Alias (TV series)

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Alias
Alias-logo.png
Format Action
Serial drama
Thriller
Science fiction
Created by J. J. Abrams
Starring Jennifer Garner
Michael Vartan
Ron Rifkin
Bradley Cooper
Merrin Dungey
Carl Lumbly
Kevin Weisman
David Anders
Greg Grunberg
Melissa George
Mía Maestro
Rachel Nichols
Élodie Bouchez
Balthazar Getty
Amy Acker
Lena Olin
Victor Garber
Composer(s) Michael Giacchino
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 5
No. of episodes 105 (+ 1 animated short) (List of episodes)
Production
Location(s) Walt Disney Studios, Burbank, California (primary shooting)
Running time 42 – 45 minutes
Production company(s) Bad Robot Productions
Touchstone Television
Broadcast
Original channel ABC
Original run September 30, 2001 (2001-09-30) – May 22, 2006 (2006-05-22)

Alias is an American spy-action television series created by J. J. Abrams which was broadcast on ABC for five seasons, from September 30, 2001, to May 22, 2006. It stars Jennifer Garner as Sydney Bristow, a double-agent for the CIA, posing as an operative for SD-6, a criminal organization.

The main theme of the series explores Sydney's obligation to conceal her true career from her friends and family, even as she assumes multiple aliases to carry out her missions. These themes are most prevalent in the first two seasons of the show. A major plotline of the series was the search for and recovery of artifacts created by Milo Rambaldi, a fictitious Renaissance-era figure with similarities to both Leonardo da Vinci and Nostradamus. This plot and some technologies used in the series place Alias into the genre of science fiction.

The series was well received among critics and has been included in several "best of" lists. Alias was in the American Film Institute's top ten list for television programs in 2003.[1] The show also received numerous awards and nominations.

Cast[edit]

Main characters[edit]

Alias featured an ensemble cast portraying the various people in Sydney's life. During the course of the series, every main character becomes involved in the world of espionage in some form or another.

  • Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) is a graduate student in English in Los Angeles. She moonlights as an operative for SD-6, which she initially came to believe it was a black ops division of the CIA. Her fiancé was murdered in the pilot episode, and she then learnt SD-6 is actually a branch of an international criminal organization known as the Alliance of Twelve. She then becomes a double agent for the real CIA. She would later become a member of APO, a black-ops division of the CIA. Sydney has 41 confirmed kills through the series.
  • Jack Bristow (Victor Garber) is Sydney's father and also works for SD-6 but is actually a double agent for the CIA. In Season 1, his relationship with Sydney is strained. He was devastated by her mother's "death" and kept Sydney at arm's length for the rest of her childhood. As a CIA agent, he is exceptionally ruthless and skillful as evidenced by his CIA call sign Raptor. After Sloane left, Jack took over as head of APO.
  • Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin) was the head of SD-6 and APO, the show's main antagonist. Originally a loyal CIA officer, he is obsessed with the work of a 15th-century prophet – Milo Rambaldi.
  • Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan) was Sydney's CIA handler and later partner. He and Sydney share a mutual attraction, which eventually leads to a relationship. At the end of Season 4, it is revealed that it was not a coincidence that he met Sydney.
  • Will Tippin (Bradley Cooper) was a reporter for a local newspaper and is one of Sydney's two best friends. After the death of Sydney's fiancé, Will begins to investigate and eventually learns of the existence of SD-6. The discovery threatens his life but he later is recruited as an analyst for the CIA. He is put into witness protection at the beginning of Season three. The character however makes occasional appearances in later seasons.
  • Francie Calfo (Merrin Dungey) is Sydney's other best friend. When Season 1 begins, she is Sydney's roommate and fellow graduate student. In Season 2, she drops out of her graduate program and opens a restaurant in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. She remains largely unaware of the spy world until the middle of season two when she is killed and her identity is stolen by a doppelgänger. She (and her double) also dated Will during the second season.
  • Marcus Dixon (Carl Lumbly) is Sydney's partner and friend at SD-6. He is the first one to notice signs of Sydney's betrayal, but dismisses his thoughts as foolish. During the two-year gap between the second and third season, he became a director at the CIA. However, he later resigns as he thinks the office job just isn't for him. Dixon later joins APO.
  • Marshall Flinkman (Kevin Weisman) worked in tech support at SD-6. He takes up the same role in the CIA and at APO. Even though he is not field-trained, he has participated on missions in several occasions.
  • Eric Weiss (Greg Grunberg) is a friend of Vaughn's and also a CIA agent. He later forges a relationship with Sydney's sister, Nadia.
  • Irina Derevko (Lena Olin) was a former Russian spy and also the mother of Sydney. During the 1970s, she was sent to United States with the objective to seduce and marry Jack Bristow in order to steal information from him about a project he was working on. She also assassinated several CIA officers, including Vaughn's father.
  • Julian Sark (David Anders) is originally introduced as an operative working for Sydney's mother, but later proves to be an antagonist on his own. He has an instinct for self-preservation, thus making his loyalty flexible. During the third season he becomes the partner-in-crime of Vaughn's wife, Lauren, and eventually begins a relationship with her.
  • Lauren Reed (Melissa George) is a NSC liaison at the CIA, and marries Vaughn during the two-year gap between the second and third season. She is later revealed to be a mole sent by The Covenant to watch over Vaughn should Sydney contact him during her involvement with them and also to steal crucial information from the CIA.
  • Nadia Santos (Mía Maestro) is Sydney's half-sister, and the daughter of Irina Derevko and Arvin Sloane. Introduced at the end of the third season, she is "The Passenger", a person who provides a direct line to Rambaldi. Prior to joining the CIA, she worked for the Argentine Intelligence.
  • Rachel Gibson (Rachel Nichols) is a computer genius and introduced at the beginning of season five as an operative working for an organization that poses as the CIA known as The Shed. Unaware of this, she indirectly helps to apparently kill Michael Vaughn. After the truth is revealed to her, she joins the CIA in order to take down the organization that lied to her, much like Sydney did years before.
  • Renée Rienne (Élodie Bouchez) is an international terrorist known as "The Raven" who worked years with Vaughn in order to investigate a group of people known as Prophet Five. After Vaughn's assassination by the Prophet Five, she allies with Sydney to take down the group.
  • Thomas Grace (Balthazar Getty) is an operative who is hired by Jack to join APO after the apparent death of Michael Vaughn. Years ago, his wife was shot and killed by an assassin that was meant for him.
  • Kelly Peyton (Amy Acker) is a friend and former colleague of Rachel's. She works for The Shed, and later directly for Prophet Five.
Character Portrayed by Seasons
1 2 3 4 5
Sydney Bristow Jennifer Garner Main
Michael Vaughn Michael Vartan Main
Jack Bristow Victor Garber Main
Arvin Sloane Ron Rifkin Main
Marcus Dixon Carl Lumbly Main
Marshall Flinkman Kevin Weisman Main
Eric Weiss Greg Grunberg Recurring Main Recurring
Julian Sark David Anders Recurring Main Recurring
Will Tippin Bradley Cooper Main Guest Guest
Francie Calfo / Allison Doren Merrin Dungey Main Recurring Guest
Irina Derevko Lena Olin Main Recurring
Lauren Reed Melissa George Main Guest
Nadia Santos Mía Maestro Recurring Main Recurring
Renée Rienne Élodie Bouchez Main
Rachel Gibson Rachel Nichols Main
Thomas Grace Balthazar Getty Main
Kelly Peyton Amy Acker Main

