Preview: Runaway


In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, The CW, starting 18th September

In the UK: Starts in 2007 on Channel 4 and E4

As we saw on Friday with Shark, once US networks spot a hit, they all try to recreate it for themselves (or even try to do it again). It’s a trend we’ll see tomorrow with The Nine, but today we’re going to be looking at Runaway.

Runaway essentially wants to be Prison Break, but without the tiresome need for everyone to break out of jail first, so just kicks off with everyone on the run. Lawyer Donnie Wahlberg has been accused of murdering someone. Surprise twist: he hasn’t. Oh wait – that’s not a surprise.

Anyway, after escaping from jail, he, his wife and family sneak away, running from town to town to avoid the authorities. Like The Fugitive before him, Wahlberg inveigles himself into the hearts of the townsfolk wherever he goes, mainly by offering to do odd jobs. Yet all the time, he’s really looking for ways to prove his innocence, using Internet access at his new jobs to remain in contact with friends and helpers in his home town.

Meanwhile, his kids and wife try to build normal but temporary lives wherever they go. This isn’t helped by the fact that they have to have new names and identities in every town and the police are in hot pursuit.

That’s the plot, guys. Nothing more to see here. Move along.

Runaway hit? No

Despite the central idea of the show, Runaway‘s not actually very exciting. There’s the usual techniques of such dramas, such as the police raiding a house you’re supposed to think is the Wahlberg family residence, when it’s actually someone else’s; there’s the usual pissed off teenage children you’d expect from a show that will be airing on the successor to The WB. There’s also the usual poorly defined threat that we’re just supposed to take on trust, rather than actually see do anything nasty.

But the family are pretty uninteresting and uninvolving. There’s no main cop character to really get to grips with. The real murderer is never seen, only issuing threats by text, post and instant message. There’s no deadline to beat, as with Prison Break. Nothing, basically, to really involve you in the chase and evasion, other than the excitement of a chase/evasion.

How will they avoid the cops this time? Ooh, lying and watching old episodes of The Incredible Hulk.

It’s a less auspicious start than Prison Break‘s, which itself had a pretty laughable opening episode, but Channel 4 and E4 both seem persuaded of its merits. I’m not convinced this is going to go the distance, but as with all serial dramas, once you’re drawn in, it’s hard to stop watching.