Four Angry Vidiots Chat About Prison Break
Steve Lutz: Jason, I come to curse you for making me watch Prison Break. Now I’m hooked on a show that makes me feel slightly retarded.
Philip Michaels: I agree with Steve. It’s the conspiracy show that the entire family can unravel!
Monty Ashley: The show’s only been going a few weeks, but I’ve already noticed the rigorous formula: The first fifty minutes are devoted to solving the Seemingly Insurmountable Problem from the last episode, then the last ten minutes introduces a new Seemingly Insurmountable Problem as a cliffhanger.
Jason Snell: I liked the pilot because I liked the concept of the one guy knowing exactly how everything would go down. Sadly, when he gets knocked off track it’s actually less dramatic. I liked it more when he was this omniscient puppet master.
SL: I wasn’t so hot on the omniscient puppet master thing, because if he had all the answers for 23 weeks, it wouldn’t be much of a show. In fact, I got kind of jazzed when his best laid plans started to go awry, only to have my hopes dashed when I realized his responses to the various monkey wrenches thrown his way were going to be so dumb.
JS: I love that the off-screen mobster snitch is named Fibonacci. “More math jokes than Numb3ers!”
MA: I will bet twenty dollars that later in the season, his tattoo gets damaged in some way (probably involving a shiv) and now he doesn’t have access to his map. Like, what if his toe had had the essential part of the plan? Now what?!
JS: The show is very high on the “it seemed extraneous at the time” factor.
PM: Just once, I’d like to watch a show on Fox that isn’t about corruption at the highest levels of our government. Prison Break. 24. American Dad. Don’t the people who produce Fox shows watch Fox News and know that the government is benevolent now?
MA: By showing fictional governments as Evil, they condition people to like the Real government.
JS: I find it amazing that the government has it so together that they can plan this entire crazy set-up, when we know for a fact that the federal government can’t even respond to a category five hurricane when they see it coming. Also, the ex-girlfriend stuff makes me wish for death.
PM: The ex-girlfriend reminds me of Demi Moore. And that’s bad since I hate Demi Moore. I call her Semi Moore. Or Demi Less.
MA: I would like more Prison Breaking and less Stacy Keach’s Marital Problems and Sucre’s Girlfriend Doesn’t Understand Him.
PM: And don’t forget about Lincoln’s messed-up son.
JS: Oh, god, the son.
SL: He’s a plot point. He’s not in this episode. He’s a plot point again. Hey, where’d the son go this week?
PM: What the producers of that show need to realize is that they’re doing a caper show. Like "Ocean’s Eleven." Only in prison.
MA: And with only one guy.
PM: Though I think Dino and Sammy should have been cast as a pair of swinging cellies.
MA: A pair of swinging dead cellies.
JS: Okay, so I guess what I’m saying is, even though I sort of thought I liked it, once I spent enough time away from the reality-distortion field, I discovered that it left me with a headache. Sort of the mental equivalent of eating lots of halloween candy. Sometimes I wonder if the producers of 24 put the producers of Prison Break up to it, specifically so that by comparison their show would no longer seem ludicrously unrealistic.
SL: I like the show in spite of myself. I love the Peter Stormare character, and I dig the sadistic prison guard, if only because his just comeuppance is so clearly forecast.
MA: Also, I keep wondering if “the vice-president’s brother” was the most important person they were allowed to have killed.
PM: The writing is generally acceptable, the pacing is good, the show is awful pretty to look at… But the acting by the three leads… man. Semi Moore, we’ve already discussed.
JS: I don’t quite get where they’re going with Stacey Keach. But I do find it funny that when they were putting together a show about prison, they thought of him.
PM: Well, if anyone knows about prisons… They should have had a cast entirely of ex-felons. Tom Sizemore. Martha Stewart.
SL: But why, oh why, must the main character’s plan to get out of prison be so pedestrian and dumb?
MA: Pedestrian? He’s using toothpaste to make acid. Can *you* do that?
SL: He didn’t use toothpaste, he just used the tube.
MA: I thought he combined the black stuff from the masonry room with the regular toothpaste.
MA: I may not have been paying full attention to the MacGyver details.