Recurring characters[edit]

Character Portrayed by Seasons
1 2 3 4 5
Anna Espinosa Gina Torres Recurring Recurring Guest
Katya Derevko Isabella Rossellini Recurring
Elena Derevko Sônia Braga Recurring
FBI Assistant Director Kendall Terry O'Quinn Guest Recurring Guest
Dr. Judy Barnett Patricia Wettig Recurring
Emily Sloane Amy Irving Recurring Guest
Carrie Bowman Amanda Foreman Recurring Guest Recurring
CIA Director Arthur Devlin James Handy Recurring Guest Recurring
Jenny Sarah Shahi Recurring
Charlie Bernard Evan Parke Recurring
Steven Haladki Joey Slotnick Recurring
NSC Director Robert Lindsey Kurt Fuller Recurring
Calvin McCullough Angus Scrimm Recurring Guest Guest
CIA Director Hayden Chase Angela Bassett Recurring
Diane Dixon Yvonne Farrow Recurring
Dr. Zhang Lee Ric Young Recurring Guest

In addition, Alias also featured many other famous actors in roles ranging from single-episode guest appearances to semi-recurring characters, including Jonathan Banks as Frederick Brandon, Raymond J. Barry as Senator George Reed, Tobin Bell as Karl Dreyer, Peter Berg as Noah Hicks, David Carradine as Conrad, David Cronenberg as Dr. Brezzel, Faye Dunaway as Ariana Kane, Griffin Dunne as Leonid Lisenker, Vivica A. Fox as Toni Cummings, Ricky Gervais as Daniel Ryan,[2] John Hannah as Martin Shepard, Rutger Hauer as Anthony Geiger, Ethan Hawke as James Lennox,[3] Djimon Hounsou as Kazari Bomani, Richard Lewis as Mitchell Yaeger, Peggy Lipton as Olivia Reed, Sir Roger Moore as Edward Poole,[4] Richard Roundtree as Thomas Brill, Angus Scrimm as Calvin McCullough, Jason Segel as Sam Hauser, Christian Slater as Neil Caplan, Quentin Tarantino as McKenas Cole, Justin Theroux as Simon Walker, Keone Young as Professor Choy, and Danny Trejo as Emilio Vargas.

Plot[edit]

Season 1: 2001–2002[edit]

Main article: Alias (season 1)

Seven years before season 1, Sydney Bristow was an undergraduate student of English literature when she was approached with a job offer by someone claiming to work for Central Intelligence Agency. She accepted the offer, was assigned to SD-6, a supposed black ops section of the CIA where she quickly became a field agent. In the pilot, she tells her fiancé Danny that she is a spy. As a result of revealing SD-6's existence to an outsider, her fiancé is murdered by SD-6.

It is then that Sydney is told by her father Jack Bristow (another SD-6 agent) that SD-6 is not part of the CIA; instead, it is part of the Alliance of Twelve, an organization that is an enemy to the United States. Sydney decides to offer her services to the real CIA as a double agent. She learns that her father is also a double agent for the CIA, when he notifies her that her offer is accepted. She begins the long and arduous task of destroying SD-6 from the inside.

Major plotlines from season 1 include Sydney hiding her triple-identity from her friends, both in her personal life and in her SD-6 job, Will Tippin's investigation into Danny's death, and the past activities of Sydney's mother. Sub-plots included Sydney's friendship with Francie, Francie's romantic relationship with Charlie, and Sydney's developing relationship with her CIA handler Michael Vaughn, of whom she is skeptical at first but grows to trust as her life becomes increasingly stressful. Season One focuses on the development of Sydney's character, and allows the audience to become familiar with her. The other seasons share the feature of having a guest star who appears throughout the entire season.

