Prison Break is an American action/serial drama television series that premiered on the Fox Broadcasting Company on August 29, 2005. The series revolves around two brothers; one who, as of the pilot, has been sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit, and the other, a genius, who devises an elaborate plan to help him escape prison. Created by Paul Scheuring, the show is produced by Adelstein-Parouse Productions in association with Original Television and 20th Century Fox Television. The current executive producers are Scheuring, Matt Olmstead, Kevin Hooks, Marty Adelstein, Dawn Parouse Olmstead, Neal H. Moritz, and Brett Ratner. Its theme music is composed by Ramin Djawadi, and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in 2006.
Having completed three seasons, the fourth season, planned at 22 episodes, premiered with two episodes back-to-back on September 1, 2008 in North America and September 2, 2008 in the United Kingdom. Prison Break features a serialized story structure, similar to that of its companion show during the first season, 24. The first three seasons of the series were primarily filmed outside of Hollywood; the first season was shot in and around Chicago, with the primary location being the then-recently decommissioned Joliet Prison while the second and third seasons were filmed mainly in small towns around Dallas. The fourth season is being filmed in Los Angeles.
Season 1 consists of 22 episodes and was originally aired from August 29, 2005 to May 15, 2006 on the Fox Network in the United States. Lincoln Burrows (Dominic Purcell) is accused of the murder of Terrence Steadman (Jeff Perry), the brother of the Vice President of the United States. With strong evidence supporting the charges against him, Lincoln is sentenced to death and is sent to the Fox River State Penitentiary to await execution. Lincoln's brother, brilliant structural engineer Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller), is convinced of Lincoln's innocence and formulates an escape plan. He commits a robbery in order to be incarcerated at Fox River himself, as he works against time to overcome various obstacles and make the right connections among the inmates and prison staff to successfully break his brother out. The brothers are aided by their lifelong friend Veronica Donovan (Robin Tunney), who begins to investigate the conspiracy that put Lincoln in jail. However, they are hindered by covert agents, who belong to an organization known as The Company. The Company was responsible for framing Lincoln and it is not yet known why. The brothers, along with six other inmates, Sucre (Amaury Nolasco), T-Bag (Robert Knepper), C-Note (Rockmond Dunbar), Tweener (Lane Garrison), Abruzzi (Peter Stormare), and Haywire (Silas Weir Mitchell) who come to be known as the Fox River Eight finally escape in the season finale.
Season 2 consists of 22 episodes and was originally aired from August 21, 2006 to April 2, 2007 on the Fox Network in the United States. It begins eight hours after the escape, focusing mainly on the escapees. Series creator Paul Scheuring describes the second season as "The Fugitive times eight" and likens it to the "second half of The Great Escape". The fugitives split up and journey to locations across the country with the authorities close behind them as they each pursue their individual goals. Brad Bellick (Wade Williams) gets fired from the prison where he worked as a guard in season 1 and chases after the inmates himself for the reward money . Several of the escapees reunite in search of a large cache of money buried long ago by another prisoner. T-Bag manages to escape with the money, as the brothers spend the rest of the season tracking him down, both for the money which they need to escape the country, and because Scofield feels responsible for releasing the murderer.
Federal agent Alexander Mahone (William Fichtner) is assigned to track down and capture the eight fugitives, but is revealed himself to be working for The Company; The group wants all eight men - especially Lincoln - dead. Several of the escapees are killed or recaptured, but the brothers make it to Panama. In the season finale, the testimony of a former CIA agent, who used to work for the Company-controlled President, exonerates Lincoln while Michael, T-Bag and Mahone are arrested by the Panamanian authorities and are imprisoned at the Penitenciaría Federal de Sona where they find Bellick who had been arrested earlier in the season.
Season 3 consists of 13 episodes after being cut from 22 due to the WGA strike and was originally aired from September 17, 2007 to February 18, 2008 on the Fox Network in the United States. The season follows both Michael inside Sona and Lincoln on the outside. Sona is a prison that has been run by the inmates and guarded only from the outside since a riot the year before. Burrows is quickly contacted by The Company who have kidnapped his son LJ (Marshall Allman) and Sara Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies), the woman Michael loves, and is told that they want Scofield to break James Whistler (Chris Vance) out of Sona. The season follows Michael and Whistler's trials in formulating an escape plan, as Michael has to deal with extreme tension and as Lincoln deals with the Company's operative Gretchen Morgan (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe). Sucre gets a job at the prison to aid Michael in his escape plan.
When Michael fails to meet their deadline and Lincoln attempts a double-cross, Morgan "beheads Sara" and sends Lincoln the head as a warning. As the season ends, the pair manage to escape along with Mahone leaving behind several accomplices including T-Bag and Bellick. Sucre's identity is discovered by a prison guard and is thrown into Sona just after the escape. LJ is traded for Whistler and Michael is out for revenge against Gretchen for "Sara's death".
