Two decades ago, the Jennifer Garner-led spy series Alias premiered on ABC. An instant critical and audience hit, the the show launched both creator J.J. Abrams (you might have heard of that guy) and star Garner into the public consciousness. For five seasons, the show gave us amazing spy action, numerous twists and turns, soap opera drama, and more disguises than even Bugs Bunny.
Now, the entire series is streaming on Disney+. Whether you are revisiting the show, or watching it for the very first time, below are five reason why Alias should absolutely be next on your binge watching schedule.
Syndey Bristow’s Amazing Disguises
One of the most fun aspects of Alias was the variety of disguises that Sydney Bristow donned during her various missions for fictional spy organization SD6, and later for the CIA. So many accents, so many gadgets, so many wigs! And almost all of them were good! There were maids, Las Vegas cocktail waitresses, pushy tourists, and several nightclub goers sporting brightly colored hair. And that’s just scratching the surface. It was always a treat to see what Sydney would come up with for each episode throughout all five seasons of the show.
Watching J.J. Abrams Become a True Force in Genre Storytelling
Before Alias, J.J. Abrams was most famous for character dramas like Felicity, and writing movies like Regarding Henry and Forever Young. But with the release of his 2001 spy series, Abrams proved he was a master and providing excellent high adventure narratives with big action and big imagination. Alias was so good at doing spy stories, in fact, that Tom Cruise brought Abrams on board to direct Mission: Impossible III. Abrams’ company Bad Robot is still producing the M:I franchise, which still has elements of Alias all over it. Without Alias, there’s no Lost, no Star Trek, no The Force Awakens.
A Young Bradley Cooper
Most of the main cast of Alias were relative unknowns when the show began in the fall of 2001. But one one of the ensemble cast went on to have a big career in Hollywood, and this is Bradley Cooper. Although Cooper had appeared in small roles and some short-lived series before, it was his role on the series as journalist Will Tippin that really brought him mainstream attention. As his star was on the rise, Cooper stopped being a series regular after year two, but this show is an early indicator of his potential leading man star power. And Will Tippin is maybe the most earnest and lovable character he’s ever played.
The Mix of Family Drama with Epic Spy Stories
For all the spy action and big stunts, Alias never forgot that it was first and foremost a great family drama. Unlike James Bond or other similar spy franchises, Alias made sure to give viewers and emotional hook—all the high drama surrounding Sydney’s family—to keep us coming back from week to week. Sydney Bristow’s tumultuous relationship with her father (Victor Garber) and her mother (Lena Olin) created as much dramatic tension in any given episode as whether or not Sydney’s spy mission would succeed.
Twists Within Twists Within Twists
These days, we are used to our narrative television series being full of twists and turns. Just look at shows like Dead to Me as a perfect example. So many folks might not realize is that this kind of storytelling was highly unusual for mainstream network television almost twenty years ago when Alias first hit the airwaves. But Alias, especially in its firs two seasons, was a show that had so many surprise twists with each episode, that you sometimes needed a chart to keep up. This might have been off putting to casual viewers, but it made the hardcore fans even more obsessed. And makes it perfect for modern binge watching.
Originally published on May 13, 2020.