Season 2: 2002–2003[edit]

Main article: Alias (season 2)

The second season begins with the introduction of Irina Derevko, Sydney's mother, who soon becomes a vital part of the series. Midway through the second season, the series underwent a "reboot" of sorts with Sydney successfully destroying SD-6 (after gathering valuable intelligence for tactical strikes from an airborne SD-6 server) and becoming a regular agent for the CIA, still in pursuit of former SD-6 leader Arvin Sloane, his associate Julian Sark, and the Rambaldi artifacts. Sydney's friends at SD-6, Marcus Dixon and Marshall Flinkman, are finally made aware of her dual identity and recruited into the CIA. Sydney also begins a romantic relationship with Vaughn, now that their relationship will not endanger them.

In the second half of the season, it is revealed that Francie Calfo, Sydney's best friend, was murdered and replaced by Allison Doren, a woman who was transfigured to look exactly like her. Allison was then in a position to spy on Sydney and Will. The end of the season saw Will possibly murdered and Sydney killing Allison and then falling unconscious. Sydney awakens two years later in Hong Kong, unable to remember the two years that have passed. She soon learns that her friends and the CIA believed her to be dead, and Vaughn found a new love and is now married.

Season 3: 2003–2004[edit]

Main article: Alias (season 3)

The third season takes place two years after the events of season 2, with Sydney having been missing and presumed dead. DNA evidence in a badly burned body confirmed her death to her family and friends.

The truth, however, is that Sydney was kidnapped by a terrorist organization called The Covenant, who tried to brainwash her into believing she was an assassin named Julia Thorne. Eventually Sydney voluntarily had her memories of the two years erased in an attempt to forget some of the deeds she was forced to undertake as Julia and to ensure that one of Rambaldi's most dangerous artifacts would never be found.

As Sydney recovers, she begins investigating her absence while reintegrating into the CIA. There she deals with the facts that Arvin Sloane had become a world-renowned humanitarian after being pardoned, and that Michael Vaughn had married NSC agent Lauren Reed. Reed is later revealed to be a member of the Covenant and a lover of Julian Sark. The National Security Council plays a role as a government organization that holds massive unsupervised power, with a Guantanamo-like detention facility, considerable influence over the CIA, and driven by questionable motives. Sydney later discovers that her mother and Arvin Sloane had a child together, the result of an affair between the two years earlier. She locates her half-sister, Nadia, and rescues her from being killed by the Covenant.

At the end of the season, Sydney goes on a mission and encounters Lauren. After they battle, Lauren begins to taunt Sydney by saying she has information about her past. When Vaughn shows up, Sydney goes to him, leaving Lauren a chance to attack again. Vaughn shoots Lauren, and she dies, but before she does she gives Sydney the number of a security deposit box where she can find information about her past.

Season 4: 2005[edit]

Main article: Alias (season 4)

Season 4 begins where season three ended with Sydney uncovering a shocking, classified document called "S.A.B. 47 Project." It is explained that the document authorizes Jack Bristow to execute Sydney's mother, who had mysteriously placed a contract on Sydney's life (this was apparently something of a retcon to cover for actress Lena Olin's presumed not returning to the series, as the first page refers to Sydney as the "active" subject of a "project" that began April 17, 1975, a possible reference to Project Christmas, and also setting up Jack as either the real head of, or somehow involved with, the Covenant and/or being a descendant of Rambaldi/Rambaldi himself).

Sydney joins a black ops division of the CIA, patterned after SD-6 and run by her one-time nemesis Arvin Sloane. The new division is dubbed "APO": Authorized Personnel Only. Members of APO (all hand-picked by Sloane) include almost all of the recurring characters from previous seasons, including Jack, Vaughn, Sydney's former partner (and third season CIA director) Marcus Dixon, the computer and technical genius, Marshall Flinkman, and Vaughn's best friend Eric Weiss (brought in after having to be rescued by Sydney and Vaughn, who he previously believed to have left the CIA). Sloane's daughter and Sydney's half-sister Nadia Santos also eventually returns to join APO.

During the season, an Arvin Sloane impostor, jokingly identified as "Arvin Clone", acquired the technology to implement a Rambaldi-predicted apocalypse. Using Omnifam, the real Sloane had polluted the world's drinking water with chemicals that caused feelings of peace and tranquility. However, these feelings can be reversed with the Mueller device. The third Derevko sister, Elena, had built a giant Mueller device in Sovogda, Russia, which drove the residents to insanity. Sydney, Jack, Irina, Nadia, and Vaughn parachute in, destroy the device and kill Elena. But Nadia is injected with the tainted water and driven insane. She battles Sydney until Sloane is forced to shoot his own daughter. Nadia is later put into a coma while a cure is sought and Irina is allowed to escape.

The season concludes with Sydney and Vaughn becoming engaged. On a trip to Santa Barbara, Vaughn confides a shocking secret: his name isn't really Michael Vaughn; their initial meeting wasn't coincidental; and that his allegiance may not be to the CIA. Before he can divulge any more information, another car crashes into theirs and the season ends.

Season 5: 2005–2006[edit]

Main article: Alias (season 5)
The cast of season five

As season five begins, Vaughn is abducted. Sydney learns that Vaughn is under suspicion of being a double agent and that the crash may have been a cover for his extraction. Vaughn later escapes and explains to Sydney that his real name is André Michaux. He reveals that he is investigating a secret operation known as Prophet Five, which at one point involved his father. During a mission in recovering a Prophet Five book, Sydney receives a phone call from her doctor with some untimely news – she's pregnant. (This development was created to deal with the actress' real-life pregnancy.[5][6]) Vaughn is later shot, and apparently killed, on orders of Prophet Five operative Gordon Dean. Four months later, as Sydney continues to investigate Vaughn's murder, she works with an assassin and associate of his, Renée Rienne, in order to unearth the inner workings of Prophet Five, while at the same time trailing Dean and his criminal organization "The Shed", disguised as a black ops CIA division, very much like SD-6.

