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The Fox-produced crime drama was created by the writer and director, Paul Scheuring who has a long history of working in TV and film. Scheuring created a TV show revolving around brothers, Lincoln Burrows and Michael Scofield as they attempt to break out of a maximum-security prison after Lincoln is sentenced to death for murdering the brother of the Vice-president of the U.S.
The show begins with Michael Scofield clearing out his home of all traces of his research into the maximum security prison, Fox River. Michael takes his hard disk containing all the information he has gathered about the prison and throws it into a river. The next day, Michael walks into a bank and robs before waiting for the police to arrive and allowing them to arrest him.
Michael appears in court and rejects the attempts of a childhood friend, attorney Veronica Donovan attempts to defend him. Scofield seems happy to receive a five-year sentence and requests he is sent to Fox River jail to serve his sentence. Upon arriving at his new home in jail, Scofield is shown around by his cell-mate, Fernando Sucre who tells him to keep his temper and serve out his time as painlessly as possible. Sucre explains to Scofield the tough Prison Industries group controls much of what happens in the prison, including which duties are awarded to which prisoner at what times.
Scofield seems to be one step ahead of everybody in the jail and attempts to gain a job in the prison infirmary from PI head, John Abruzzi. After being rejected by Abruzzi, Scofield makes it clear he has information about the informant who was responsible for the PI leader being arrested. Michael attempts to curry favor with the prison doctor, Sarah Tancredi and sets out to prove he is a Type 1 diabetic by blocking the passage of insulin through his body.
On the outside, the conspiracy to ensure Lincoln is killed picks up the pace with a well-known bishop facing off against the secret service as they attempt to silence him from fighting on behalf of the condemned man. After ingratiating himself with the prison guards using his skills as a structural engineer, Michael finds his way to Lincoln and explains he has a plan to break him out of jail if they can delay his execution long enough. Lincoln is intrigued and asks if Michael has seen the plans to the prison, Scofield reveals his body tattoo which he believes holds the key to breaking his brother out of prison and proving his innocence.
"Prison Break" was created by Paul Scheuring after he developed an idea he had discussed with a female colleague. The writer had attended the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television where he began his writing career. After his writing work on the movie, "A Man Apart" drew praise, Scheuring took his "Prison Break" idea to Fox in 2003 but was rebuffed because of the long-term nature of the storyline. The success of the long-running serials, "Lost" and "24" allowed the company to see the possibilities of the show.
Dominic Purcell appears in "Prison Break" as the subject of a supposed conspiracy, Lincoln Burrows. Born in the U.K., Purcell's family emigrated to Australia when he was a child and the actor spent much of his life down under where he studied acting alongside Hugh Jackman. After a few roles in Australia, Purcell made his way to the U.S. where he appeared in the "Blade" franchise and has recently taken the role of Heat Wave in the DC Comics TV universe.
The role of Michael Scofield in "Prison Break" is played by Wentworth Miller who moved to Hollywood in the mid-1990s but only found fame a decade later. Prior to his role in "Prison Break", Miller appeared in small parts in shows such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Beastmaster."
Robin Tunney appears in the series as the attorney, Veronica Donovan who attempts to aid Michael Scofield in his attempts to clear the name of his brother. Tunney has been working in Hollywood for a number of years and first found fame in the cult classic, "The Craft" in 1996. Following her departure from "Prison Break", Tunney took on the role of Teresa Lisbon in "The Mentalist" TV show across 151 episodes from 2008 until 2015.
The pilot episode of "Prison Break" was directed by controversial director, Brett Ratner with the sense of realism the writer and crew were aiming for assisted by the use of Joliet State Prison as a location. The show was filmed in and around Chicago and other parts of Illinois before the show shifted locations as the story progressed from season two onwards.
Despite the prolonged pre-production schedule of "Prison Break", the show was completed on time and met with largely positive reviews and a huge number of viewers for a Monday night time slot. Fox was encouraged to extend the series beyond its initial season following the ratings showing more than 10 million people had tuned into the show as an average over the 24-episode first season. The show ran for four seasons with the majority of critics agreeing the first two are the best in terms of tension and excitement for the viewer. The shifting focus of "Prison Break" in the third and fourth seasons did not happen well for the majority of critics who stated the show lost its way somewhat. The initial run of episodes came to an end in 2009 with two made for television feature-length episodes released on DVD. After an eight-year hiatus, Paul Scheuring brought the show back to Fox in 2017 with season six set for release either in 2019 or 2020.
One of the main plot points for the series was the large tattoo covering the body of Michael Scofield providing him with information about Fox River State Penitentiary. The tattoo took makeup artists around five hours to apply to actor Wentworth Miller. If rumors are to be believed, "Prison Break" almost had a very different look with Steven Spielberg thought to have been attached to direct a mini-series version starring Bruce Willis. The show was often rumored to have its start as a mini-series before the 24-episode first season was developed.