If you are a fan of JJ Abrams' TV series such as "Lost" and "Fringe," you know he has a penchant for the weird.
Tonight's debut of "Alcatraz" (Fox, 8 p.m.) is no different.
Set in two time periods -- 1963 and the modern day -- "Alcatraz" follows what happened to the last prisoners on the island, all of whom mysteriously disappeared the night the prison was supposed to close.
Which brings us to the modern day, where the former warden is found murdered in his home. Det. Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) of the SFPD is looking into the case when a Federal investigator (Sam Neill) kicks her out. But Madsen has kept a key piece of evidence that doesn't fit into the crime scene -- one that points to one of the prisoners who disappeared.
She enlists the aid of an Alcatraz researcher (Jorge Garcia) to get to the bottom of things.
Unlike the other two series, the producers limit themselves to one basic mystery and build the series around that. So far, "Alcatraz" isn't as dense as "Lost" was in terms of its own mythos, and at least the pilot of "Alcatraz" seems almost mundane by comparison.
On the other hand, that's what's needed here as the producers, most of whom worked on "Lost," seem to acknowledge how difficult "Lost" was to follow at times. The storyline is much simpler to follow here.
Neill, as always, is terrific, and Jones seems to be a nice find. Garcia is doing a slight variation of Hurley in his new role, but that's OK.
"Alcatraz" is a series with some real potential.
MONDAY'S BEST BETS: If any actor of any age doesn't try to hire Betty White's agent, then they are crazy or stupid. White's done more in her 80s than many actors can manage in a career. Tonight, NBC celebrates that with a birthday special for White, who turns 90 (NBC, 8 p.m.) Of course, what does it say about a network whose biggest star right now is a 90-year-old? It's followed by a sneak preview of White's "Candid Camera"-style new show for the network at 9:30 p.m.
CBS is new with its comedy block, followed by "Hawaii Five-0" at 10 p.m. ABC has two hours of "The Bachelor," followed by "Castle." The CW has new episodes of "Gossip Girl" and "Hart of Dixie" from 8-10 p.m.
This is a big week for returning cable series, beginning tonight on SyFy at 9 p.m. with the season premiere of the US version (aka, the less-good version) of "Being Human." It's followed by the premiere of "Lost Girl," in which a young woman finds out she's a succubus and must decide if she will use her powers for good or evil.