Two new members are added to APO to replace Weiss, who moved to Washington, D.C. for a new job, and Nadia, who is still in a coma. Thomas Grace is a brash young agent with unorthodox methods who often butts heads with Sydney. Rachel Gibson is a computer specialist who, like Sydney, was deceived into thinking she was working for the real CIA and briefly works as a mole within The Shed, as did Sydney within SD-6, before The Shed's destruction by Dean.

Sydney's mom and dad help her deliver her baby girl while under attack in a high-rise in Vancouver, Canada, on a mission in Season 5's Episode 11 "Maternal Instinct."

In an ongoing subplot, Arvin Sloane follows his own personal obsession, finding a cure for Nadia. Sloane is jailed for his actions during Season 4; however, he is released after the sentencing committee is manipulated by Dean. In exchange for his freedom, Sloane is now working for Dean as a mole within APO. Unaware of Sloane's new allegiance, Jack agrees to let Sloane rejoin APO and use its resources to seek a cure for his daughter.

With the series' end, it emerges that Sloane's ultimate goal is that of immortality, for which he sacrifices his daughter Nadia's life. However, he is trapped in Rambaldi's tomb by a critically wounded Jack, who sacrifices himself via a bomb to avenge all the pain Sloane caused Sydney over the years. Thus moments after Sloane achieves immortality he is trapped for all of eternity in a cave, where even Nadia's ghost deserts him. Sydney tracks Sark and the Horizon to Hong Kong, finding Irina. After a final battle between them, Irina plunges to her death.

The series ends with a flash forward to several years in the future. Sydney and Vaughn are semi-retired and married, with a second child named Jack in honour of Sydney's father. Daughter Isabelle exhibits the same ability to complete the CIA test that marked Sydney's inborn skills to be an ideal agent at that age. After completing the puzzle, Sydney calls to her from outside, asking what she is doing. She responds by saying, "Nothing", as she casually knocks it over before running outside to join everyone.

Production and crew[edit]

Produced by Touchstone Television and Bad Robot Productions, film production primarily took place in the greater Los Angeles area. Studio shooting primarily took place at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California, along with some outdoor shots near some of the studio's famous buildings (such as the original Animation Building or the ABC building, which appeared as a building in Hong Kong in the season 1 episode "The Coup"). Despite its worldwide locales, only one episode was ever filmed outside the Los Angeles region, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Themes[edit]

  • Family: Describing the family aspects of the show, Garner stated that Alias is about "this woman and her father and trying to figure out what is always a complicated relationship in the context of life and death at work."[7]
  • Prophecy: A good deal of Alias revolves around the prophecies of Milo Rambaldi. The viewer is first introduced to a prophecy about a woman who will "render the greatest power unto utter desolation".[8] Later, as Sloane completes part of the Rambaldi prophecy he has received his own prophetic message. The Rambaldi storyline seemed to come to a close with the conclusion of Elena Derevko's endgame at the end of season four, but the fifth season introduced its own "prophet" (also in pursuit of Rambaldi) in the form of the mysterious organization known as Prophet Five, which ended up being a reference to Rambaldi and the final part of his endgame, immortality, which had been set up in the first season, though this was only one part of his plan. The first part was world peace, which Elena Derevko perverted and attempted in Season 4.[8]
  • Trust and betrayal: Much of the first three seasons of the show revolved around issues of trust and betrayal. Most obvious is the betrayal of Sydney by SD-6 which starts the show. However, the show includes numerous other examples of betrayal including Irina's betrayal of Jack, Sloane's betrayal of the Alliance, Sydney's betrayal of SD-6 and Sydney's lying to her friends. The first season can be viewed as a story of Sydney learning to trust her father and the second season can be viewed as Sydney struggling with trust issues relating to her mother.[8]
  • Clandestine operations: The government agencies that Sydney Bristow works for are conducting secret operations in various countries regularly. The same applies of course to the mentioned illegal agencies which are battled against. Those clandestine operations deal with collecting the sought-after Rambaldi artifacts, but also with aspects like illegal arms trade or blackmailing. To further their objectives, the CIA or APO, respectively, arrest criminals from other countries and bring them to interrogation facilities of the CIA.[8]

Credits, logos, and graphics in the show[edit]

Alias is unusual for an American drama series in that the opening credits do not run until the end of the first long act, sometimes as late as 19 minutes into the episode. In some respects, this mimics the James Bond films, which likewise feature sometimes-lengthy pre-credits sequences. Depending on the demands of a particular episode, the credit sequence is occasionally dropped as the actor credits play over a scene; on those occasions, the series title does not appear on screen until the final fade out.

As the opening credits appear, the letters in the Alias reference flash in negative form one by one. The "S" is the last letter to appear, this time in permanent negative. In virtually every episode, the title of a city or town location will slowly zoom in, with one letter being shown in negative and a specific scene appearing within that negative. As it usually does with the "S" in the show title at the very start, this letter eventually takes up the entire screen and gives way to the scene itself.

The first three seasons used a minimalist credit sequence consisting only of the actors names appearing as the title Alias gradually forms in one corner of an otherwise black screen. For one frame in Seasons 1 and 3 during Victor Garber's credit, the Rambaldi "eye" symbol ( <o> ) flashes over the Alias title, accompanied by a short "whooshing" sound; In Season 2, it flashes during Lena Olin's credit. In season 5 it flashes during Balthazar Getty's credit.

