What the hell is happening to my favorite show?!? Last week, a clever filler episode of “Alias” put spies Sydney and Vaughn under deep cover as Russian assassins in a training camp designed to teach hired killers to blend in with middle America. It was a light, clever episode, enjoyable without too much real meat on it. A show as heavy as this one usually is needs an breather every now and then, and it’s kind of fun, even if it does play out like bad fan fiction.
But this week, “Alias” veered off its narrow track of the largely improbable to the completely unbelievable.
I mean, vampires? Seriously? Vampires?
“Nocturne” seemed like nothing more than a half-thought-out “X-Files” episode, with plenty of schlocky “jump” moments and potentially some of the worst dialogue ever to be uttered on what is usually a well-scripted program.
I have a theory: great creative minds cannot drive more than one project at a time. To consistently tell original and compelling stories, one needs to be focused, even obsessed, to the exclusion of all else.
We’ve seen it happen before with great TV shows. When Matt Groening started to spend time working on “Futurama,” the perennially funny “Simpsons” began to suffer. When Chris Carter thought up “Millennium,” his time away from “The X-Files” started that show into its slow, steady decline. David E. Kelly has had as many as three shows on the air at once, but only one of them is really very good at a time. Most recently, when Joss Whedon virtually abandoned “Buffy” for “Angel,” the former series crashed and burned.
Now we have the latest geek TV rock star, J.J. Abrams. For two seasons, the show’s creator and his team delivered the best show on the air, bar none. But last season, Abrams began to work on other projects, and the show suffered. Now, he’s spending plenty of time with the consistently compelling “Lost”, and what happens? We get episodes like “Nocturne.”
Two salvagable moments from an otherwise wasted hour: the budding relationship between Nadia and Weiss is great. They have real chemistry, and it draws a nice contrast to the staggered, hesitant steps that Syd and Vaughn are taking to get back together. The awkward moment in which Syd asks Weiss if he is staying over was absolutely priceless.
Likewise, the confrontation between Dixon and Sloane that capped off the episode was classic “Alias,” and really gave Ron Rifkin and Carl Lumbly a chance to chew the scenery. We need many more moments like this if “Alias” is to become a great show again.
This isn’t to say that I’ll stop watching. The show is still in my required viewing for the week (along with the aforementioned “Lost,” “24,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “Boston Legal”), but I just hope things can rebound quickly. “Alias” is enjoying its best ratings ever; let’s hope it doesn’t squander the opportunity.