|Created by||J. J. Abrams|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||105|
|Running time||42-45 minutes|
|Distributor||Buena Vista Television|
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)|
|Original release||September 30, 2001 -|
May 22, 2006
Alias is an American action thriller 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 Central Intelligence Agency posing as an operative for SD-6, a worldwide criminal and espionage organization.
The main theme of the series explores Sydney's obligation to hide her true career from her friends and family, even as she assumes multiple aliases to carry out her missions. This theme is most prevalent in the first two seasons of the show. A major plotline of the series is 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, including the American Film Institute's top ten list for television programs in 2003. The show also received numerous awards and nominations.
Seven years before the first episode, Sydney Bristow was an undergraduate student. She was approached by someone who claimed to work for the Central Intelligence Agency and offered her a job as an agent. Having accepted, she was assigned to a unit called SD-6, which she was told was a secret "Black Ops" section of the CIA. She became a field agent. In the pilot, she tells her fiancé Danny Hecht (played by Edward Atterton) that she is a spy and as a result of her revealing SD-6's existence to an outsider, Danny is murdered by SD-6. She discovers that her father Jack Bristow is also an SD-6 agent and 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. Having learned that her father is also a double agent for the CIA, 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 include 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 second season begins with the introduction of Irina Derevko, Sydney's mother, who soon becomes a key character in the series. Midway through the second season, the series underwent a "reboot" of sorts with Sydney successfully destroying SD-6 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.
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 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 mysteriously placed a contract on Sydney's life (this was apparently something of a retcon to cover for actress Lena Olin presumably not returning to the series). The first page refers to Sydney as the "active" subject of a "project" that began on 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 or 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.
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.) 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, 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.
|Jennifer Garner||Sydney Bristow||Main|
|Ron Rifkin||Arvin Sloane||Main|
|Michael Vartan[a]||Michael Vaughn||Main|
|Bradley Cooper||Will Tippin||Main||Special Guest||Special Guest|
|Merrin Dungey||Francie Calfo / Allison Doren||Main||Recurring||Special Guest|
|Carl Lumbly||Marcus Dixon||Main|
|Kevin Weisman||Marshall Flinkman||Main|
|Victor Garber||Jack Bristow||Main|
|David Anders||Julian Sark||Recurring||Main||Special Guest||Recurring|
|Lena Olin||Irina Derevko||(Stand-in)||Main||Special Guest||Recurring|
|Greg Grunberg||Eric Weiss||Recurring||Main||Recurring|
|Melissa George||Lauren Reed||Main||Special Guest|
|Mía Maestro||Nadia Santos||Recurring||Main||Recurring|
|Rachel Nichols||Rachel Gibson||Main|
|Balthazar Getty||Thomas Grace||Main|
|Élodie Bouchez||Renée Rienne||Main|
|Amy Acker||Kelly Peyton||Main|
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.
Characters are listed in order of appearance on the show.
|Angus Scrimm||Calvin McCullough||Recurring||Guest|
|Ric Young||Dr. Zhang Lee||Recurring||Guest|
|Evan Parke||Charlie Bernard||Recurring|
|Gina Torres||Anna Espinosa||Recurring||Recurring||Guest|
|Yvonne Farrow||Diane Dixon||Recurring|
|James Handy||CIA Director Arthur Devlin||Recurring||Guest|
|Joey Slotnick||Steven Haladki||Recurring|
|Patricia Wettig||Dr. Judy Barnett||Recurring|
|Amy Irving||Emily Sloane||Recurring||Guest|
|Terry O'Quinn||FBI Assistant Director Kendall||Guest||Recurring||Guest|
|Amanda Foreman||Carrie Bowman||Guest||Recurring||Guest|
|Kurt Fuller||NSC Director Robert Lindsey||Recurring|
|Isabella Rossellini||Katya Derevko||Recurring|
|Angela Bassett||CIA Director Hayden Chase||Recurring|
|Sônia Braga||Elena Derevko||Recurring|
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,John Hannah as Martin Shepard, Rutger Hauer as Anthony Geiger, Ethan Hawke as James Lennox,Djimon Hounsou as Kazari Bomani, Richard Lewis as Mitchell Yaeger, Peggy Lipton as Olivia Reed, Sir Roger Moore as Edward Poole,Richard Roundtree as Thomas Brill, 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.
