J.J. Abrams Says ‘Alcatraz’ A Different Island Than ‘Lost’

J.J. Abrams’ new series has an island, a time-traveling intrigue and Jorge Garcia.

But the new “Alcatraz,” his new show starting next week about prisoners from that fabled prison who begin returning to menacing the world 50 years later, is no “Lost” he told skeptical critics at press tour.

“In theory, you know, any land mass is an island. So you could argue every show ever made” is like “Lost.” “ ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ is much like ‘Lost,’ honestly.”

(But only if you consider Minneapolis an island).

As for the participation of Garcia, Abrams spoke of him as a kind of large good luck charm.

“Jorge was the first person cast in ‘Lost,’” Abrams says. “He was the first person that was cast in ‘Alcatraz.’”

“Pretty much, if J.J. asked me to do anything, I say ‘yes’ first and then read second,” Garcia says. But he also had a special interest in the project because his girlfriend was writing a book about Alcatraz.

It’s important to have the show look different than “Lost,” says Jack Bender, who directed both.

“It’s tricky because that’s what we dealt with also in ‘Lost,’  which was how to make it the real world and yet the storytelling was extraordinary and unique,” he says.

“Alcatraz,” Bender says, “just felt to me like it was a really unique show and grounded enough in the real world with this crazy ass premise that was part of the challenge and also part of what made it really unique, that balance.”

The other balance is how to balance a serialized mystery with the weekly action (with what sounds like a kind of prisoner a week pace), Abrams says.

Abrams says he learned something about the closed world of serialized shows when he happened to see one of his old shows.

“A few years ago when ‘Alias’ was on, I went over to a friend’s house and there was an episode that was on, and I watched it. And I had had a sort of bad day and I wasn’t really focused and the show came on and I watched, like, four minutes of the opening and I was like: What the fuck is going on in this show?  I have no idea. I literally was like, What? Now, of course, I knew and I knew the story and I worked on the episode but it was like that thing of, like, you see it from the outside suddenly. And I felt my heart broke for everyone.”

“Alcatraz” premieres Jan. 16 on Fox.

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