Espionage, hair dye, kung fu, attractive men -- this show's got it all, says Jessica Shaw
Alias, Jennifer Garner
Credit: Alias: Norman Jean Roy
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Why you need to watch ”Alias”

I have a confession to make. I never had the slightest intention to get hooked on ”Alias” (ABC, Sundays, 9 p.m.). I liked the poster. I loved her ”Run Lola Run” Kool Aid-colored hair. And, the night of the premiere, I happened to be home alone with no plans. Now, a month later, I plan my week around each new episode. Which is more than I can say about any other show on TV.

Sunday night television has a way of sneaking up on you. I think we’ve always lucked out with those first-night shows: ”The Simpsons,” ”The X-Files,” ”The Practice,” and the best of HBO, ”The Sopranos” and ”Sex and the City.” Or perhaps it’s because by Sunday night, I’m just in a mood to love TV.

But what is it about ”Alias” that works so well? First and foremost, Jennifer Garner. She has been a standout on ”Felicity” and in the short-lived, deliciously horrible ”Significant Others.” I’m even able to look past the fact that my boyfriend would dump me faster than you could say ”SD-6” to go on a date with her. She’s sexier than Lola, smarter than ”La Femme Nikita,” and can kick ass better than any other woman on TV. (”Buffy” fans, hold your emails. I’m all about the Vampire Slayer, but it looks better when an actual woman — not her twice-as-muscular stunt double — is delivering that roundhouse kick to the jaw).

Garner’s Sydney wouldn’t be quite as fascinating without the myriad of men in her life. The increasingly complex relationship with her long-absent spy dad (Victor Garber) is heartbreaking, infuriating, and touching to watch. The SD-6 guys walk the line perfectly between creepy and cuddly. Her C.I.A. contact Vaughn (Michael Vartan) is clearly slated to become her love interest — we could spot that from 50 miles away during last week’s episode when he told that sob-story about his girlfriend. But my favorite F.O.S. (friend of Sydney) is definitely Will (Bradley Cooper). Ever since that first scene between the two of them jogging on their university track, I knew he was going to cause trouble. The tension between them is palpable.

Now, the bad news. The show isn’t exactly doing ”Friends”-like numbers. So why aren’t people watching? Most people I’ve spoken to think the show is too confusing. No doubt there is far too much to keep track of these days and mindless ”Friends” information might be all some people can handle. Yes, there’s a lot going on, but if you miss one detail it’s not like you’re going to be lost. You just have to know what SD-6 is (a secret anti-government group within the C.I.A.), who Sydney’s father really is (a C.I.A./SD-6 double — and possibly triple — agent), and who is ”Kate Jones” (that’s Sydney’s nom de guerre).

Well, okay, it’s a decent amount of information. Lucky for anyone who’s lost after missing the first episode or two, ABC is re-airing the pilot on Oct. 30 at 9:30 p.m. That’s THIS TUESDAY, people. I’ll be watching and searching for tiny details so I can obsessively put together the pieces of Sydney’s life. Check it out. I’m warning you know that you’ll end up canceling every Sunday night plan for the rest of the season but you won’t be sorry you did.

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