Toto, we’re not in Oz anymore. Prison Break is the first new jail series in a while, but it’s neither gritty nor graphic. There’s no blaring soundtrack or bone-crunching violence in the premiere, just the hushed impression that something clever is about to unfurl. The intricate plot is set in motion by Michael Scofield, a handsome executive who walks into a bank and starts shooting. He deliberately breaks into jail so that he can free his own brother, Lincoln, who’s on his way to the electric chair for murdering the vice president’s brother. Impossible? Not if you happen to be the structural engineer who designed the penitentiary.
Unfortunately, Prison Break‘s dialogue is nowhere near as sharp as its plotting. (For instance, the inmates call Lincoln “Linc the Sink” because “he’ll come at you with everything but the kitchen.”) Scofield’s scheme draws on a throng of thugs who don’t even know they’re involved, as well as the inadvertent assistance of the eccentric warden, played by Stacy Keach. Like Lost, Prison Break is tethered to a seemingly unsustainable premise—but since that show managed to spin one ludicrous idea into a delicious debut season, I’ll give these cons a chance to prove that it’s not jailhouse schlock.