Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox, with a special two-hour premiere this Monday at 8 p.m.
The tagline you'll never see: "Oz"-lite.
The basics: Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) really wants to go to prison. No, he's not particularly fond of the food or the random jailhouse stabbings. Rather, Scofield wants to bust in so he can bust out his big brother, who's on death row for killing the brother of the vice president (of the United States, that is).
Scofield's convinced that big bro (Dominic Purcell) is innocent and suspects a massive government conspiracy behind the murder. So after getting himself busted by staging a bank robbery, he lands himself behind bars where he immediately starts planning his great escape.
Little does anyone know, however, that Scofield has intimate knowledge of the prison's design and, incredibly, he's got the blueprints of its infrastructure tattooed on his entire upper body to use as a roadmap. Talk about some major tats.
The lowdown: Can a prison drama fly in prime time? Fox hopes "Prison Break" can create the same type of buzz that made "Oz" such a cult hit on HBO. Although it does have its moments, "Prison Break" stays far away from the sometimes gag-inducing violence on the HBO series (and a good thing, too, since the FCC might come a-knockin'). Fox seems to be leaning more toward "The Shawshank Redemption" to make this series more digestible for viewers.
Reality check: Scofield gets a lot of lucky breaks in the pilot episode, enough to question the show's believability factor right from the start. He manages, without any explanation, to land in the same prison as big brother and lucks out with both an affable cellmate (a humorous Amaury Nolasco) and a warden (an imposing Stacy Keach) who becomes an ally because of Scofield's architectural skills.
Look past that, however, and "Prison Break" has the potential to be this season's "24" with its multiple plot lines that propel this beyond just an escape movie. Miller is an appealing lead actor and the supporting cast is equally engrossing, from a completely frightening prison yard boss (Peter Stormare) to a sweet old fella (Muse Watson) who may or not be famous fugitive D.B. Cooper.
-- John Maynard