Season 4 premiered on September 1, 2008 and follows on from Season 3. Michael seeks revenge for Sara's death and finds out that she is alive and that the head given to Lincoln was from someone else. Michael also learns the truth about Whistler, that he has secretly been working alongside Mahone to take down the Company. Whistler's life is taken shortly after this by a Company Operative. It is learned that the inmates rioted at Sona and Bellick, T-Bag and Sucre escaped during the chaos. Donald Self (Michael Rapaport), a Department of Homeland Security agent, recruits Michael and Lincoln as well as Sucre, Bellick (Wade Williams) and Mahone for their help to bring down the Company in exchange for their freedom. Also joining the group are Sara, who escaped from Gretchen which resulted in Gretchen's own captivity by the Company, having failed to secure a valuable item, and Roland (James Hiroyuki Liao), a hacker who was assigned to help them after getting arrested for identity theft. Together, they devise a plan to retrieve data from the Company that will help to destroy the Company. In the meantime, Wyatt (Cress Williams), an agent from the Company, attempts to track Michael and Lincoln down and T-Bag heads North to the US with the "Birds" book in his possesion. He is in the process of stealing Whistler's plan.
Prison Break maintains an ensemble cast of ten or more actors for each season along with many recurring guest stars. The first season's regularly appearing characters include characters that were based in Chicago or at Fox River State Penitentiary. The second season contains most of the first season's cast with the addition of a new major character, an FBI agent whose job is to track down the eight escaped prisoners from Fox River. The third season introduces four new characters; two of whom are prisoners at Penitenciaría Federal de Sona (Sona Federal Penitentiary). Most of the changes in the cast have been due to character deaths. Series creator, Paul Scheuring, explains that killing off major characters "makes the audience that much more fearful for our protagonists" and that "it actually does help us in terms of reducing story lines". The two protagonists of the series, Lincoln Burrows and Michael Scofield, are the only characters to have appeared in every episode of the series.
The majority of the first season of 'Prison Break' was filmed on location in and around Chicago. After it was closed down in 2002, Joliet Prison became the set of Prison Break in 2005, standing in as Fox River State Penitentiary on screen. Scenes set in Lincoln's cell, the infirmary and the prison yard were all shot on location at the prison. Lincoln's cell is the same one in which John Wayne Gacy was incarcerated. Most of the production crew refused to enter the cell, thinking that it was haunted. Other sets were built at the prison, including the cell blocks that housed the general prison population; these blocks had three tiers of cells (as opposed to the real cell block's two) and had cells much larger than real cells to allow more space for the actors and cameras. Exterior scenes were filmed in areas around Chicago, Woodstock, and Joliet in Illinois. Other locations included O'Hare International Airport in Chicago and Toronto, Ontario in Canada. Prison Break spent $2 million per episode in the state of Illinois, which cost them a total of $24 million in 2005.
Renewed for a second season, Prison Break resumed filming on June 15, 2006 in Dallas, Texas due to the close proximity of rural and urban settings. Locations within a 30-minute radius of Dallas were chosen which included Little Elm, Decatur and Mineral Wells. Many of these locations were used to represent various American towns. The show is expected to spend in excess of $50 million in Dallas. For the final three episodes of the second season, filming took place in Pensacola, Florida to represent Panama. Each episode takes eight days to film and approximately $1.4 million goes to the local economy per episode.
The third season was shot in Texas and had a budget of $3 million per episode. Several of the exterior scenes with Lincoln and Gretchen negotiating the escape from the Panama jail were shot in the Casco Viejo quarter of Panama City.
The fourth season is being filmed in Los Angeles, California.
In Europe, rapper Faf Larage's song "Pas le temps" is used by television network M6 in France to replace the show's original theme music in the title sequence, which generated publicity and helped to localize the show. Similarly, "Ich glaub' an Dich (Prison Break Anthem)" (performed by Azad and Adel Tawil) and "Over the Rainbow" (performed by Leki) are used in the title sequence in Germany and Belgium respectively.
