THE PLOT Structural engineer Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) holds up a bank so he'll be sentenced to the same pokey where his brother, Lincoln (Dominic Purcell), is on death row after being framed for the murder of the vice president's brother. Rather than waiting for his brother's stay of execution (Lincoln's ex-gal pal/attorney Veronica, played by Robin Tunney, is feverishly trying to uncover the conspiracy), Scofield has tattooed a Get Out of Jail Free plan on his back and torso so he, Lincoln, and a motley crew of cons can break out before season's end.
WHY WE LOVE IT Because it's an original drama without an acronym in its name. Because men like the show's edge-of-your-seat action while women like to imagine conjugal visits with Purcell and Miller. Because it's one of those rare serialized shows that knows exactly where it's going, right down to the next surprise murder (could it be Veronica? Or her partner in crime Nick?) and the inevitable breakout (a two-hour finale). ''There's no evidence that [creator] Paul Scheuring is flying by the seat of his pants,'' says Purcell. (True, since Scheuring has mapped out the first two seasons of Break.) ''Paul's opened up about what's going on, so we have the opportunity to really explore our characters.'' Adds Miller: ''The first season is obviously all about prison. People are tuning in to see the realities, the nuances, the dangers of prison life. That's what is compelling.''
WHAT IT'S UP AGAINST Monday Night Football (ABC), Two and a Half Men/Out of Practice (CBS), Las Vegas (NBC), Girlfriends/Half & Half (UPN), TBA (The WB)
WHAT'S NEXT After Fox's postseason baseball coverage ends, new episodes continue on Oct. 24, and we finally learn the identity of the mystery woman on the phone (Patricia Wettig) who's behind the plot to frame Lincoln. Look for one of those scary Secret Service men on Veronica's tail to suddenly grow a conscience, while Scofield forms an unlikely bond with the warden (Stacy Keach), who treats the prisoner as a surrogate son. And how about that much-anticipated finale? ''It's gonna be pretty epic, with a lot of participants,'' promises Scheuring. ''It's going to be a massive cliff-hanger.''