ALIAS: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON
MOVIE: ***** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ***** (out of 5)
Jennifer Garner as SYDNEY BRISTOW
Michael Vartan as MICHAEL VAUGHN
Melissa George as LAUREN REED
Ron Rifkin as ARVIN SLOANE
Victor Garber as JACK BRISTOW
Carl Lumbly as MARCUS DIXON
Kevin Weisman as MARSHALL FLINKMAN
Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
BY KEVIN CARR
For several years now, I have been a very vocal critic of Jennifer Garner. However, after watching “Alias: Season 3” on DVD, I humbly will revise my opinion. I no longer think that Jennifer Garner is a terrible actor. She can actually be quite good, given the appropriate role. She’s just not that versatile.
This is nothing new for an actor. Consider Garner the Julia Roberts of her generation. She can play a very specific role very well, but if you have her branch out or don’t direct her properly, you end up with crap. With that said, Garner was born to play CIA agent Sydney Bristow.
If you’ve never watched a frame of an “Alias” episode, you can still join in the fun now that the complete third season is on DVD. Part of what makes this series so well written is that you can literally jump in at almost any point, and you’ll figure things out. Watching all 22 episodes in a short time frame makes you realize that the sit-down discussions between Sydney and her father Jack (Vincent Garber) also serve as blatant exposition for the uninitiated.
Season 3 takes up with Sydney missing two years of her life. Although everyone she knows is still around, everything’s different. Her father is being held in solitary confinement, meticulously questioned by the NSC. Her nemesis Arvin Sloan has become a humanitarian and philanthropist. And, most alarming for Sydney, things are different for Agent Vaughn (Michael Vartan). You might think it’s horrible enough that he quit the CIA to become a high school French teacher, but what’s worse is that he’s also married to a really hot British chick from the NSC.
I don’t watch a whole lot of series television. As lame as this excuse is going to sound, it’s true: I can’t handle the time commitment. I hate having to make it home at a specific time or remember to put in a tape. The great thing about having the entire season on DVD is that you’ll never miss an episode.
“Alias” is one of the smartest shows I’ve seen since “The X-Files.” The entire season is worth owning on DVD simply because you’ll spend a fortune to rent it at the video store. There’s almost a thousand minutes to watch – and that’s not even touching the special features.
Included on the sixth DVD is a nice assortment of features. The “Alias Up Close” section has an assortment of behind-the-scenes documentaries, with a total running time of almost an hour. It includes segments on the guest stars, the production design and the crazy production schedule.
Also included is “The Animated Alias: Tribunal,” which is a anime-style short film that reveals a chapter in Sydney’s life during his lost two years. It’s not the greatest animated short I’ve seen, hardly up to snuff of something like “The Animatrix,” but it’s still fun to see and it completely panders to the comic book crowd that helped make the series a hit.
There are a handful of deleted scenes, which like most deleted scenes, don’t do a lot for the plot. However, it was nice to see one of them actually try to answer one of the plot holes in the last episode. The “Team Alias” segment has some really cheesy ABC promos for the Stanley Cup and Monday Night Football. Taken out of context of an actual television broadcast, these segments are almost too cheesy to watch.
Like most series, the cast and crew of “Alias” seem to have a good time, and it really comes through with their Blooper reel. There’s plenty of material to choose from, and what makes the bloopers really funny is to watch these ultra-serious characters crack up. Does Jack Bristow ever crack a smile on the show? Never. But we get to see him bust up on set. Oh, and the multiple takes of Jennifer Garner and Melissa George spontaneously pretending to make out are nice to see as well.
Four of the episodes feature commentary tracks. The most informative tracks are populated by creator J.J. Abrams and executive producer Ken Olin. Although Garner and some other cast members join the commentaries, they really don’t offer a whole lot.
However, by far the best commentary track features “Alias” fans Erin Daily and Jennifer Wong. I wish these two would have done a commentary for the entire season. Unlike most awkward fan commentaries, these two women manage to be as entertaining as the show itself. What makes it work is that they both have an undying passion for the show, but they are not immune to noticing weird plot holes or areas of the script where the audience is asked to suspend maybe too much disbelief. Erin Daily’s obsession with Jack Bristow’s beard in the first episode was enough to make me laugh out loud.
With this six-disc DVD set, I have seen the future of television. There’s no annoying commercials or station breaks. You’re not tied down to a specific time slot. And best of all, when you hit a cliffhanger episode, you don’t have to wait a week. (Of course, you do have to realize that there is that nasty little thing called the season finale, which also ends in a cliffhanger. See, now me and my wife are hooked, and we’re gonna end up suckling up to our TV every Sunday night now, damn it!)