The look of this show is really well done.
Overall, I just don't find the premise of this show to be that believable.
So I am watching Prison Break: Season 1 and suddenly, about 30 minutes into the first episode, I realized that I was going to have a hard time with this show. Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) has been put in jail under very unjust circumstances. His brother, Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), will do anything he can to get his brother out. This includes getting sent to the same prison where his brother currently resides on Death Row. His goal is that he's going to break his brother out from the inside.
How is he going to do this you might wonder?
Well, Michael got ahold of the blueprints to the prison and had them tattooed on to his body. They weren't just normally "inked" on him, it is actually a very elaborate design that I think would be very hard to make heads or tails of. Lets not forget that only Michael knows what these drawings represent, so his vantage point might be sort of limited. Anyway, he and his brother are both now in a race against time, as Michael has got to bust Lincoln out before his time is up. Along the way they meet other prisoners like the weirdly, good John Abruzzi (Peter Stormare), who end up "assisting" their cause.
There are a bunch of logistical problems that I think this show has, let alone a complete abuse of common sense, and the whole cinematic idea of suspension of disbelief. If you can get past that (which is and isn't hard), than I think you will find Prison Break: Season 1 to be one of the more innovative and exciting shows to come to TV in a long time.
Making of Prison Break and Making a Scene
I decided to combine both of these as they essentially cover the same territory. The show is explained to us by the creators, actors and crew. We find out that they are in fact shooting in Joliet State Prison in Illinois, and that the location of the shoot has had a big hand in how this show looks. They give us the usually stories of how the show got made, and I was surprised at how everyone seemed keyed into this one idea. The Making a Scene segment isn't as involved in that area, rather it focuses on what it's like for everyone to shoot in this environment.
Why is this on here? Just because people are fascinated about a show that takes place in a prison, that doesn't mean that they want a lesson on penology. This featurette looks at Joliet Prison from it's inception in the 1940s. It examines the kind of prisoners that would be sent there, the gothic almost cathedral like look that it has, and it even goes so far as to break down the prison populations and what somebody would have to do to be in a specific population (ie. permanent people as opposed to protective custody).
Beyond the Ink
Wentworth Miller is really featured here as his body is the one that is covered in tattoos. Not only is the process of how the tattoo is applied given to us, we also get to hear about how Brett Ratner came up with the person to design it (hint, he mentions his other movie Red Dragon). Then we are also treated to some of the test drawings that were done before the tattoo was finalized. I think it's interesting that Miller thinks at the very least, a cult following for the show could develop simply because people want to see the tattoo on this show.
Could they have made these any harder to find? They are spaced out over this six disc set and I had to wade through them in order to find what I was looking for. Not surprisingly, the quality wasn't as good as I thought it was going to be, but that may have something to do with the fact that Fox sent over what seem like test DVDs. There is timecode running over these scenes as well, but obviously that doesn't get in the way at all. These were interesting, and some of them (especially the one with time lapse footage of Lincoln) I thought should have been in the show.
They have actually done a very good job with the extras on this release. I say that because it is loaded with commentary tracks. I chose to listen to the commentary track for the "Pilot" episode. On this track was executive producer Brett Ratner and editor Mark Helfrich. Ratner also directed this episode as well. They go over how they got involved with this TV show, working with the actors, the claustrophobic feeling of working in a prison and how watching this show you can't help but root for the brothers to escape. Later on, Ratner and Helfrich discuss the camerawork and it gets a little weird at times hearing them talk about how "great" everything looks.
Aspect Ratio - 1.78:1. As I mentioned above, these are burned DVDs so everything seemed a bit darker and not as cleaned up as I imagine it is going to be for the "real" release. However, there was something about the way this show was shot and how the scenes were composed, that really grabbed my attention and I think added an element to this show. Just like Oz worked in contrast to it's sterile surroundings, Prison Break happily resides in the darkness of it's own world.
Dolby Digital - 5.1 Dolby Surround. Subtitled in English, Spanish and French. Close Captioned. The audio on this show was good, but I couldn't help wondering if it wouldn't have been better had I been sent regular DVDs. Believe me, I am not trying to harp on this as I am just happy Fox sends us anything at all, but I think this show has better sound than what is being put across on these discs. I also found that the audio commentary tracks got a bit distorted.
The images of Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell that are shown here are the exact same ones that I think were employed in the marketing of this show. This cover looks good if not a bit too arty for something associated with a prison. The back cover features promo shots mixed with images from the TV show. There is also a succinct description of this show's premise, a Special Features section and technical specs. All 6 discs are stored in three slim cases, with an image of Miller and different cast member on each one of them. The back covers list out all the episodes, descriptions and where to find special features. I found that to be somewhat confusing simply because of where they put the deleted scenes. All in all, this is a packed set that Fox has kept on the economical side.
Okay, I am going to use this last section to vent about Prison Break because there are things I just don't understand.
First off, I would like to say that I am not one of those nitpicky people. I don't sit and watch movies and say "that would never happen" every five minutes, because aside from the ignorance of that remark, anybody who has lived for a while will tell you that truth is stranger than fiction. This being said, what are the chances that somebody would be able to be sent to the prison of their choice? While I am sure that it could probably happen, it just seems that somewhere along the line, somebody would put two and two together, especially when someone does the "out of the blue" crime that Michael Scofield seems to do.
Secondly, I always have had a problem with movies that feature people whose central action is that they break into prison. There is just so much that would have to go right. The idea of having the blueprints tattooed on to him was a good motif, I just think that somebody would have seen them and known that there was something odd about them. Also, the tattoo is so elaborate that it almost borders on being absurd. It's as if one person started with the tattoo idea, and then all these other pseudo-creative types entered the mix and suddenly this unique idea took on a bad life of it's own. Also, the fact that the brothers have to trust these other criminals makes it even harder to believe.
Lastly, when these people escape (which I think they already have in the second season), where does this show go. Does it suddenly show them on the outside? Can the show still be rightly called Prison Break? I am not saying that that would be bad, in fact I think having this show take on a whole new setting (maybe even changing the name), could really benefit it in a great way. It just doesn't seem that likely. Now, if these guys get put back into jail together, then I think the show is really in trouble. Also, I just have a hard time with the tattoo. I hate to go back to that but overall the things that bothered me about this show were too hard to ignore.
Like I said, if you don't care about the usual logistics that TV shows employ, I think you will love Prison Break: Season 1. If you are someone with a lot of questions, you might have a harder time with everything this show puts across.
Prison Break was released .