For the fourth season, a shorter, flashier credit sequence was introduced that used a new, remixed version of the theme. As the cast names appeared, 52 images of Sydney in 47 various disguises appear in rapid succession, ending with a shot from the third season premiere of her shooting a miniature grenade launcher.

For the fifth season, another credit sequence was designed, as the previous version was criticized for making it difficult to read the actors' names (since the eye was drawn to the many images of Jennifer Garner) and for focusing exclusively on Garner. Now for the first time, the actors are shown on screen as their names appear. The same remix of the theme music from the previous year is utilized. Also, the flashing of the letters when ALIAS is spelled out is actually in Morse code. The flashing translates to AGENT KANE (who was a character in the 2nd season played by Faye Dunaway). During the first half of the season, Elodie Bouchez appeared in the opening credits, but beginning with the episode "S.O.S." her credit was changed to a "special guest star" credit outside the opening sequence and Amy Acker was added to the opening credits in place of Bouchez.

Most episodes in the first season included a prologue narrated by Sydney Bristow, setting up the premise of the series. In the first half of season two this was replaced by a voiceover by Greg Grunberg (who plays Agent Weiss) and later in season 2 was dropped entirely.

Timeframe[edit]

The events of the first season of Alias begin in 2001, the same year the series first aired. A reference to Homeland security midway through the first season suggests the series begins not long before, or not long after September 11. (The series, in fact, premiered 19 days following the 9/11 attacks.) Though there was reference to such a part of government, the federal Homeland Security department was not established until 2003. (Aside from the Homeland Security reference, there is no explicit reference to 9/11 in the first season; however, there is a reference to Osama bin Laden and a reference to the War on Terror in two episodes in season 2). In season 1, each episode covers roughly the events of one week in Sydney's life, thus each episode is said to take place a week apart, although this pattern was not maintained throughout the series. In several episodes, references were made to actual real world events. For example, in one episode, Sydney suggested to Vaughn that they should catch an L.A. Kings game, and that they'd be taking on the Islanders. This actual game took place roughly around the same time the episode was broadcast on January 20, 2002.

The season 2 finale, which sees Sydney lose two years of her life, would suggest that the series as of the start of season 3 takes place two years ahead of "real world" time, however the series was not always consistent in maintaining this. For example, in season 3 episode 17 (airdate March 28, 2004), the date March 26, 2004, was shown on Lauren's event calendar. For most of the episodes in Season 3–4, the writers avoided mentioning any current calendar dates in any episode. The one fact that did contradict this was the date on the tombstone of the supposedly dead Irina Derevko, which, when calculated, would suggest that the show was still running on "real world" time rather than 2 years in the future. However, a statement made by Sydney in the fifth season premiere "Prophet 5" regarding the length of time since she first went undercover at SD-6, is in keeping with the established timeline. And finally, the timeline seems to jump back one more time. In the season 5 episode "Out of the Box", character Renee tells Dr. Desantis, the genetic double of her father from the cryogenic box that it is currently 2006. This appears to be the first direct reference to the actual date of events. In another episode of the same season, a hockey magazine received by Sydney indicates the date to be November 2005. Also in season five, Nadia Santos' hospital admission bracelet following her recovery in the episode "30 Seconds" reads "04-23-05" and she mentions that it has almost been a year since she was hospitalized.

No time elapses between the end of season 1 and the beginning of season 2, and there are two years, one month, and several hours between seasons 2 and 3, 3 and 4, and 4 and 5 respectively (in addition, the events of the season 5 premiere episode take place over the course of 4 months). Given that there were roughly three to four months between the airing of the first few seasons, an 8-month interval between the broadcast of seasons 3 and 4, and a 4-month hiatus in the midst of season 5, by the final season Alias would only be a matter of months ahead of real-world time, making the 2006 statement plausible in the timeline. The series finale makes a further jump forward of several years (c. 2014 based upon the age of Sydney's daughter).

Costumes, hair and wigs[edit]

The program was renowned for the vast array of hair styles adopted by the characters. Head Hair Designer Michael Reitz was nominated for Outstanding Hairstyling for a Series at the Emmys 5 years in a row (2002–2006); as well as 3 nominations and 1 win at the Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Awards.

Notable contributions to the hair stylist team include:

  • Karen Bartek (3 Emmy Award nominations)
  • Julie Woods (1 Emmy Award nomination)
  • Grace Hernandez (1 Emmy Award nomination)
  • Kathrine Rees (1 Emmy Award nomination)
  • Yesmin Osman (1 Emmy Award nomination)

Alias was also known for the variety of its costumes. USA Today wrote that the show "features the most outrageous array of sexy costumes since Cher went off the air".[9] Laura Goldsmith was the costume designer[9] and she received one Costume Designers Guild Award nomination.[10]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

The first season has been moderately well received among critics; it holds a score of 74 out of 100 on Metacritic.[11] British magazine Empire ranked it #35 in their list of the "50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time" and said "Alias was an action-packed weekly adventure that outclassed just about every other show in the genre."[12] The New York edition of Time Out listed the show in their top 50 TV shows of the decade 2000 – 2009.[13] Alias also appeared in UGO.com's list of Top 50 TV Shows of All Time.[14] In 2010, Kristin Dos Santos of E! ranked it number 4 on her list, "Top 20 TV Series of the Past 20 Years".[15]

U.S. television ratings[edit]

Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of Alias on ABC.

Note: Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps.

