On Alias

The Night that Alias Reinvented Itself

By Paul Levinson

September 30, 2002, was not that night. But it was a nice Monday night in New York. I was walking with several colleagues to McNally Auditorium at Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus, where we were to appear on a panel about The Sopranos that I had organized. The fourth season of the HBO series had premiered two weeks earlier and had attracted a record-breaking audience for television: for the first time in the history of the medium, a cable TV show had scored better in the Nielsen ratings than any of its competitors on free network TV. The only thing bad about The Sopranos, I said to one of my colleagues–Lance Strate, who was to present a paper on The Sopranos and the state of New Jersey (cultural as well as physical)–was what to watch on TV on Sunday evenings when The Sopranos was not on. Lance looked at me and nodded sagely. “Watch Alias,” was all he said.

I had vaguely heard of Alias then, which had just started its second season the night before. As it turned out, I didn’t get to watch any of Alias until well into its third season, when my daughter (then seventeen) talked me into getting DVDs of the first two seasons (I’m sometimes a little slow to take a hint). Once I did, I was soon not only believing what Lance and my daughter had told me, but had come up with one way in which Alias was even better than The Sopranos,  …

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