Rewind: “ALIAS”

  
A new year, a new segment! Gotta have at least one!

This one isn’t actually focusing on the whole series, like the title kind of suggests. It took me a bit to figure out what to call it, but this one looks the best. No, this one is going back and pinpointing one area of that series. In this case, the place that started it all for shows that are now considered classics, and have no doubt been off the air for some time. This particular pilot, and series overall, debuted 15 years ago (although not till later this year, but whatever), so I figured, now would be as good a time as any and an excellent way to start!

The Disney-ABC Domestic Television (formerly Buena Vista Entertainment) pilot for “Alias”, is still just as exciting as it was the first time I saw it.

The pilot stars Jennifer Garner (upcoming films “Miracles from Heaven”, “Nine Lives”), Ron Rifkin (“Limitless (2015 TV series)”, “Gotham”), Michael Vartan (“Rectify”, “Satisfaction”), Bradley Cooper (“Limitless (2015 TV series)”, “Joy”), Merrin Dungey (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, “Chasing Life”), Carl Lumby (“Chicago Med”, “Zoo”), Kevin Weiseman (“The Blacklist”, “Scorpion”), and Victor Garber (upcoming series “Legends of Tomorrow”, “Sicario”).

The show was created by J.J. Abrams (“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”, “Undercovers”).

The pilot originally aired on Sept. 30, 2001.

I’ve been watching this series again and again for some time now, and seem to always forget what it it’s like. Each time is always surprising and fun to me, even though it’s all quite fresh in mind. While this is still true, even with this first episode, I still enjoyed it a lot, among so many other things that instantly hooked me. Seriously, as of this writing, I’m almost halfway through the first season!

First off, which is special and I just applaud as it’s no longer done, the length of the pilot. It’s over an hour on the DVD, which means it was probably about an hour and a half when it originally aired on TV. That’s one episode! Not this, which the series finale even took, combining of two episodes into one two hour block. No, it’s straight up an hour and a half! As far as I know, no show that’s on today does this anymore. Streaming and BBC/PBS shows don’t count. I think the last show to do this, interestingly, was “Lost” with it’s series finale. There’s something I just found to be absolutely special and a bit more fun with a longer pilot. Kind of wish we could go back to that with some shows.

One other fluffy and fun aspect, which I love, the gadgets. Well, it’s actually the gadgets provided by Weisman’s Flinkman and the spy craft that really makes this pilot be quite memorable. I mean, come on, we have the famous pink wig! How can you forget that? Such a great sequence.

The episode immediately pulled me in, which is amazing, as I’ve seen it a lot of times. The way Abrams, which he’s only continued to do with anything he creates, writes or produces, sets up the story and tells it isn’t straightforward. It’s full of mystery and twists. All of this, and the action and drama, allowed for me to be surprisingly affected. I just felt so drawn in and I couldn’t help but feel the excitement and tension that was being built. I think this could be a testament to either the episode and show and its lasting powers, or my ability to get into a show. I should not be able to be that affected, not still. Granted, I have no idea the last time I saw this show.

For me, it was also just plain interesting to be paying attention to. Abrams starts on two different ends of the story, and in between fills it with everything you need to know, or want to know. The mystery. Even just the bit where we see where Garner works for the first time was executed in just such a way that I was filled with awe. Actually, now that I”vet thought of it, most of the ways that Abrams had things transition were quite brilliant. They were perfect segues and had you immediately wanting more. Of course, you had to learn more before you could get more and through learning more, you had more questions and wanted more answers. I didn’t start watching this until right before the fourth season, so I had a lot to catch up on, but even now, I’m quite confident I would’ve absolutely been blown away by the way this episode was delivered. Only a few writers now can pull off something like this, and they have to do it in even less time. So fortunate with this one.

With Abrams at the helm here, and a lengthy time for the episode, he created a full and complex world, complete with many interesting people. Each character that is introduced, especially at first, tells you all that you need to know. You really learn so much, and I can see how it was that so many people were taken by them, especially Garner’s Sydney Bristow. Without any of the likability that these characters have, I think it would’ve been quite difficult to stick around or find them at all relatable. Another thing that was interesting. The drama of this episode, while stemming from some far out situation, is rooted in some kind of reality. You went through quite the emotional journey.

To balance out all the emotions you’re feeling, this show delivered a few exciting action sequences. While these sequences didn’t come in until later, they certainly brought a new kind of life to the episode. This is another area where I shouldn’t find it fun to be watching. I shouldn’t be pulled in by it all. I was, and I loved it! Every bit of action was perfect. There was a certain level of intensity to it, although different from that of later show “Nikita”, that made the action feel like there was actually something at stake. Garner actually has to feel the blows she takes and any other damage done to her. That’s one thing action shows and some films don’t really give us. People that bruise.

I’m not sure how this one should end. It’s the first one, so one would think special, but I can’t do special at the moment. I’ll save that for a few months from now. I’m just going to once again state that I’m amazed by how much I still love about this episode and how much I could get into it as if it were the first time. Really getting to be able to look at the construct of a pilot episode, from a long time ago, is going to be something I quite enjoy. Or, if it turns out I hate the pilot, like I remember hating “30 Rock”, then maybe not as much. But, I just want to try and see what it was that made people like a show so much that it went on for many years, or spawned some kind of cult following or allowed for it to be regarded so well, decades after it’s been off the air.

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