Like millions of Americans, I couldnt wait for new episodes of Prison Break. (Of course, it was nothing compared with how long fans of The Sopranos waited for a new season.) Leaving Michael and the guys stuck with only a humongous piece of plumbing between them and freedom (well, their next step toward freedom) wasnt easy, but the wait is finally over.
Some people ask why I love a series with so many gaping plot holes. But its one of those rare showslike 24, which now follows Prison Break on Monday nights, making for one powerful line-upwhere you get so caught up with the characters and situations that youre willing to overlook the obvious.
Bottom line: this aint no reality show. (Not that reality shows are so realistic, anyway.)
If Prison Break were based in reality, itd be incredibly dull. First, the shows set in Illinois where weve had a moratorium on the death penalty since 2000. Acknowledging that fact alone would kill every iota of suspense. Without the countdown to Lincs execution, Michael would have plenty of time to prove his brothers innocence without a jailbreak.
Sure, theyve explained how Michaels this strange sort of genius who sees things differently from the rest of us. Sure, he had an engineering job with the firm that got the penitentiarys renovation contract and was on the team handling the job. Sure, he got himself tattooed with prison details and staged a perfectly failed armed robbery just in time to get himself incarcerated at that very prison shortly before his brothers scheduled execution.
What are the odds theyd wind up in the same prison, a prison where a death row convict mixes with the general population so he can talkand be on a work crewwith his brother?
OK. You caught me. Ive never been to prison. Ive never known anyone whos been to prison (at least not that I know of). Maybe thats why Prison Break works for me.
I dont have problems believing Abruzzi and T-Bag have barter and bribery systems in place with the guards. But a felon named T-Bag? How menacing is that? Good thing Robert Knepper plays slimy inbred sociopath so convincingly.
And what about Michaels waist-to-neck, full-sleeved tattoo? Naturally, he couldnt risk the guardsor the prison doctor/ governors daughterseeing the prisons blueprints on his skin, so he had a tattoo artist work the details into an intricate design. So intricate they sometimes need special effects to show us what the images really are. Its fun, but is it really functional?
I wont even get into the conspiracy subplot involving the vice president, or how Lincs ex-girlfriend/lawyer and teen-age son keep outwitting the Secret Service guys chasing them. Thats yet another layer of Prison Breaks intrigue.
Oddly enough, the shows dramatic lighting makes the prisons exterior appear beautiful. A beautiful prison? Well, much of the show is filmed at a real (albeit former) penitentiary, so I guess some incongruities are truer to life than you might think. I guess knowing that helps me gloss over the less-than-believable bits and enjoy the show.
Programming note: Prison Break airs Mondays at 7 p.m. on FOX.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications including American Bungalow, SatelliteORBIT and TVGuide.
From the April 5-11, 2006, issue