|Season||Broadcast period||Timeslot||Ranking||Viewers (in millions)|
|1||2005–2006|| Monday 9:00 pm ET |
(8:00 pm ET midseason)
|2||2006–2007||Monday 8:00 pm ET||#51||10.1|
|3||2007–2008||Monday 8:00 pm ET||#73||8.2|
|4||2008–2009||Monday 9:00 pm ET||-||-|
Fox backed Prison Break with a large advertising campaign. The show debuted on August 29, 2005, to an estimated audience of 10.5 million viewers. Fox has not seen such success for summertime Monday numbers since Melrose Place and Ally McBeal aired in September 1998. The two-hour premiere was credited as two episodes by the network. The premiere was the seventh most watched show in America that week according to Nielsen Research, ranking first in both the 18–49 and 18–34 demographics. The strong debut performance was also matched by various positive reviews. According to The New York Times, Prison Break was "more intriguing than most of the new network series, and it certainly is one of the most original", complimenting on its ability to create a "suspenseful thriller" and its "authentic look". Entertainment Weekly has dubbed it as one of the best new shows of 2005. On the other hand, The Washington Post criticized the show for its "somber pretentiousness" and "uniformly overwrought" performances. The show regularly attracted an average audience of 10 million viewers each week and led the debuts of television in the 2005 American fall season. Prison Break was originally planned for a 13-episode run, but was extended to include an extra nine episodes due to its popularity.
The premiere of the second season of Prison Break obtained an average of 9.4 million viewers. The decline was steeper among young-adult viewers with a decrease of 20 percent in the 18–49 demographic compared to its series premiere, but its household rating grew from 3.6% to 3.9% during the last half hour. A critic from USA Today commented on the "harebrained absurdities that have swamped this show", and blamed the writers for being "incredibly lazy" for the continuous use of the tattoo as an "all-purpose plot fix". Contrastingly, Detroit Free Press commended the second season premiere on matching the standard set by the first season, which delivered a "rocking good entertainment" due to its "motley crew of cellblock characters" and the "taut, ingenious storytelling of series creator Paul T. Scheuring and his staff. The second season obtained its largest audience on the original airdate of the episode, "Chicago" with an average of 10.1 million viewers. On the other hand, the season finale on its original airdate received one of the lowest audiences in the series' history with 8.01 million viewers.
The premiere of the third season obtained an average of 7.51 million viewers, while the special two hour premiere for the fourth season attracted even fewer viewers at 6.5 million, however, the show led in the ratings among the 18–49 demographic. In recent weeks viewership has plummeted to 5.3 million.
A similar rating is also used in other countries. Prison Break is rated M in Australia and New Zealand, A+18 in Chile, PG in Hong Kong, 18PL in Malaysia, 12 in The Netherlands, PG13V in South Africa, 15 in the United Kingdom for the DVD release, and a PS rating in the Republic of Ireland. In France, the broadcasting watchdog, Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA), also complained that the violence in some episodes exceeded the amount allowed for its rating, which is "not for under 10s". Under France's regulations, any higher ratings would move the show away from its current primetime timeslot to a later timeslot. However, their decision to change the rating will only affect the first season, which has already been broadcast, and not the second season. To keep the original timeslot, French broadcasters M6 used censorship on the most violent scenes for season 2 and also produced a disclaimer before airing each episode in primetime.
In Greece, the first season of the show was broadcasted with the rating "Necessary Parental Advice", while the second season is broadcasted with the rating "Optional Parental Advice", concerning the official classification of TV programs in Greece for the protection of TV viewers.
The second season, promoted by Australia's Seven Network as Prison Break - On the Run, premiered on January 31, 2007 at a new time of 9:30 pm, with 1.226 million viewers (47% share). With ratings dropping consistently throughout the second season, Seven decided to air the Season 3 episodes as close as a day after their U.S. airdates in an effort to win back viewers before their release on DVDs or the Internet. Despite Seven's attempts to draw in extra viewers, the premiere received only 899,000 viewers, ranking as the eighteenth most watched show of the night, and Wednesday nights soon became Seven's "Achilles' heel" of the week. Episodes 9 to 13 of the third season were planned to air during the first half of 2008, however they were delayed and aired Wednesdays at 9:30pm (or as late as 10:30pm) from July 9, 2008. Repeats are shown on the Australian pay television channel FOX8. The final two episodes of season 3 were broadcast on Channel Seven as a double episode season finale, and received 0.444 million viewers. Season four commenced on October 9, 2008 .
In Poland, the series premiered on January 28, 2007 to 7 million viewers (38% share) making it the highest rated episode of any foreign series in Polsat history. It was also the highest rated show of the week in the 16–49 demographic (46% share).
Although Prison Break was much publicized in Germany, it premiered to a lower-than-expected audience on June 21, 2007 with only 13.5% market share, which was well below television network RTL Television's regularly strong prime-time performance. 1.32 million viewers were recorded among the 14 to 49 years old demographic. After the reduction to one episode per week and a shifting to a later time slot, Prison Break gained a market share of 19.2%.