Season Timeslot
(Eastern & Pacific Time)
Season premiere Season finale TV season Ranking Viewers
(in millions)
1 Sunday 9:00 PM (September 30, 2001 – May 12, 2002) September 30, 2001 May 12, 2002 2001–2002 #60[16] 9.7[16]
2 Sunday 9:00 PM (September 29, 2002 – May 4, 2003) September 29, 2002 May 4, 2003 2002–2003 #72[17] 9.0[17]
3 Sunday 9:00 PM (September 28, 2003 – May 23, 2004) September 28, 2003 May 23, 2004 2003–2004 #78[18] 8.2[18]
4 Wednesday 9:00 PM (January 5, 2005 – May 25, 2005) January 5, 2005 May 25, 2005 2004–2005 #37[19] 10.3[19]
5 Thursday 8:00 PM (September 29, 2005 – November 17, 2005)
Wednesday 10:00 PM (December 7, 2005 – December 14, 2005)
Wednesday 8:00 PM (April 19, 2006 – May 17, 2006)
Monday 9:00 PM (May 22, 2006)
September 29, 2005 May 22, 2006 2005–2006 #90[20] 6.7[20]

Although Alias was never considered a major "hit", its series run began during a time when the ABC television network was in decline, after Who Wants to Be a Millionaire saw its ratings plummet. In fact, Alias was one of the first shows to be placed in one of the old Who Wants to Be a Millionaire timeslots, which were Sunday nights at 9 p.m. (Eastern & Pacific time) in late 2001. For its first two seasons, family-friendly program The Wonderful World of Disney served as Alias' incompatible lead-in.[21] Unlike many of the programs on ABC from 2001 to 2003, Alias was a series that garnered critical buzz, a cult following, and decent viewing numbers in the advertiser-friendly age 18–49 demographic. This led to ABC keeping the series on its schedule for 5 years.

Despite earning critical acclaim from USA Today[22] for the January 26, 2003 episode entitled "Phase One" and attracting the largest audience of the series with 17.4 million viewers,[23] this episode retained just 19 percent[23] of the Super Bowl XXXVII audience and has the dubious distinction of earning the lowest overall ratings for a program airing after a Super Bowl since at least 1987[23] and the lowest rating ever (8.3 rating) in the age 18–49 demographic for a post-Super Bowl program,[23] until Elementary in 2013.[24] Also, since the episode started airing at 11 p.m. on the East Coast, it was not eligible for the week's list of top primetime shows ranked by Nielsen Media Research and thus, the episode's viewership numbers were not factored in the series' overall 2002–2003 season average.

Its ratings peak was reached in its fourth season, when ABC moved the program to Wednesdays 9 p.m. (Eastern & Pacific time), the time slot following another (yet more successful) J. J. Abrams' drama, Lost,[21] while airing the season's episodes in (almost) consecutive weeks beginning with the January 5, 2005, 2-hour season premiere (watched by 15.8 million viewers;[25] the second most-watched episode in the series) and ending in May 2005. However, the fourth season was the only season in which this near-consecutive-week schedule was used and the increase in audience numbers was minimal since it faced hefty timeslot competition from the results show of the fourth season of Fox's mega-hit American Idol.

Coming off its most-watched season, Alias was moved to Thursdays 8 p.m. (Eastern & Pacific time) in the fall of 2005 by ABC in an effort to invigorate the network's lackluster Thursday night lineup. However, the move proved unsuccessful for the series, receiving the lowest viewership in the show's history. Alias became another scripted show in the history of ABC to not survive more than a year in this timeslot since Mork & Mindy was cancelled in 1982.[26] In November 2005, ABC announced that the current fifth season of Alias would be its final one.[27][28] ABC then temporarily aired Alias on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. in December, receiving the lead-in support of Lost.[29]

ABC gave the show a 4-month hiatus (to allow Jennifer Garner to give birth to her first child) and when it was brought back in April 2006, its new timeslot was Wednesdays at 8 p.m. However, the viewer numbers remained dismal, culminating in a 2-hour series finale airing on Monday, May 22, 2006 (against the season finales of the hit dramas, Fox's 24 and CBS' CSI: Miami) which attracted 6.68 million viewers.[30] In comparison, the first season averaged 9.7 million viewers.[31]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Awards won[edit]

Golden Globe Awards
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama Jennifer Garner (2002)
Saturn Awards
  • Best Network Television Series (2003)
  • Best Actress in a Television Series Jennifer Garner (2003)
  • Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series Victor Garber (2003)
  • Cinescape Genre Female Face of the Future Melissa George (2004)
Screen Actors Guild Awards
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series Jennifer Garner (2004)

Awards nominated[edit]

Emmy Awards
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Jennifer Garner (2002–2005)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Victor Garber (2002–2004)
  • Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (2002) J. J. Abrams
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Lena Olin (2003)
Golden Globe Awards
  • Best Television Series – Drama (2002)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama Jennifer Garner (2003–2005)
Saturn Awards
Screen Actors Guild
  • Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series Jennifer Garner (2003)
Television Critics Association Awards
  • Outstanding New Program (2002)
  • Individual Achievement in Drama Jennifer Garner (2003)

Cultural influence[edit]

In August 2003, the actual CIA enlisted Jennifer Garner to appear in a recruitment video, which would be shown at fairs and college campuses. A CIA officer said: "Jennifer and the character of Sydney Bristow both reflect a lot of the qualities we look for in new career field officers."[32]

Parodies[edit]

The Alias production team has participated in at least two spoofs based upon the series and featuring cast members.

