First Early Review: PRISON BREAK Revival (2017)
In this day and age there are two types of TV dramas. There are dramas such as The Leftovers and the recent The Young Pope, both HBO shows, that challenge audience expectations and break new barriers for the medium. Both shows are beautifully shot and acted, and feature writing that’s only found in Oscar winning movies. There are shows such as Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul that are viscerally satisfying as well as intellectually stimulating. Both are gripping dramas with pitch perfect writing, and coincidentally both are written by the brilliant Vince Gilligan. Shows such as The Leftovers, The Young Pope, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Sopranos, and The Americans are part of this type of show. Then there’s the second type of television drama series, and that’s the type that Prison Break falls into.
Right off the bat I have to admit that I was never a fan of the original series. However, I have seen a few episodes and understand the show’s barebones premise. One thing that I’m actually giving the 2017 Prison Break credit for was that I was not completely confused despite having not seen almost all the preceding episodes of the series. When I say that Prison Break is the second type of TV drama, I mean that it’s the type of show that gets ignored at the Emmys but scores high ratings after Sunday Night Football. It’s the type of show that a pot bellied middle-aged man who wants to drink beer and not think for an hour turns to. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but certainly not a good thing either.
Prison Break cast members Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell reprise their roles as two terse brothers by the names of Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows respectively. As Miller and Purcell have starring roles on CW’s Legends of Tomorrow, it’s unclear as to why both actors decided to return to the show that jumpstarted their careers. The pilot mostly focuses on Purcell’s Burrows, who spends most of the episode searching for his brother. With his baldhead and affinity for mumbling, Purcell is a less-charismatic version of Vin Diesel, if that’s even possible. Sarah Wayne Callies, who played the truly awful Laurie on The Walking Dead, is slightly better as Burrows’ former sister-in-law.
2017 is apparently the biggest year for TV reboots. In addition to Prison Break’s return, 24 and Twin Peaks will be returning to the small screen. What separates Twin Peaks from show such as Prison Break and 24, besides quality, is that Twin Peaks deserved to come back. There was more of the show’s world that needed to be explored. It felt necessary for Twin Peaks to return. It does not feel necessary for either Prison Break nor 24 to return. It seems obvious that Fox has lost confidence in its ability to produce hit original content, and is resorting to reviving shows that were popular in the mid 2000s.
The pilot’s script feels completely perfunctory, hitting point A to point B without any risk or originality. The score, done by the usually reliable Ramin Djawadi, sounds like derivative stock action music. The cinematography is bland, the acting is mostly weak, and the dialogue is sometimes embarrassing. The pilot tends to fall into action cliche after action cliche, like it’s following a mediocre screenplay template. Even the action scenes are boring. The frenetic editing and overuse of shaky cam only makes the fighting scenes frustrating. I’m aware that this is turn your brain off television, but this is certainly not television that I would spend hours upon hours watching.
If you are a fan of Prison Break, you are probably going to enjoy this. If you want to turn off your brain for forty minutes and watch discount Vin Diesel mumble about his missing brother and beat up brown people go ahead. This show is certainly not my cup of tea but it doesn’t mean that it won’t be yours. The pilot, which airs this April, will probably please the fans and most likely be a ratings hit. But I never once got the feeling that the reboot for this series was anything other than a blatant cash grab from a network that has run out of interesting ideas. While i’m still looking forward to the return of Twin Peaks, Prison Break is a show that probably should have stayed dead.