‘Alcatraz,’ ‘Terra Nova,’ ‘The River’ and more in our genre TV preview

May 26, 2011 | 6:30 a.m.

Now that the networks have released the fall season’s television schedules, we’ve had a chance to watch trailers for all the new shows and cherry-pick the programs that tickle our curiosity. Here’s a comprehensive rundown of the sci-fi, fantasy and genre shows worth keeping an eye on:

The River” (ABC): When a wildlife expert and TV personality (Bruce Greenwood) vanishes in the Amazon, his family and crew embark on a rescue mission and discover something darkly supernatural lurking in the jungle.  The pseudo-documentary format promises chills, which is no surprise considering the story is by Michael R. Perry, whose other writing credits include “Paranormal Activity 2” and “Stephen King’s Dead Zone.” Also writing is Michael Green (“Heroes,” “The Green Lantern“). Jaume Collet-Serra directs.

Once Upon A Time” (ABC): A fairy-tale world and modern-day New England collide when a woman who was abandoned as a baby finds out she may be the long-lost daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin, “Big Love“) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas, “Thor“). The setup seems a little cheesy, and we’re a bit concerned this might just be Hollywood’s fairy-tale fever infecting network TV. But if the show is well-developed, we’d be down for a family-friendly romp through a parallel storybook universe, frozen in time by the Evil Queen (who else?). The show was created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, who both wrote for “Lost” and “Tron: Legacy.” Mark Mylod (“Entourage“) directs.

Person of Interest” (CBS): An ex-CIA hit man (James Caviezel, “The Prisoner“) teams up with a billionaire software genius (Michael Emerson, “Lost“) who has a list identifying people about to be involved in violent crimes. The vigilante pair aims to prevent the crimes and dish out justice. We’ve seen versions of this pre-crime premise (think “Minority Report,” or even “Early Edition“), but the over-the-top action, more-science-than-fiction methods and gritty heroics have us baited. Throw in the fact that it’s executive-produced by J.J. Abrams and written by Jonathan “Jonah” Nolan (“Memento,” “The Dark Knight“), this suspenseful show is at the top of our must-see list.

A Gifted Man” (CBS): An ambitious surgeon (Patrick Wilson, “Watchmen“) mysteriously reconnects with his ex-wife (Jennifer Ehle, “The King’s Speech“) only to discover she had died two weeks before their meeting. Though the premise seems a familiar tale of unfinished business and morality lessons from beyond the grave, the trailer hints there might be more to this show than a supernatural love story. And with Jonathan Demme directing, we can hope for the heart found in “Rachel Getting Married” and the suspense of “The Silence of the Lambs.”

The Secret Circle” (The CW): An orphaned teenager moves to her mother’s hometown and discovers her magical lineage and her dangerous destiny as a witch. Expect a world of spells with a splash of teen drama. If you’re a fan of “The Vampire Diaries,” this show might be up your alley; “Secret Circle” is based on the book series of the same name, by “Vampire Diaries” author L.J. Smith, and the two shows share a slew of producers and writers, including Liz Friedlander and Kevin Williamson.

Terra Nova” (Fox): A family joins a pilgrimage from Earth’s bleak future to a resettlement in prehistoric times. Pros: Dinosaurs, jungle beasties, a Stargate-style wormhole, a Pandora-like setting and a concept that’s just, well, cool. Cons: We worry there’s potential for the plot to devolve into a family soap opera. We hope director Alex Graves (“The West Wing“) and writers Kelly Marcel, Craig Silverstein (“Bones,” “Nikita“) and Allan Loeb (“New Amsterdam“), are at the top of their game to pull this off. And with Steven Spielberg at the helm, the show will likely be well-produced.

Alcatraz” (Fox): After the country’s most notorious murderers, rapists and thieves vanish from Alcatraz, the prison is closed and the story is covered up. Decades later, one of the criminals resurfaces, and he hasn’t aged. A cop (Sarah Jones, “Sons of Anarchy“) and a comics geek (Jorge Garcia, “Lost”) team up with a government agent (Sam Neill, “Jurassic Park“) to piece together the prison’s sinister secret. We’re happy to see Hurley, but we hope this isn’t “Lost: Prison Edition.” Executive-produced by Abrams and Elizabeth Sarnof, “Alcatraz” seems promising.

