz. Hauser takes Sylvane to a prison facility in the woods much like Alcatraz.
2"Ernest Cobb"Jack BenderAlison BalianJanuary 16, 2012 (2012-01-16)2J605210.05[4]
Ernest Cobb (Joe Egender), another Alcatraz prisoner, is now killing people using a sniper rifle. Madsen and Hauser try to stop him before he kills more, forcing them to try and deduce the motivation for his murder sprees. Lucy is shot by Cobb and is comatose. Lucy is also revealed to be working as a doctor in the 1960s as she is introduced to Cobb when he was in Alcatraz.
3"Kit Nelson"Jack BenderJennifer JohnsonJanuary 23, 2012 (2012-01-23)2J60539.03[5]
A child killer, who would kidnap his victims and return their bodies home, reappears from the past, spurring a manhunt. Dr. Soto proves his worth by coming up with the clues to the killer's capture. Also, a secret from Dr. Soto's past is revealed.
4"Cal Sweeney"Brad AndersonRobert HullJanuary 30, 2012 (2012-01-30)2J60558.44[6]
A bank robber from the past causes mayhem in the present and puts Rebecca in a difficult position as she has to work out how to get him out of the bank without revealing the existence of the 63s.
5"Guy Hastings"Charles BeesonSteven Lilien & Bryan WynbrandtFebruary 6, 2012 (2012-02-06)2J60566.91[7]
A guard from Alcatraz appears- acting in a far more violent manner than the team would have expected- and encounters Ray, whom Rebecca suspects the guard may be using to track down her grandfather. Ray is revealed to be Rebecca's uncle.
6"Paxton Petty"Paul EdwardsStory by : Jennifer Johnson
Teleplay by : Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt & Robert Hull
February 13, 2012 (2012-02-13)2J60586.24[8]
A military land mine specialist resurfaces and plants bombs throughout the city. Rebecca, Soto and Hauser follow a series of clues to find his next targeted location. Hauser learns that Lucy might not wake up from her coma, so he removes her from the hospital to be fixed by Dr. Beauregard.
7"Johnny McKee"Brad TurnerToni GraphiaFebruary 20, 2012 (2012-02-20)2J60545.98[9]
Johnny McKee, another former Alcatraz prisoner, returns and begins to poison the people of San Francisco, particularly men who behave similarly to grade-school bullies.
8"The Ames Brothers"Nick CopusRobert HullMarch 5, 2012 (2012-03-05)2J60595.82[10]
When brothers Herman and Pinky Ames, who almost escaped in 1961, return to modern times, Soto gets caught and kidnapped by the ultra-violent duo as they follow a map in the hunt for a certain treasure, resulting in a tense confrontation in Alcatraz itself.
9"Sonny Burnett"Paul EdwardsStory by : Toni Graphia
Teleplay by : Toni Graphia & Robert Hull
March 5, 2012 (2012-03-05)2J60605.47[10]
Sonny Burnett, sent to 1960 Alcatraz for kidnapping wealthy people and holding them for outrageous ransoms, appears in the present, seeking revenge for the "betrayal" of one of his kidnapping victims in the past. Also, the blood taken from the 1963 prisoners has a modern connection. The link between Rebecca, Uncle Ray, and Tommy is further explored.
10"Clarence Montgomery"Jack BenderLeigh Dana JacksonMarch 12, 2012 (2012-03-12)2J60575.07[11]
After a woman is found dead on a golf course, killed in a similar manner to the murdered girlfriend of former Alcatraz inmate Clarence Montgomery, the team begins to suspect that the innocent Montgomery, who was falsely accused of and imprisoned for murdering his girlfriend, has returned, and is now committing crimes similar to that which he was imprisoned for.
11"Webb Porter"Jack BenderSteven Lilien & Bryan WynbrandtMarch 19, 2012 (2012-03-19)2J60615.04[12]
Sent to Alcatraz for killing his mother, who tried to drown him when he was younger, violin-playing former inmate Webb Porter resurfaces. He willingly gives blood to Lucy, allowing her to wake from her coma.
12"Garrett Stillman"Eagle EgilssonLeigh Dana Jackson & Coleman HerbertMarch 26, 2012 (2012-03-26)2J60624.78[13]
Doc and Rebecca close in on a man who may be the key to revealing the secrets behind all the returning criminals. Meanwhile, Hauser makes a discovery beneath the halls of Alcatraz that reveals more of the truth.
13"Tommy Madsen"Aaron LipstadtDaniel Pyne & Jennifer JohnsonMarch 26, 2012 (2012-03-26)2J60634.75[13]
Rebecca finds the man who killed her partner. The episode includes a recreation of the chase scene in Bullitt. The series ends in a cliffhanger: Rebecca is stabbed by Tommy, flatlines in a hospital and is pronounced dead. Hauser and Lucy make a shocking discovery.


The climactic sniper scene in the second episode was filmed atop the Toronto-Dominion Bank Building in Vancouver.