JS: If Rywalt were here, he could explain how this would make a kick-ass text adventure.
SL: Nope, he mixed the black stuff with something else; weed killer, I think.
PM: For a guy who’s about to get put to death in a month, Lincoln sure seems very subdued… or like someone just asked him a math word problem. And the Michael character… he seems to be handling the adjustment to prison life well for a guy with no priors.
JS: This is where I’m torn. On one level, I like it that he seems to have everything figure out. On another level, it’s completely ridiculous that he’d have even the faintest clue about how prison works.
PM: I guess I’d like a few more “What in God’s name was I thinking” moments instead of him dealing with potential prison rape with aplomb and a one-liner.
SL: I just feel like the writers are grasping so hard to put together this ingenious plan for the main character to escape, but they’re not up to coming up with anything that’s actually brilliant. Every episode has had at least one thing that’s incredibly dumb. Episode 1: The big episode ender turns out to be the most ridiculous use of CGI I’ve ever seen. Episode 2: Michael’s brilliant plan, for which he requires every last iota of his structural engineering background, is to pull a long screw out of the bleachers.
MA: Doesn’t he seem to have too many details in his tattoos? Did he really need to remind himself of the brand of toilet, and that he needed an “Allen” wrench? Surely he could have skipped some of that. It’s too bad there weren’t any other screws anywhere in the complex.
PM: And not just any bleachers… but the bleachers occupied by the deranged sex maniac!
SL: For this, he needs to both tattoo Allen Schweizer on himself, and transcribe it to a handy post-it note. In case, y’know, he forgets what an Allen wrench is.
JS: Stop, Steve, you’re making me despise a show I only mildly disliked.
MA: Maybe he has that Memento deal where he has no long-term memory.
SL: It’s so obvious they were trying to impress the audience with a Kaiser Soze moment, but it just makes Michael look like a buffoon.
PM: Just last week, I got an Allen wrench and a hex-head wrench confused. Maybe I need an elaborate prison tat.
SL:Episode 3: Anybody want to explain to me where the hell you get an authentic looking cell phone made out of soap? In prison? I couldn’t find one of those on the outside, and I have free access to Spencer Gifts.
MA: That was a reference to the time Dillinger bluffed his way out of prison by carving a bar of soap into a replica of a pistol and dyed it with shoe polish.
SL: I didn’t see any intense soap-whittling scenes.
MA: The soap-whittling will be on the DVD.
JS: So, any bets on how the first season will end, if we get that far?
PM: Not to repeat myself, but I doubt the producers have any idea. But… since the tag line has been “escape is just the beginning,” I’m betting they’re out of prison by episode 8 or 9. And the remaining 4 episodes of the season are them on the lam. With some sort of showdown as the season cliffhanger.
MA: I think the brother gets executed, Scofield’s sentence gets extended, and now he needs to escape from Death Row. With no hands.
SL: I would watch that show.
MA: Maybe they escape just as the lady lawyer proves the conspiracy, so now they have to sneak Lincoln back in.
SL: If they get out by episode 8 or 9, the show’s done for, because the outside stuff just plain sucks.
MA: It seems like the escape tunnel will be really elaborate. Scofield has to get to both Abruzzi and Death Row, and then get outside.
SL: I’d be more willing to watch this show to the end if the producers would come out and say it was a one-season and out deal. We could learn a lot from British TV in that respect. Not every show has to be milked until it’s irrelevant.
MA: If you really liked the show and the characters, wouldn’t you make an online petition to not have a second season, so he’d be more likely to get out and stay out?
JS: In fact, the producers claim they have a multi-year story arc planned.
MA: All producers claim that.
JS: They plan on following various characters as they escape.
PM: That’s just nutty.
JS: I agree, it seems kooky to me.
SL: That in itself makes me want to stuff watching.
MA: Eventually the prison is just the warden and the mean guard looking at a bunch of empty cells.
PM: “Hey, where did everybody go?”
SL: The show’s amusing, but I already know I’m not good for more than a season.
PM: Yeah, this is one-year-and-out for me, whether the producers follow along or not.
SL: Also: can we please call a stop to the extreme closeups of the lawyer lady’s face? The woman looks like she was assembled by Picasso. Every time they pull in close to her and her eyes start to bug out in fear, I swear she’s about to have a stroke.
