HOLLYWOOD—I recently read that ABC's “Alias” was 54th in the ratings. Can someone please tell me how one of the best shows on TV is not at least in the top 20? Okay, okay, so it’s on at the same time as HBO’s “The Sopranos” and NBC’s yet another “Law & Order” spin-off “Criminal Intent.” Have people heard of VCRs and TiVo? Sigh. Okay, if you’re not watching, let me tell you why you should be.
If you are hesitant to join the “Alias” bandwagon because you missed the first season, do not fear. Yes, there have been some complicated story lines that we’ve had to follow, but you can jump in with relative ease with the following information.
Sydney Bristow is a double agent working for the "bad guys," SD-6, in conjunction with working with the "good guys," the CIA. Her father, with whom she has a complicated relationship, does the same. Her CIA handler, hottie Michael Vaughn, is clearly a love interest for Sydney, but they haven’t crossed that line (and I hope they don’t ruin the show by doing that). Her mother, Irina Derevko, used to work for the KGB and recently turned herself in to the CIA. Her motives are unclear, although recently it appears that she is trying to mend things with Sydney. Each week, there is generally a mission Sydney goes on for SD-6 and, at the same time, she has a counter-mission to help the CIA. Most missions of late have centered around Rambaldi, a 15th Century inventor whose progressive works mean something mysteriously "big" for today. Now, honestly, there’s a heck of a lot more going on, so if you want to know it all, I suggest going to ABC’s website and checking out the episode guides they have for “Alias.”
Jennifer Garner rocks! I have to admit that I didn’t used to like Jennifer Garner. Why? She tried to steal Noel away from Felicity! If you didn’t watch “Felicity,” you have no clue what I’m talking about. But if you did, you are saying "Right on!" However, I’ve worked through those feelings and realize that this actress offers something for everyone. Yes, she is a babe so guys, tune in would you? From the various wigs to the shape-revealing dresses that she wears for her different missions, she looks good in everything (well, the recent Geisha disguise frightened me a little). For us women, her character is independent, strong, smart and someone we can really admire. For everyone, Garner is a wonderful actress. It was no fluke that she won a Golden Globe. She is so expressive that a squint of the eye or furrow of the brow speaks volumes. She is fascinating to watch.
The rest of the cast rocks! This season’s addition of Lena Olin as Sydney’s mother has been fabulous. She is as fascinating to watch as Garner. We still don’t know if she’s a bad guy turned good or a bad guy being sneaky. Either way, she’s darn cool. Victor Garber is equally great as Sydney’s father, Jack Bristow. He does not wear his emotions on his sleeve but when an emotion sneaks out from time to time, it is palpable. Ron Rifkin who portrays SD-6 leader, Arvin Sloane, seeps evil but also has moments where you can feel a twinge of sympathy for this man who had to kill his wife (or did he?) in order to get promoted in The Alliance. I could go on about some of the other cast members but I would be most remiss if I skipped over Marshall Flickman, played by Kevin Weisman. You can consider him the "comic relief" of the show as he explains the high-tech gadgets Sydney uses for her SD-6 missions. He has made me chuckle by his geeky performances more than once.
Action and drama, this show could have easily slipped into some live-action comic book, but it is so much more in depth than that. On the surface, you see things blowing up, Sydney kick-boxing the enemy, chases, cool spy gadgets, disguises, etc. It’s exhilarating to watch and, by the end of each show, your heart is racing and your mind is peaked with curiosity on how they are going to resolve the latest cliffhanger ending.
But, it’s the underlying stories and detailed characters that make this show one of the better dramas on TV. The Bristow family dynamics are not that much different from other families. Does bickering parents with a child caught in the middle sound familiar to anyone? It’s just that this family bickers over who’ll be first to jump off a train bridge or whether the mom can carry a gun on a mission. The chemistry between Sydney and her CIA handler is sweet and complicated. Each mission’s purpose and execution is intricate and intelligent; you definitely need to pay attention. Overall, this show has layers that make it an enjoyable and thought provoking show. Your mission? Tune in to “Alias” so that ABC doesn’t tune it out!
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