When the TV show Alias first came out, it looked quite good, and I didn’t watch it on purpose.  I did the same thing with X Files and 24.  I knew that if I started, I’d be hooked, and someday would miss several and not be able to get back into the swing of things, and that would bug me to no end.

But now it’s been several years since it came out, and the first three seasons are available for rent.  Last friday my wife and I rented the first season.  Yesterday we rented the second.  That’s why this is a movie review instead of a TV review.

I really like the show, it’s a lot of fun.  There’s plenty of action, good mystery, and the writing is pretty good.  It requires a small amount of suspension of disbelief simply because there’s not enough time to explain everything.  For example, often Sydney (our heroine) goes off for days on CIA jobs, and her dad "takes care of it" with Sloane, the evil boss.  No other explanation.  But then, there isn’t really time, so you roll with it.

There’s an interesting mix of obviously real tech, and probably fake tech in the show.  Microphones and camera’s in a lipstick is fairly probable, but they had a lipstick cam that could take a full 3d shot of an entire room with one click.  They also had a device that you could lay on top of a computer case and it would copy the entire contents of the spinning hard drive inside in seconds.  But it’s FUN to accept that stuff, just like with James Bond.

Something interesting to note is that every computer is some sort of Linux, and I even saw Gnome a few times.  Jack, the quasi-evil dad, gets secret messages by using ftp (the nasty old Unix version) to log into a remote server and cat-ing the README.

The Geek was captured, and forced to write a program for the bad guys.  He wrote it in C and used gcc to compile it.  Then let his people know where he was by simultaneously DDOSing his own servers back home without hiding his location.

Why is that cool?  Because both Apple and MS want Hollywood.  When someone opens a laptop, they want you to see the Apple logo, or the Dell logo and spin around to see the screen and see the MS logo.  The Alias folk didn’t sell their computing.  All machines are unlabelled, and the OS is Unix.  There’s a certain amount of realism in that as well.  Most of the computer stuff they do is over networks to servers, and Linux just makes sense in that environment.

Interesting Elements
In both seasons one and two, the show starts with a brief layout of the characters (no actor names listed) and a "previously on alias".  Then they start in on the show.  Then on an average of 10 minutes into the show, they do the credits and starting music.  One episode had the starting music 17 minutes into the show.  That’s just wierd.

Something I like is that while the show usually ends at a cliff-hanger, the "previously on alias" always ends at that spot, and it picks up seamlessly.  There’s no "Oh, while you were gone this week they escaped and are now home and safe".

On the whole, it was a  lot of fun, and we still have the second half of the second season and the whole third season to go.  I’d suggest it to anyone who likes action shows.

2 thoughts on “Alias

  1. Without wanting to give too much away, the office computers in Season 4 are all 17″ apple powerbooks. In the first episode you could see the logos and from then on they’re covered up. But when they’re on the road, rather than taking the apples with them they seem to have Dells running what I presume is some version of linux. One thing I always watch with wonder is the OS used on the mainframes they interact with. The search tools and natural language processing on those things would be wonderful to have!

    On believability, I think Nate had it right when he said Alias should be watched as a superhero comic:

  2. Hmmm… the only time I watched, it seemed all talk. She was having some conflict with her dad or something, and I was 10 or more minutes into the show and nothing happenend. Maybe I’ll give it another shot.

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