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Alcatraz is a term deeply ingrained in our cultural consciousness as a source of mystery and curiosity, so it seems fitting that J.J. Abrams and Elizabeth Sarnoff, two of the genius minds behind the equally enigmatic "Lost," would choose to tackle the iconic island for another high-concept TV series. "Alcatraz" (premiering Mon., Jan. 16, 8 p.m. EST on Fox) might be lacking smoke monsters and polar bears, but there are still plenty of questions to be answered, as HuffPost TV discovered when we visited the Vancouver-based set in October.

The show's story begins in March 1963, when history tells us the prison was closed due to unmanageable operating costs and the erosion of buildings from years of salt water exposure. But in the world of "Alcatraz," the true reason for the closure is far more compelling: 302 prisoners and guards mysteriously vanish without a trace, only to reappear in our time without having aged. An unlikely team -- Alcatraz historian and comic book writer Doctor Diego Soto (Jorge Garcia), police detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and government agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) -- must work together to capture the returned inmates and discover the truth behind their disappearance.

The series was conceived by Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt, former "Kyle XY" writers, who sold the concept to Abrams' Bad Robot production company. But Sarnoff, who has now stepped down as showrunner, took another stab at the story before shopping around to the networks.

Another "Lost" alum, Jack Bender, serves as executive producer, and he was on hand to answer reporters' questions during the group set visit. On the surface, the two island-based shows share similar DNA -- and not just because of Abrams and Garcia. But Bender insisted that "Alcatraz" is designed to be more accessible than its predecessor.

"I think the networks are certainly afraid of the mythology of the show overpowering an audience's potential to come aboard the train if they've missed a few [episodes]," he said. "I think that our show is going to walk that fine line, hopefully, because each week there is going to be a story unfolding that begins and ends. And there's still this overreaching, 'What happened? How the hell did this happen? What's going on?' vibe to the show that will be, season by season, revealed in a slow fashion so that the mystery stays alive and well."
Read the rest of the article on HuffPostTV

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