FOX 2011-12 dramas, first impressions: Let's do the time warp again

the-finder-upfronts-320.jpgWith the launch of "The X Factor" in the fall and "American Idol" returning in January 2012, FOX's schedule for next season didn't have a whole lot of room for new dramas.

Two of the three the network has picked up, though, have time travel as a key element (at least at first blush). "Terra Nova" and "Alcatraz" otherwise look to be very different shows, but the network is making Monday nights next season ("Terra Nova" airs at 8 p.m. Mondays in the first half of the season, "Alcatraz" at 9 in the second half) all about the iffy nature of space-time.

Here are our initial impressions of those two shows, plus "Bones" spinoff "The Finder," which will also premiere at midseason. (FOX is also developing a show for midseason called "Touch," which will star Kiefer Sutherland. Its pilot will film in June, after which the network will decide whether to order it to series.)

"Terra Nova" (watch the trailer)

A century and change from now, humankind has brought Earth to the brink of extinction -- but a small(ish) group of explorers is trying to change that by traveling 85 million years into the past in an effort to get a do-over on civilization. The Shannon family -- parents Jim ( Jason O'Mara) and Elisabeth ( Shelley Conn) and their three kids -- are among the newest arrivals in Terra Nova, where humans and dinosaurs co-exist (not especially well) and not everyone is on the same page about how best to move forward.

FOX is touting the show as a family-friendly adventure series, and it may turn out to be just that. The trailer, however, is pretty much all on the adventure side of the equation (the visual effects and production design are top-notch). We get that's what makes for the splashiest promo; we just hope that the mostly unseen character part of the show lives up to the other part.

"Alcatraz" (watch the trailer)

"Lost" writer Elizabeth Sarnoff created "Alcatraz" and is an executive producer alongside J.J. Abrams. So yes, they're making another series about a mysterious island -- and yes, there's time travel of a fashion involved. Nearly 50 years ago, all the inmates on the Rock just up and disappeared. The government made up a cover that they were all transferred out, and the prison was shut down -- except now those inmates have started to pop up in the present day, not having aged any from the last time anyone saw them.

FOX Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly called the show "one-third procedural [a team tracks down a new inmate each week, presumably], one-third cold case [whether he meant the idea of cold cases or the former CBS show, we're not sure] and one-third cool mythology." Abrams devotees will no doubt dig on the mythology; our question is whether the other two thirds will be accessible enough for people to feel like they can be fans without being obsessive.

"The Finder" (watch the trailer)

If you saw the episode of "Bones" that introduced the title character, Walter Sherman ( Geoff Stults), then you know more or less what you're getting: a procedural with a healthy dose of humor about a guy who has an uncanny ability to track down people who aren't supposed to be found. Stults, Michael Clarke Duncan and Saffron Burrows formed a pretty likable team in the episode, and creator Hart Hanson has a deft touch in blending case-of-the-week stories with longer character arcs. So figure on a pretty capable fill-in for "Bones" while Emily Deschanel is on maternity leave.

What are your first impressions of FOX's new dramas?
Photo/Video credit: FOX