In November 2011, Elizabeth Sarnoff, co-creator of the series, stepped down as executive producer. She remained as an "executive consultant".[14]

The show was filmed in Vancouver and San Francisco. Scenes from the second episode prominently feature Vancouver's Toronto-Dominion Bank and Vancouver Film School, as well as backdrops of the port facilities.[citation needed]

Connection to the actual prison


The series renewed the public's interest in the actual Alcatraz prison, so much so that the National Park Service had to install warning signs for its public tours. Fans of the TV series broke away from tours in an attempt to find the "nerve center" that is shown underneath the prison on the show. The signs state: "The TV show Alcatraz is fictional. Many areas it depicts are not real. Closed areas protect you, historic structures and nesting birds."[15]

International distribution

Region Channel Premiere date Ref.
Arab world MBC Action January 19, 2012 [citation needed]
 Argentina Warner Channel January 23, 2012 [citation needed]
 Armenia Armenia 1 January 8, 2014 [citation needed]
 Australia Nine Network February 13, 2012 [16]
 Belgium VIER and RTBF March 26, 2012 [17]
 Brazil Warner Channel, SBT January 23, 2012; December 9, 2012 [18]
 Canada (English) City January 16, 2012 [19]
 Canada  Quebec (French) Ztélé January 30, 2013 [20]
 Denmark Kanal 5 March 11, 2012 [21]
 Estonia Kanal 2 November 27, 2012 [citation needed]
 Finland Sub September 2, 2012 [22]
 France NT1 January 12, 2013 [23]
 Germany RTL Nitro September 19, 2012 [24]
 Greece Star Channel September 1, 2016
 Hong Kong TVB Pearl September 18, 2012 [citation needed]
 Hungary Cool June 17, 2013
 India Star World November 10, 2012 [25]
 Ireland Watch and RTÉ March 13, 2012 [26]
 Israel HOT March 2012 [27]
 Italy Premium Crime January 30, 2012 [citation needed]
Latin America, except Argentina, Brazil Warner Channel January 22, 2012 [citation needed]
 Netherlands Net 5 March 16, 2013 [28]
 New Zealand TV One December 5, 2012 [29]
 Norway TVNorge February 9, 2012 [citation needed]
 Pakistan Star World November 10, 2012 [25]
 Poland Platforma n VOD February 6, 2012 [citation needed]
 Philippines CHASE on BEAM 31 February 18, 2012 [citation needed]
 Portugal RTP2 March 16, 2012 [30]
 Romania Jurnal TV May 3, 2014 [citation needed]
 Russia TV-3 (Russia) July 5, 2013 [31]
 Slovakia Markíza June 30, 2013 [32][33]
 South Africa M-Net and M-Net HD May 29, 2012 [34]
 Spain TNT (pay) January 17, 2012 [citation needed]
La Sexta (free) February 8, 2012 [35]
 Sweden TV4 April 9, 2012 [36]
 Thailand True Series June 17, 2012 [citation needed]
 Turkey DiziMax January 21, 2012 [citation needed]
 United Kingdom Watch March 13, 2012 [26]

Home video release


Warner Home Video released the entire series in DVD and Blu-ray Disc formats on October 16, 2012. Both the three-disc DVD and two-disc Blu-ray sets featured deleted scenes, a gag reel, the "Alcatraz: Island of Intrigue" featurette of the cast and crew, and a 6-page full-color collectible booklet. The United States Blu-ray version also featured digital UltraViolet versions of each episode.[37][38]


Jorge Garcia, Sarah Jones and Parminder Nagra at WonderCon 2012 in promotion of Alcatraz.

In June 2011, Alcatraz was one of eight honorees in the Most Exciting New Series category at the 1st Critics' Choice Television Awards, elected by journalists who had seen the pilots.[39] It has an aggregate score of 63/100 on Metacritic, denoting "generally favorable reviews".[40] Newsday's Verne Gay liked the series, but stated "'Traz' shares some of the DNA of The 4400 (of all shows) with a strand or two stripped from the genetic code of FlashForward. Love all these aforementioned worthies."[41] Robert Bianco of USA Today wrote: "Alcatraz is easy enough to follow, with twists and surprises that are enjoyable and not enervating. But you still may leave it wondering how long it will be before there are eight timelines and six universes."[42] New York's Matt Zoller Seitz panned the series, saying, "The characters are so TV cute (and in some cases TV pretty) and the storytelling so mechanical, that I couldn't give myself over to it either way."[43]

The series opened with over 10 million U.S. viewers, but for the season finale, it had decreased to 4.75 million U.S. viewers, the series' lowest viewership.[4][13] In the UK, the pilot episode debuted on March 15, 2012, with 496,000 viewers, marking UKTV's Watch channel's highest debut for the time-slot since 2011's Dynamo: Magician Impossible.[44]

U.S. ratings

Season Episodes Timeslot (ET/PT) Premiered Ended TV season Rank Viewers
(in millions)
Date Premiere
(in millions)
Date Finale
(in millions)
1 13 Monday 9:00 PM January 16, 2012 10.05[4] March 26, 2012 4.75[13] 2011–12 #46 9.56[45]



In 2011, the series was honored, along with seven others, with the Critics' Choice Television Award for Most Exciting New Series.[46]


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