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Alias: The Complete First Season

J.J. Abrams must be an amazing pitch man. That's one of the few logical explanations for why Alias — a TV show about a beautiful graduate student/ass-kicking double agent — didn't end up lost in the world of straight-to-syndication series like She Spies and Relic Hunter. Perhaps, when it came time to sell his pilot, Abrams rightly emphasized Alias's focus on drama as much as its somewhat campy penchant for wigs and tight costumes. Maybe he told executives that spy Sydney Bristow's (Jennifer Garner) complicated relationship with her father/fellow double agent, Jack (Victor Garber), would provide some heart-wrenching scenes, or that her growing attraction to her CIA handler, Michael Vaughn (Michael Vartan), would have the distaff portion of the show's audience riveted and rooting for romance. Or maybe he just went over an outline of the first season's plot and everyone else in the meeting got so befuddled that they just agreed to greenlight the show to make their heads stop hurting. Most of the first season's main storylines kick off in the pilot: After her fiancé (Edward Atterton) is killed because she tells him about her covert career, Sydney discovers that the agency she's working for, SD-6, isn't really a branch of the CIA (as she's always been told), but rather a renegade outfit run by ex-CIA biggie Arvin Sloane (Ron Rifkin). Betrayed and bent on revenge, Sydney offers her services to the real CIA, only to find out that her father is also a mole. Meanwhile, Syd and her partner, Dixon (Carl Lumbly), are sent to investigate a mysterious gadget — the first of many connections to an enigmatic Renaissance inventor that will pop up throughout the season. Subsequent episodes hold more revelations — both personal and professional — in store for Syd and her colleagues and friends (Bradley Cooper and Merrin Dungey co-star as Sydney's friend Will and roommate Francie, respectively); Abrams never tires of pulling the rug out from under his characters' (and audience's!) feet whenever things are getting a little too settled. And then, of course, there are the costumes. From a red punk wig and fishnets to long blond locks and a blue rubber dress, Garner parades through an endless stream of outrageous disguises as she infiltrates evil corporations and tightly guarded embassies, ready to whip out a roundhouse kick at a moment's notice. Each hour of the show is exhilarating escapism of the first order — well-acted escapism (Garner and Garber are the standouts), but escapism nonetheless. Which is just fine; after all, isn't that what TV is all about? Alias: The Complete First Season comes to DVD in a six-disc set and offers strong anamorphic transfers (1.78:1) and action-friendly Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (Spanish 2.0 Stereo and English closed-captions are also available). Discs One and Five feature episode-specific audio commentaries: Abrams and Garner chat during the pilot ("Truth Be Told"), while other crew members discuss episodes 2 ("So It Begins") and 17 ("Q&A," the first season's sole clip show). The rest of the extras are on Disc Six, with most of the principal cast sitting in for a boisterous commentary on the season finale ("Almost Thirty Years"), plus two featurettes (a pilot production diary and a stunts spotlight), six deleted scenes, a fun gag reel, TV spots, a Season Two DVD sneak peek, a video game preview, and DVD credits. Three dual-DVD keep-cases.
—Betsy Bozdech

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