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Ex-Spy-Ration

The cancellation of ''Alias'' -- We examine why ABC pulled the plug on the spy drama

On Thanksgiving Eve, ABC announced that supersly spy drama Alias will leave the airwaves for good this May. Yeah, right. We see through this black-ops smoke screen. We predict the show will return from the dead in two years' time with a shocking twist that involves a Nielsen-ratings cover-up at the highest levels...

Sorry, back to reality. But it's just this type of paranoid, nothing-is-what-it-seems plot contorting that Alias fans have reveled in during the series' ambitious, colorful, frustrating, riveting five-season run.

Unleashed by J.J. Abrams in 2001, the show offered an intriguing premise: Sydney Bristow (Jennifer Garner) was a grad student moonlighting as an international spook alongside her dad. Soon it transformed into a Bond-meets-X-Files whirlwind of missions impossible, quadruple crosses, and long-lost spy relatives. ''To me, what's mattered about this character is how much she's struggled to hold on to her humanity in the middle of this weird world that she lives in,'' Garner tells EW. From Sydney's original mission to take down SD-6 (a seemingly covert CIA branch run by Ron Rifkin's Sloane that was actually a terrorist cell) to her work at APO (an actual covert CIA branch run by a seemingly reformed Sloane), the series has boasted more reinventions than Madonna and Cher combined. And almost as many wigs. ''I love that J.J. never let us take it so seriously that we couldn't just turn it all on its head,'' Garner says.

Alias has again recalibrated itself this season, focusing on Sydney's pregnancy and the ''murder'' of Michael Vartan's Vaughn. (Dead, alive, or never existed? We'll find out; he'll return for several episodes.) In the wake of the cancellation news — no shock, given the sagging ratings (7 million viewers this season) — the show resumes in March to tie up years of clue-clogged story lines. Look for resolution on the murky Rambaldi mythology — as well as the resurfacing of familiar faces including Mom, Weiss, and possibly Evil Francie and Will — before Sydney joins those spies in the sky. ''There are very few accidents in the world of Alias storytelling,'' says executive producer Jeff Pinkner. ''And by the time this season ends, you'll see that the ending very much revisits what was set up in the first episode.''

Rest in peace, Alias. (Pssst, meet you at that secret drop in 2008.)

Originally posted Dec 02, 2005 Published in issue #853 Dec 09, 2005 Order article reprints
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