The series premiere of TNT’s maiden voyage into the reality show genre last night was frankly not as thrilling as you would expect people breaking out of Alcatraz to be. The Great Escape features three pairs competing to break out of various prison settings, so naturally the premiere had to be the legendary Alcatraz. But compared with the possibility of watching the Anglins and Frank Morris carve a hole in the wall from spoons, climb out of their cells into a service alley, climb up to the roof, make a raft of raincoats and cement, steal a car and get away…somehow this didn’t quite compare.
The problem is that the whole excitement of people breaking out of prison is that there’s so much on the line. When these guys got caught by guards, they were gently escorted back to their cells only to find another key and try again. There were however, some highlights from last episode that made it all worth it.
1. Lexx. This cracked-out Gary Busey look alike was so grimy and generally full of rage that I was fairly to very certain he wasn’t new to this whole “breaking out of prison” thing. He and his partner introduced themselves by saying that one had an MBA, and the other (Lexx) could only beat himself. Oh and Jeff is “$15 or 16,000 in debt and could be homeless in a few months.” There was the first clue. Besides his name. At the end of the episode, Jeff tries to console his partner by saying it was a hell of an adventure, to which a forlorn Lexx huddled in a blanket on the dock says, “I didn’t come for the adventure dude.” In the retrospective interview after he had some time to cool down, Lexx uttered these wise words of perspective: “Just like the Super Bowl, someone’s gotta lose.” Yes Lexx, The Great Escape is pretty much exactly like the Super Bowl.
2. The dynamic between Lexx and Jeff. This really deserves its own special place on the list because it generated my two favorite moments of the episode. First, when the team couldn’t find the first key in their cell, and Jeff picks up a book and starts reading it looking for clues. Rageaholic Lexx, obviously knowing that this show is far less nuanced than that, grabs the bars of the cell and shakes them in frustration with his partner’s more complex mind. Hilarious. Second, in Stage 2 when the duo is trying to run across some open space and not get caught by the guards, Jeff tells Lexx to follow him and then sees a guard, so he jumps back and they run into each other. Okay, let’s just move along and try again, right? Wrong. Lexx freaks out, pounding on the wall, walking away and in a circle, elbowing some brick, cursing, stomping around like the Hulk. It is a fantastic overreaction that seems to come out of nowhere. But hey, he had to let out some fustration. (Spelled the way he said it.)
3. How host Rich Eisen was operating on a whole other level of drama. First of all, he announces that the escape will begin at the stroke up midnight, which really ups the creepy factor, so he has that going for him. But I’m pretty sure Rich has actually been led to believe that these people are imprisoned convicts who are trying to escape. With lines like, “Our teams are learning first hand how Alcatraz got its reputation,” I just don’t see any other explanation. Rich, I’m pretty sure that in Alcatraz the guards didn’t hide multiple keys in their cells and leave maps of the compound lying around.
4. When Miles, guido extraordinaire and/or former member of Dream Street, just casually jumped down from a platform and leaped up onto another one, grabbing onto the bars and pulling himself up with only his arms like a monkey. This happened so fast and no one acted like it was a big deal but I stunned. Must have been some hella adrenaline pumping. Or a ton of protein powder. I liked him and his badass ombre hair sister Meghan though.
5. How precious Gabe and Brittany were. When the soon to be married couple was digging around in some sort of container to fish out something or other (it’s all jumbling together), Brittany gave him a quick kiss and my heart melted. Gabe was also nice when she couldn’t keep up with him running, and put his arm around her at one point. Compared with the other two teams who were yelling at each other, struggling with simple math, and in Lexx’s case, pouding on the prison walls more often than not, this was a nice change.
Overall, The Great Escape is a decent show during which you’ll sometimes forget if you’re watching a reality show or a TNT drama, but I probably won’t be tuning in again. Unless Lexx comes back for an encore.