In Greece Prison Break airs on ANT1 Channel. It premiered on January 2, 2008 with a double episode, with a respectively good market share of 23,8% (769.000 viewers). Prison Break succeeded where other famous TV-series, like Desperate Housewives, did not. The series is being aired daily with about 20% share per episode, which is unusual for foreign shows on Greek television as in the last few years only four other foreign TV series have achieved similar shares, (Friends, Nip/Tuck, Lost and Yabanci Damat). The second day of the air of the series, it reached an impressive share of 26,1% (870.000 viewers) and reached the third place of the most popular programmes of the day and the 14th place of the most popular programmes of the week. The last episode of the first season aired February 5, 2008 to nearly 900.000 viewers.. It's the second foreign series which gained so many viewers in Greece (the first one is Yabanci Damat). The breakout shares of the series opened the route to some other famous TV series, to be aired again. For example, the first airing of Lost in Greece was disappointing, whereas after the great success of Prison Break, it was better promoted and achieved far better shares. The second season of the series, premiered on March 17, 2008 with a market share of 20.1% .
In Serbia Prison Break has a strong following. The show aired in 2006 on RTS1. With the first two seasons aired, RTS in October 2008, announced that the show will return in late January 2009, with a repeat of the first two seasons, immediately followed by the airing of the complete season three and four which will make RTS one of the first networks to air season four in Europe.
Season 1 of Prison Break was telecasted in India on Star World on Tuesday nights in the summer of 2007 and soon became a popular series. Though the series was aired in India and other Asian countries at the same time, Star world failed to attract audiences due to the fact that the whole first season and some episodes of the second season were available file sharing networks. Another reason for the drop in television ratings in India is that the same episodes were sometimes re-telecast for many weeks together, and in a loop. This led to a confusion amongst audiences, and was eventually taken off air. The same is true for other series such as Heroes.
The DVD and Blu-ray Disc sets of each season are released after their television broadcast and are available in various regions. In the United Kingdom, the seasons have been split into halves with the first half released during that season's initial run.
|Region 1||Region 2||Region 4|
|Season One||22||6||August 8, 2006||September 18, 2006||September 13, 2006|
|Season Two||22||6||September 4, 2007||August 20, 2007||September 17, 2007|
|Season Three||13||4||August 12, 2008||May 19, 2008||December 3, 2008|
At the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment announced that the complete first season of Prison Break was to be released in the Blu-ray Disc format in early 2007. The release date was later announced to be November 13, 2007 and Prison Break became the first TV show to be released on Blu-ray Disc by Fox. The Blu-ray Disc box set contains six discs and includes all the DVD box set's special features.
After the premiere of the second season of Prison Break, Fox began allowing online streaming of the current episode for free via more than 50 websites including AOL, Google, and Yahoo!, as well as its own extensive network. However, this was restricted to the United States only. The first three episodes of season 2 were broadcast commercial free, available for a week after their television broadcast date. Online streaming of episodes was postponed after the third episode. However, due to the show's three-week broadcast hiatus prompted by Fox's broadcast of the Major League Baseball playoff games in October, a strategy was developed by News Corporation (the parent company of Fox Broadcasting Company and MySpace) in an attempt to maintain their viewers' interest in the show. Starting from October, Fox began to stream past episodes of the second season on the social networking site MySpace and websites of the network's owned and operated stations (the stations are part of the Fox Television Stations Group). Although commercials are to be aired throughout the broadcast, the episodes are free of charge.
The show can also be watched on Hulu; however, only the five most recently broadcast episodes can be found on that site. Acidito.com, a donation supported website, generally indexes all episodes (including recent ones) and presents them in a YouTube style format.
A spin-off series, Prison Break: Proof of Innocence, was produced exclusively for mobile phones and was broadcast first to Sprint customers in April 2006 via on SprintTV's Fox station. The first episode of Prison Break: Proof of Innocence became available on the internet for viewing on May 8, 2006. This was an exclusive deal made between Toyota Motor and News Corporation's Fox network, allowing Toyota to sponsor exclusive content of the show and to obtain advertising exclusivity.
In printed media, the show's tie-in products include an official magazine and a book written in an in-universe perspective. The official magazine, published by Titan Publishing, was launched on November 21, 2006. Each issue contains interviews with selected cast and crew members with other feature stories. The tie-in novel, Prison Break: The Classified FBI Files (ISBN 1-4165-3845-3), contains details of the show's characters pertaining to the second season's storyline. Written by Paul Ruditis, the book is published by Simon & Schuster and was released on May 8, 2007.
There is also a live feature called "Prison Break LIVE!", created by The Sudden Impact! Entertainment Company, which is an interactive experience aimed at bringing to life the atmosphere from the television series. The attraction toured the US, Australia, UK, China, Germany and Mexico from 2006 to 2008.
There is a series of online shorts that take place during Season 3. These shorts are titled "Prison Break: Visitations" There are six shorts in all, and they feature Lechero, Sammy, McGrady, T-Bag, and Bellick. These shorts were made exclusively for Fox, and have now been distributed all over the web. Most of them can be seen on youtube, all of them can be bought for free from itunes.