  • The first was produced in 2002 for a segment of ABC's Monday Night Football in which Sydney (Jennifer Garner) is ordered by Sloane (Ron Rifkin) to infiltrate the locker room of the Washington Redskins NFL team in order to steal the coach's playbook. Syd disguises herself as a cheerleader and distracts the "Hogettes", a group of Redskins fans, with a glass of beer before stealing the book. Upon returning to SD-6 headquarters, she is horrified to find Sloane wearing a pig mask and oinking. This skit was advertised as being included in the season 2 DVD box set, but it was dropped from the set at the last minute, presumably due to copyright reasons. Another specially filmed MNF segment featuring Garner was included in the season 3 DVD set, but this was not, strictly speaking, a spoof.
  • Another faux Alias "episode" was produced for a 2003 TV special celebrating the 50th anniversary of ABC. Featuring most of the regular cast of the series, the skit began with Jack Bristow preparing Sydney and Vaughn for a mission, and informing them that they will have a new partner – Detective Columbo (Peter Falk). Columbo, in his usual eccentric behavior, proceeds to wreak havoc at CIA headquarters, accidentally shooting Vaughn with an anesthetic dart and volunteering to wear a skimpy bikini intended for Sydney during the mission. Columbo reveals that his mission is not to aid the CIA but rather to help Walt Disney Company/ABC head Michael Eisner better understand the show. His work completed, Columbo departs, leaving Jack to utter a confused, "Dear God, that was strange."

Other spoofs and humorous references include:

  • In an episode of Bradley Cooper's sitcom Kitchen Confidential, Michael Vartan guests as a rival French chef. Cooper's character makes a quip along the lines of, "it's almost like we used to work together".
  • MADtv created a season 1 spoof.
  • In episode 23 of Robot Chicken, the series is re-imagined with the part of Sydney being played by a killer whale ("Whalias"), complete with red hair and lipstick. The sketch features Sydney undercover in a glamorous party at SeaWorld, pretending to be a prize-winning cellist. A fight scene occurs in typical Alias style.
  • In episode 57 of Kim Possible the characters (due to the use of a Pan-Dimension Vortex) find themselves appearing in various fictional television shows similar to the main plot point of the movie The Last Action Hero. Each of these television shows is clearly a spoof of a real world television show. During one such "appearance", Kim lands in a night club where she is confronted by a character with bright red hair. The character orders Kim to "Tell me what I want to know." In response, Kim addresses the character as "Miss Tries Too Hard." and adds "Nice Wig." A brief Alias-like hand-to-hand fight sequence then ensues. The end of the segment involves characters talking about "The Device." In the context of the episode, the device is "The Pan-Dimensional Vortex Inducer, but asking about a "device" would also track with the plot of many Alias episodes.

Reboot[edit]

In May 2010, E! Online's Kristin Dos Santos reported that ABC was toying with the idea of rebooting Alias, but getting rid of the mythological Rambaldi elements to make the storylines more accessible for a mainstream audience.[33] Subsequently, Entertainment Weekly columnist Michael Ausiello confirmed that ABC was in the early stages of developing a reboot, but that the potential series probably wouldn't make it beyond the development phase.[34]

Merchandise[edit]

Soundtracks[edit]

Alias released a season one soundtrack containing 26 tracks. These tracks were tracks used in the show, including the opening theme. All of them are composed by Michael Giacchino, except for the opening theme which was composed by J. J. Abrams. The tracks share a similar dance genre, however a few tracks, such as 'In the Garden' share more of a slowed down tempo. A second Soundtrack was also released containing music from the second season, but didn't receive as much praise as the first soundtrack. Therefore, no more soundtrack albums are expected for the final three seasons. A soundtrack for Alias: The Video Game, composed by Chris Tilton, was also released, but can only be downloaded online.

Video game[edit]

Main article: Alias (video game)

The video game Alias, based on the series, is a third-person stealth action title developed and released by Acclaim Entertainment for the PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The plot was written by the creators of the show and the game features the voices of the cast principals. It was released on April 6, 2004, and has a rating of T for Teen. The game is set between episodes 19 and 20 of season 2. The game allows the player to be Sydney (and briefly on one mission Vaughn), and sends her on various missions to many different locations. The missions become more difficult as you come closer to finishing the game. The game includes using many spy-skills that Sydney uses in the show.

Prior to the Acclaim release, ABC Television produced an episodic downloadable videogame entitled Alias: Underground which is available through ABC's website. The game was a 3D third-person stealth action game much like the Acclaim production, with missions released monthly during the original broadcast of the TV show's second season.

Original novels[edit]

A number of original novels based upon the series have been published, primarily for a teenage reading audience. Due to the intricate and story arc-based nature of the series, most novels published to date have been prequels to the series, some focusing on Sydney in her early missions for SD-6, and others focusing on Vaughn's missions before meeting her. Their canon status with regards to the televised series has yet to be determined. Although aimed at young readers, the books tackle serious subject matter, such as one volume[specify] which details the first time Sydney kills someone.

  1. Recruited – Lynn Mason (2002) ISBN 0-553-49398-1
  2. A Secret Life – Laura Peyton Roberts (2003) ISBN 0-553-49399-X
  3. Disappeared – Lynn Mason (2003) ISBN 0-553-49400-7
  4. Sister Spy – Laura Peyton Roberts (2003) ISBN 0-553-49401-5
  5. The Pursuit – Elizabeth Skurnick (2003) ISBN 0-553-49402-3
  6. Close Quarters – Emma Harrison (2003) ISBN 0-553-49403-1
  7. Father Figure – Laura Peyton Roberts (2003) ISBN 0-553-49404-X
  8. Free Fall – Christa Roberts (2004) ISBN 0-553-49405-8
  9. Infiltration – Breen Frazier (2004) ISBN 0-553-49437-6
  10. Vanishing Act – Sean Gerace (2004) ISBN 0-553-49438-4
  11. Skin Deep – Cathy Hapka (2004) ISBN 0-553-49439-2
  12. Shadowed – Elizabeth Skurnick (2004) ISBN 0-553-49440-6

The second series of novels, titled "The APO Series", fit into the season four timeframe and are published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment.