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.
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.
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:
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". Laura Goldsmith was the costume designer and she received one Costume Designers Guild Award nomination.
The New York edition of Time Out listed the show in their top 50 TV shows of the decade 2000 - 2009.Alias also appeared in UGO.com's list of Top 50 TV Shows of All Time. In 2010, Kristin dos Santos of E! ranked it number 4 on her list, "Top 20 TV Series of the Past 20 Years".
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.
(Eastern & Pacific Time)
|Season premiere||Season finale||TV season||Ranking||Viewers|
|1||Sunday 9:00 PM (September 30, 2001 - May 12, 2002)||September 30, 2001||May 12, 2002||2001-2002||#60||9.7|
|2||Sunday 9:00 PM (September 29, 2002 - May 4, 2003)||September 29, 2002||May 4, 2003||2002-2003||#72||9.0|
|3||Sunday 9:00 PM (September 28, 2003 - May 23, 2004)||September 28, 2003||May 23, 2004||2003-2004||#78||8.2|
|4||Wednesday 9:00 PM (January 5, 2005 - May 25, 2005)||January 5, 2005||May 25, 2005||2004-2005||#37||10.3|
|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||6.7|
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 9:00 p.m. in late 2001. For its first two seasons, family-friendly program The Wonderful World of Disney served as Alias incompatible lead-in. 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.
The season 2 episode "Phase One" aired as a lead-out for Super Bowl XXXVII. Despite earning critical acclaim from USA Today, and achieving series-high ratings of 17.4 million viewers, it was unable to fully benefit from the post-Super Bowl time slot due to ABC airing a 40-minute post-game show (unusually long even by Super Bowl standards), which pushed its start time past 11:00 p.m. ET. The episode retained only 19 percent of the Super Bowl audience, and has the dubious distinction of earning the lowest overall ratings for a program airing after a Super Bowl since at least 1987, and the lowest rating ever (8.3 rating) in the age 18-49 demographic for a post-Super Bowl program, until Elementary in 2013.
Its ratings peak was reached in its fourth season, when ABC moved the program to Wednesday, in a 9:00 p.m. time slot following another (yet more successful) J. J. Abrams' drama, Lost, 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; 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, as it faced competition from the results broadcasts of season 4 of American Idol, then nearing the peak of its popularity.
Coming off its most-watched season, Alias was moved to Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. in the fall of 2005 by ABC in an effort to invigorate the network's weak 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. In November 2005, ABC announced that the current fifth season of Alias would be its final one. ABC then temporarily aired Alias on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. in December, receiving the lead-in support of Lost.
The ABC network gave the show a 4-month hiatus (allowing Jennifer Garner to give birth to her first child); however, when it was brought back in April 2006, its new time slot was Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. Notwithstanding, the viewer numbers still remained dismal, culminating in a 2-hour series finale airing on Monday, May 22, 2006 (broadcast against both the season finales of the hit dramas, Fox's 24 and CBS' CSI: Miami) which attracted 6.68 million viewers. In comparison, the first season averaged 9.7 million viewers.
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."
The Alias production team has participated in at least two spoofs based upon the series and featuring cast members.
Other spoofs and humorous references include:
In May 2010, E! Online 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. Subsequently, Entertainment Weekly columnist Michael Ausiello confirmed that ABC was in the early stages of developing a reboot, but that the potential series probably would not make it beyond the development phase.
Varèse Sarabande released a season one soundtrack containing 26 tracks. These tracks were 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 did not receive as much praise as the first soundtrack. A soundtrack for Alias: The Video Game, composed by Chris Tilton (who also provided additional music for later episodes of the TV series), was also released, but can only be downloaded online.
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 video game 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.
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.
The second series of novels, titled "The APO Series", fit into the season four timeframe and are published by Simon Spotlight Entertainment.
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Super Bowl lead-out program