the film snob

A cyberspace journal about my experiences as an NYU film school grad student, reviews of current and classic films, film and TV news, and the rants and raves of an admitted (and unapologetic) film snob.

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Esse Quam Videri -- To be, rather than to appear

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Alias--The Fifth Season

I write film and TV reviews at Here are synopsis' and links to those reviews.

When Alias first hit TV screens, it was mesmerizing. Part thriller, part camp, J.J. Abram’s pet project was an astounding cornucopia of unpredictable plot twists and cliff-hangers, exotic locales, sexy women, heart-pounding action and the sort of spy mythology that both borrowed from and simultaneously reinvented the universe of James Bond. Inexplicable and impossible, Alias nonetheless somehow transcended its built-in shortcomings and rose to the point of nearly flawless plausibility.

Not an easy thing to do in a show like this.

Secret Agent Sydney Bristow’s (Jennifer Garner) tragic need to suppress the very truth in her private life that she was searching for in her public life made for stellar drama. Surrounded by a cast of characters both sympathetically insidious and darkly virtuous, Alias became a massive cult phenomenon.

At least that was the first couple seasons.

There is a piece of established Hollywood urban legend that states that J.J. Abrams creates wonderful shows that do phenomenally well so long as he is at the helm. But as soon as he alters his focus to another project, his shows tank. Felicity anyone? (Thankfully, Lost seems to be bucking that trend.) It certainly proved true with Alias as Abrams became distracted with producing Lost and directing Mission Impossible III.

Things began sliding in Season Three. The floor dropped out in Season Four. And Season Five died trying desperately to crawl back to something approaching its former self. Increasingly silly, more and more implausible, and continually feeling like a retread of its former glory, the show, in many critic's opinions, gleefully began jumping the preverbal shark. Ratings had dropped so low into the early weeks of the fifth season, that ABC not only cancelled the show, they cut the number of episodes from 23 to 17.

Season five opens with the same literal bang that closed the season four cliffhanger: just as Vaughn is about to admit something of vast importance to Sydney, pregnant with his child, their car is struck. Sydney barely escapes what turns out to be an extraction for Vaughn who is assumed to have been a longtime double-agent. As Sloane's daughter continues to waste away in a coma, a cure is offered him by the nefarious group, Prophet Five--a cure that will bring him back into the orbit of his life's obsession, Rambaldi and set in motion a confrontation that will encompass the return of old enemies and the necessity of new allies in a final, apocalyptic showdown that will ultimately claim the lives of both friends and foes alike.

To read the full review, click here.


Anonymous nate said...

Lost seems to be bucking that trend? Really?

11:16 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Stumbling is not the same as jumping the shark.

11:25 AM  
Anonymous nate said...

Seems to me that a long, protracted stumble seems to be following a trend, as trends tend to head a certain direction.
And you made season 3 of Alias sound as if it too was just a stumble, a prelude to the shark jumping, or, as I like to call it, becoming total crap.

I will be glad to be proven wrong. Lost may become great again. But I may not stick around much longer to see it.

What, you didn't catch that interview where the creators essentially copped to treating it as a franchise where they can continually introduce new characters to create a factory of non-redundant flashbacks, all while sweeping the older characters and their unresolved mysteries under the rug? No? Then here it is.

Also, if you read it closely, you will see that they basically say that the stuff introduced in the beginning of the series was important, and the stuff that will come at the end will be important, but everything else is interchangeable fat and padding that serves to buy an indefinite amount of time until they figure out which season will be the last.
No thanks.
The proof is on screen. Just one example: All that time invested in the tailies and now every one of them is dead? (Bernard doesn't count). You think that was all planned out? If so, I've got some swamp land to sell you.

Screw Lost.

11:41 AM  
Anonymous nate said...

Clearly I am bitter.

11:42 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...


11:45 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Well, I haven't given up quite yet. While this season has been dissapointing to be sure, I'm willing to see it out. And it surprises me that you may not be, when, just months ago you were a raving fan. Don't jump off the boat too quickly. Let's give them a chance to fully unfold this or to catch their breath and pick up the pieces.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Nate said...

I don't remember the conversation, but I'm not sure I ever would have described myself as a raving fan. A fan, at times. Lost has never, ever been my favorite show. In fact, I shouldn't have really said "Lost will become great again," since I think it's a stretch to say that Lost has ever been great, as opposed to pretty good.
(Maybe for a period of time in the first season, but it hasn't gotten back there since.)

I have always gone back and forth on Lost. At best it has been a pulpy guilty pleasure. It has never done anything close to opening my eyes to the potential of long form television like, say, BSG or The Wire, shows that you walked away from feeling a little more enlightened on how human beings worked.

Even worse, the stupid, unquestioning characters on Lost have very little consistency and have the richness and flavor of unhydrated oatmeal. The show can be fun, but I am at a loss to explain why many people continue to call it one of the best dramas on TV. I'm convinced people are still going on the fumes of the first season, even though even then it was little more than pretty damn good pulp.

In the end it is still network television: Safe. Redundant. An open ended and completely modular narrative stretched to the point of flacidness, in the service of an indefinite source ad revenue until the last drops of life and mystery have been sucked out of it.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous nate said...

I get sad when you don't answer. Very sad. I never like to have the last word. Honest!

7:38 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

I guess I find Lost facinating and keep watching because, like a car accident, I have to find out what happened. That said, I agree that it is not "great" TV. Not like The Wire or BSG or others. And I agree that it is faux complicated. They said they started with an end game in mind and an established number of seasons they'd need to pull that off. Right now, half way through season three, I sure don't feel that focus. But I still say it hasn't jumped the shark yet...yet. I keep holding onto that great season two finale...

8:20 AM  

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