  1. Two of a Kind? – Greg Cox (April 26, 2005) ISBN 1-4169-0213-9
  2. Faina – Rudy Gaborno, Chris Hollier (April 26, 2005) ISBN 1-4169-0245-7
  3. Collateral DamagePierce Askegren (June 28, 2005) ISBN 1-4169-0247-3
  4. Replaced – Emma Harrison (July 26, 2005) ISBN 1-4169-0246-5
  5. The Road Not Taken – Greg Cox (October 4, 2005) ISBN 1-4169-0248-1
  6. Vigilance – Paul Ruditis (December 6, 2005) ISBN 1-4169-0928-1
  7. Strategic Reserve – Christina F. York (March 7, 2006) ISBN 1-4169-0946-X
  8. Once Lost – Kirsten Beyer (April 25, 2006) ISBN 1-4169-0947-8
  9. Namesakes – Greg Cox (July 11, 2006) ISBN 1-4169-2442-6
  10. Old Friends – Steven Hanna (September 2006) ISBN 1-4169-2443-4
  11. The Ghost – Brian Studler (November 2006) ISBN 1-4169-2444-2
  12. Mind Games – Paul Ruditis (December 2006) ISBN 1-4169-2445-0
  13. A Touch of Death – Christina York (December 2006) ISBN 1-4169-2446-9

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "AFI AWARDS 2003 – AFI TV PROGRAMS OF THE YEAR". Afi.com. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Review: Alias – Facade". BBC. June 21, 2004. Retrieved April 24, 2012. 
  3. ^ "TV briefs: Post-Super Bowl 'Alias' features Ethan Hawke". The Seattle Times. January 8, 2003. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  4. ^ Keveney, Bill (February 8, 2002). "Bond, James Bond will make an 'Alias' appearance". USA Today. Gannett Company. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  5. ^ Gary Susman.Morning Sickness Becomes Elektra: Is Jennifer Garner pregnant? E! says sources confirm she's expecting a little Affleck," Entertainment Weekly, May 9, 2005.
  6. ^ Jennifer Garner & Sydney Bristow Will Both Be Pregnant, Entertainment Tonight, July 27, 2005.
  7. ^ O'Hare, Kate. "'Alias' Passes 100 on the Way to the End Zone". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  8. ^ a b c d Ryabov, Kirill. "Recurring Themes In Alias: Prophecies, Trust, And Clandestine Operations". Articlesnatch.com. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Bianco, Robert (January 31, 2002). "Sydney Bristow in the flesh". USA Today. Gannett Company. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  10. ^ Soares, Andre (February 20, 2006). "Costume Designers Guild Awards 2006". Alt Film Guide. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Alias: Season 1". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved May 31, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Empire Features: Alias". Empire. 2008. Retrieved February 6, 2012. 
  13. ^ "TONY's top 50 TV shows of the decade". Time Out. December 19, 2009. Retrieved May 31, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Top 50 TV Shows of All Time". UGO.com. December 30, 2009. Retrieved May 31, 2013. 
  15. ^ Dos Santos, Kristin (May 28, 2010). "And the Best TV Series of the Past 20 Years Is....". E!. Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved May 24, 2010. 
  16. ^ a b "How did your favorite show rate?". USA Today. May 28, 2002. Retrieved December 2, 2010. 
  17. ^ a b "Rank And File". Entertainment Weekly Published in issue #713 Jun 06, 2003. June 6, 2003. Retrieved December 2, 2010. 
  18. ^ a b "I. T. R. S. Ranking Report: 01 Thru 210". ABC Medianet. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2010. 
  19. ^ a b "Primetime series". The Hollywood Reporter. May 27, 2005. Archived from the original on March 8, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2010. [dead link]
  20. ^ a b "Series". The Hollywood Reporter. May 26, 2006. Archived from the original on January 11, 2010. Retrieved December 2, 2010. [dead link]
  21. ^ a b Littleton, Cynthia (January 3, 2005). "‘Alias’ won't get ‘Lost’ in new time slot". Today.com. Retrieved December 27, 2012. 
  22. ^ Bianco, Robert (2003-01-23). "Super 'Alias' will bowl you over". USA Today. 
  23. ^ a b c d Fitzgerald, Toni (2003-01-29). "How ABC fumbled its Super Bowl edge". Media Life Magazine. 
  24. ^ "Spotted Ratings: Super Bowl Sunday 2/3/13". SpottedRatings.com. February 4, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Primetime Ratings Report: For the week of January 3–9, 2005". ABC Medianet. 2005-01-11. 
  26. ^ Ryan, Joal (2005-11-23). ""Alias," AKA Canceled". E! Online. 
  27. ^ Johns, Anna (November 23, 2005). "Alias is canceled -- BREAKING NEWS!". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 18, 2014. 
  28. ^ Snierson, Dan (November 30, 2005). "Mission Accomplished". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved August 18, 2014. 
  29. ^ "ABC to pair `Alias' and `Lost'". Chicago Tribune. November 22, 2005. Retrieved December 27, 2012. 
  30. ^ Berman, Marc (2006-05-23). "The Programming Insider". Mediaweek. 
  31. ^ Armstrong, Mark (2001-10-02). "Ratings: Everybody Loves Old Shows". E! Online. 
  32. ^ "'Alias' star Jennifer Garner to be CIA bait". USA Today. August 29, 2003. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  33. ^ Dos Santos, Kristin (May 27, 2010). "Is This Alias 2.0 News Too Good to Be True?". E! Online. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 
  34. ^ Ausiello, Michael (June 2, 2010). "Ask Ausiello: Spoilers on 'True Blood,' 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'Dexter,' 'House,' and more!". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved April 23, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]