Grimm” (NBC): A homicide detective discovers he is a descendant of an elite group of hunters called Grimms, that fairy-tale villains are real, and that he’s the only one who can stop them. The storybook-based show seems like a fun monster-of-the-week procedural, with a vibe somewhere between “Supernatural” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or maybe “Warehouse 13” and the wonderful comic-book series “Fables.” Executive producers David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf  both worked on “Angel,” and Mark Buckland (“Scrubs“) is directing.

Awake” (NBC): A detective (Jason Isaacs, “Harry Potter“) wakes up after a horrible car crash and learns his wife died in the wreck. A few days later he wakes up to find his wife alive, but his son is dead. As he straddles the parallel realities, he begins to notice mysterious little details crossing into both waking worlds. We’re intrigued by the possibilities evoked by this Cartesian drama, even if the trailer left us a tad misty-eyed. David Slade (“Eclipse“) directs.

Renewed shows:

The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)

Supernatural” (CW)

The Vampire Diaries” (CW)

Fringe” (Fox)

Canceled shows:

No Ordinary Family” (ABC)

V” (ABC)

— Noelene Clark


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5 Responses to ‘Alcatraz,’ ‘Terra Nova,’ ‘The River’ and more in our genre TV preview

  1. S_Wiebe says:

    Part One:

    Of the pilots that I've seen, The River is the most purely involving – probably due to the combination of interesting premise, interesting characters and the documentary style.

    Alcartaz would be second though its pacing might be slow for a lot of viewers. I like the chemistry between Neill, Garcia and Jones. I have to say, though, Garcia's Dr. Soto character may enjoy comics, but he's not a comics geek – he's a PhD who is the foremost expert on Alcatraz in the U.S. Also cool is that Neill's shady government acency op is not a very nice guy. Makes him much more interesting – and Neill gives him a lot more depth than there was on the page.

  2. S_Wiebe says:

    Part 2:

    I haven't decided if I prefer Grimm [I've only seen the trailer] or Once Upon a Time [enjoyed the pilot]. Grimm, if the trailer is a real indication, does feel more like Fables, but Once Upon a Time mixes seemingly conflicted worlds and uses Jennifer Morrison's Emma Swann to bring them together. Grimm seems smaller, darker and twistier; Once Upon a Time seems grander and more ambitious. Of course, when a show is as ambitious as Once Upon a Time, it's all too easy to go off the rails.

    Awake also strikes me as being one of the good ones. Love the premise [and we thought Inception was intricate!]. I'll give anything with Jason Clarke a look, but since this seems smarter and deeper than anything else on the fall schedule, I'm expecting a lot from it.

  3. S_Wiebe says:

    Part 3:

    The cast [Michael Emerson! Jim Caviezel!], Writer [Jonathan Nolan!] and producer [J.J. Abrams!] have me thinking Person of Interest will be worth my time – and the premise looks like a fresh twist on the crime prevention tropes of Minority Report and Early Edition [like you said]. I have yet to see the pilot and the trailer you posted here wouldn't work for me [I'm in Canada: most of the trailers didn't work for me], but the creative team and cast can't help but grab my interest.

    The Terra Nova trailer looks interesting, but also too reminiscent of things I've seen before. The idea of the father [Jason O'Mara] having a secret adds a little something extra and the casting of Stephen Lang is always welcome news. I'll reserve judgment until I can see the full pilot.

  4. S_Wiebe says:

    Part 4:

    The Secret Circle strikes me as having more potential than The Vampire Diaries [which just got silly in season two], but it could go sideways all too easily. Good looking cast, though.

    A Gifted Man only piqued my interest because of Patrick Wilson's involvement. He hasn't really done too many dogs. Here's hoping he's picked a quality project yet again.

  5. NoeleneC says:

    Thanks for your insight, S_Wiebe! I have similar impressions of "Person of Interest." With all of that amazing talent involved, that show definitely has my attention. And I think you may be on spot with your assessment of "Grimm" and "Once Upon a Time." Let's hope the latter stays on the rails, as you put it. "The River" has me most intrigued, as well. I can't wait to see how they unfold the story over time. Usually, in a horror story, the more you know about it, the less scary the monster. I hope they can keep the chills coming over an entire season.

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