Garner: Norman Jean Roy; Powers: Everett Collection
Ken Tucker
April 23, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Who says the idiot box isn’t educational? Some of the best shows on right now display a sense of history by building on previous programs and adding new twists and timely ideas. As Rod Serling used to say, submitted for your approval: a few of television’s most pedigreed series and the oldies that could have been their ideological inspirations.

”ALIAS” and ”THE GIRL FROM U.N.C.L.E.” (1966-67)
Setup Similarities Beautiful espionage agent (Jennifer Garner; Stefanie Powers) saves the world from foreign threats.
21st-Century Update ”Alias” has superior spandex-miniskirt technology and brightly colored wigs. And where Powers deployed an occasional karate chop, Garner is a post-”Terminator” fighting machine.
Why It Works ”Girl” — a spin-off of ”The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” — had a ’60s camp thing going on; ”Alias” has an ’02 counterterrorism thing going on while avoiding the camp of ”Austin Powers.”

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