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Feature: Alias

Spy Daddy

The Alias gang

Creator JJ Abrams tells us he hopes to be involved in the final days of his greatest creation... but will the in-demand polymath have time?

While he may not be as involved in the show’s production as once he was, there’s no mistaking the enthusiasm of JJ Abrams, creator of Alias, for how it’s all turned out. It’s a series that’s frequently surprised and delighted, often shocked, and, just occasionally, really pissed off its viewers, often by turning its entire premise on its head. It’s also been at least partially responsible for the level Abrams finds himself at now, a level that finds him in the role of executive producer on one of the world’s most-debated TV shows, Lost, scripting and directing the first of the summer’s big blockbusters, Mission: Impossible III, and being offered the chance to help revive the Star Trek franchise with its 11th screen outing. It was sitting down and watching episodes of Alias from a box set that alerted M:I-3 star Tom Cruise to Abrams’s abilities, and fans will know why. It’s sharp, clever, dazzling, and has remained strong throughout its five-year run. How? Well…

“The goal has always been, ‘What interests us?’ and if there’s an idea for a story that does, we’ll pursue that. It’s that same inspiration that got the show on the air and was behind any shows that people liked, but the trick is, when you do any number of episodes, you’re meeting levels of expectation that simply can’t please anyone. There’s some people who said, ‘Oh, Season Three was an abomination,’ and other people say, ‘Oh, that was my favourite season’. And there’s people who feel that Season Five has been incredible so far, but if you compare it with Seasons One and Two it’s nowhere near as fresh and original. And you think, ‘Well, that’s ’cos it’s Season Five’. But it’s not to say that they’re wrong, it’s just that we do the best we can and hope that it works – and it doesn’t always work. If it does work that’s wonderful, and sometimes it works in a certain context because it’s compared to other series before it. So the goal was always to try to make it entertaining to [us] and hope that it appeals to other people as well.”

The fifth season presented one other large (and growing) problem from the outset: a pregnant star in the expanding shape of Jennifer Garner. Considering her role of Sydney Bristow was so action-orientated, as you might expect from a spy, clearly this was going to present a few difficulties. “I wouldn’t say that it was the greatest thing for her character this season in terms of the freedom to come up with whatever we wanted to,” says Abrams honestly. “If we’d decided we wanted to make her pregnant we could have done it, put a pillow under her shirt and done a time jump, but these are the things that you have to deal with, and whether it’s something as wonderful as Jennifer getting pregnant or something as horrible as, in the case of The West Wing, John Spencer passing away, you roll with the punches.

by Paul Spragg

Read the full interview in
Cult Times #129

Photo © ABC
Feature © Visual Imagination 2006. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Cult Times #129, see below for ordering options
Cult Times #129
June 2006
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