PM: And yet, though we’ve spent the past 10-15 minutes ripping the show, I still plan on watching it. I guess I’m really starved for entertainment.
SL: As am I. It has enough good moments, and enough potential, to warrant a few more episodes. I may feel differently when there are new episodes of genuinely good shows to watch.
PM: Yeah, you have to have the prison break in under 13 episodes — otherwise, it’s Hogan’s Heroes 2005. “We could break out any time, you know.”
MA: I bet he’s got a super-elaborate plan that involves breaking out, breaking back in, and then digging a huge — Damn, Phil got to Hogan’s Heroes before I did.
PM: But we’ve got to save Klink from getting sent to the Russian front.
MA: But I still wouldn’t be surprised if he goes back in after he gets out.
SL: I’m looking forward to the day when one of his helpful notes-to-self — perhaps the one that says “keep cheeks tightly clenched” — turns out to be covering up a crucial heating duct.
MA: Maybe he puts on weight, and that changes a vital sketch
SL: It’s a good thing he stopped the ink at his waistline.
MA: All I’m saying is that so far, his plan is not so complex as to require that many notes.
PM: I’m guessing Mr. Anti-Death Penalty guy is in on the conspiracy. But that’s only because it’s being telegraphed.
MA: How come the Secret Agents didn’t want people seeing the video tape? It’s incriminating! And if they hated it so much, how come it wasn’t classified, or accidentally erased? It seems easier than leaning on everyone who gets a copy.
SL: And if they were going to pick one Secret Agent that looks like Tom Hulce, why couldn’t they find a partner for him that looks like Stephen Furst?
PM: Your secret agent name is Flounder.
SL: That’s a pointless reference that I could get behind. And speaking of getting behind… Is it possible that butt sex will remain only a vile rumor for the entire season?
PM: Of course it will — this is network TV.
MA: Yeah, if they don’t break it out for sweeps, it’s not happening.
PM: As I said to Lisa, this is the least rapiest prison in all of America.
MA: These menacing prisoners just hold hands with you.
SL: Or pockets.
PM: Hell, on Oz, they usually had about 12 rapes before the opening credits ended.
PM: Lisa explained to me that the pocket thing is actually a real thing. Drawing from her extensive experience in the joint, I guess.
MA: I’d like to see a guest shot from an Oz character who just looks around and laughs at everybody. Even Beecher’s too tough for this place.
SL: I just want to go back for a moment and point out that the word “rapiest” needs to get added to Webster’s dictionary immediately.
PM: “most rapey” might be more grammatically correct.
MA: If I were saying it out loud, it would be “rapin’-est” (like with Rootin’-est, Tootin’-est), but it looks weird written down.
SL: This here’s the rapin’-est jail in the wilderness.
PM: Not something you’d hear on your next Disney excursion.
MA: Hang on to your hats and glasses! And stay out of my molasses.
PM: So to summarize: Drop all the subplots and focus on the prison break aspect of the show. Teach the leads to act.
JS: No more ex-girlfriend lawyer!!
PM: I, for one, will not be disappointed if the sweeping government conspiracy succeeds in offing Demi Less. And, for God’s sake, come up with an ending.
SL: And let us know that we’ll actually be able to stop watching this crap at some point.
MA: When trying to come up with an ending, consider using the one from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Or “Bonnie and Clyde.” If I were guaranteed that everybody in the show would get brutally machine-gunned at some point, I’d definitely keep watching.
JS: More outrageous prison stereotypes.
PM: The prison stereotypes actually work in this show. Because it helps them do all the exposition in about 5 minutes in each episode. Oh, right, you’re the white supremacist sex fiend. I remember you from Shawshank Redemption. Hey, you’re the distrustful black guy from “The Defiant Ones.” All they need is the prison rodeo from Stir Crazy and we are good to go.
SL: My summary: Prison Break is dumb fun. But mostly dumb.
JS: Heavy on the dumb.
SL: Bigtime dumb.
PM: Fox dumb.
SL: And that’s dumb.
Additional contributions to this article by: Steve Lutz, Philip Michaels, Monty Ashley, Jason Snell.
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