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Favorite spy show

Matthew Gilbert writes: "Let's get real. Sure, '24' is the CIA drama that gets all the buzz, but 'Alias,' so audacious and so plastic fantastic, is really the bee's knees."

It's pretty clear where Matthew's loyalties lie. Now we want to know what you think. Which spy show delivers the goods, and why do you like it so much?

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24 is the best! I never miss an episode - which means I'll rush home from the gym and set the VCR when necessary. I watched the first couple of episodes of Alias and wasn't impressed and saw a couple more this season. I think 24's much more interesting and gripping and can't even put the two on the same plane. Plus, I think it needs to be said that Alias is much more stuck on cheap tactics - like Sydney showing skin twice every episodes. Meanwhile, Jack Bauer, the prez and all of the other characters make 24 worth watching.

Tracy, Brighton

True Blue Alias fan all the way. Well, so far anyway...we'll see how the rest of the season goes.

Jen, Los Angeles, CA

Alias, no question! It is not only my favorite spy shows but one of if not the best show I have ever seen, it is the only show I watch beside programming on PBS. Alias is the most original show on TV in years. I sit in front of my television every Sunday at 8 p.m. Mountain time with 10 or 11 of my colege friends and worship the show. Besides its originality, it has great storylines and plot twists nearly everyweek, the writing is subperb. The Acting is first rate by everyone. The production is the best on TV. Everyweek after the show we are always looking forward scratching our heads and in absolute awe of this amazing show. I was a little concerned that some of the soapy themes might turn off some viewers like a couple of my friends who watch with me that are on the football team, but they all stayed and did not mind. I feel that even though some themes might be "soapy" they deal with them in a very real and mature, and important way. Nothing is better than ALIAS.

Damien Beatty, Laramie, Wyoming

I fail to see what is wrong with a spy drama trying to remain in reality. While it is a hamper for sure, the challenge of avoiding the use of special gadgets and explaining away resurrections with codes from ancient prophecies is a fair one, and makes "24" a more enjoyable show for those who prefer normal fiction to pure fantasy. I do embrace both shows . but my special loyalty lies with "24", my first and favorite spy drama. The first season of "24" took in innovative approach of a 24-hour real time format which made it quite refreshing compared to the normal day-to-day format of most shows. What you define as 'thin acting' must be the continuingly stellar performances of Kiefer Sutherland (I didn't think Emmys went to statues that grunt. I'd hope Jennifer Garner agrees), Carlos Bernard, Reiko Aleysworth, Sarah Clarke, and Dennis Haysbert. On the other hand, Jennifer Garner doesn't really have a challenging character to play . she's simply a heroine, one who is free from drug problems, and who is more troubled by love interests than ticking bombs or preventing wars. I'm not saying she's a poor actress, she simply doesn't have as much work to do as Kiefer Sutherland or Sarah Clarke. The actors I'd be emphasizing when speaking highly of "Alias" are Ron Rifkin in his fantastic portrayal of the shifty, almost fatherly Arvin Sloane and Bradley Cooper in sometimes phenomenal performances as the sweet, too often victimized reporter/CIA analyst Will Tippin, who has now all but disappeared from, rather forgotten by the characters. Being a fan of both of the shows, I'm supposing you mean the lack of unnecessary colorful costumes and pretty nightclubs in "24" compared to "Alias" (though, in comparing special effects, "24" definitely wins out . I laughed out loud a few times at the poor quality of "Alias"' special effects during the first season). However, when I remember scenes such as Jack finding his dead wife's body at the end of the first season (my personal favorite season finale of all time), the exposing of Nina, the death of George Mason going down with the bombed plane, the extensive torturing of Jack. I'd say there have been some pretty powerful images from "24". I'll agree that last season's cliffhanger wasn't nearly as good as the first season finale of "24" . and "Alias" had a better second season finale. It didn't take much "24" intuition to tell Palmer wasn't dead yet, while "Alias" did what "24" did its first season . left us with not so much a cliffhanger but a definitive ending that leaves the viewer shaken, not quite believing it but having no choice but believe it. If the answer to the "24" cliffhanger hasn't become obvious to you (i.e. Palmer isn't dead), then you really must not follow the show very well. The fact that we haven't seem some old nemeses (Nina, Sherry) makes them likely to show up later on. I'd be surprised if we never saw Jack wreak horrifying vengeance on Nina, for instance. The presumption that you know exactly what's going on in "24" is a rather large one. I certainly don't presume to know what's going on in "Alias", though in the past I've found it a bit more predictable than "24". Simplistic solutions? Funny, I didn't think Jack, after finding a fake bomb and then almost getting killed detonating the real bomb, then having to prevent a major attack on the testimony of a known terrorist was really a simplistic solution. Nor did I find the continuous chase and prevention of the deaths of his wife, daughter, and candidate Palmer, ultimately ending in the deaths of both the terrorist causing it and Jack's wife, not to mention the treachery of one of Jack's closest allies, was really a simplistic solution. "24"'s format allows it to dig the characters deeper into a bad situation, but then carries the weight of pulling them out before the season finale. While this wasn't done as well last season as it was the first season, I'd hardly call it poor quality. The fact that "Alias" relies on a heroine who can play-dress up, uses sleek, impossible gizmos, can speak approximately 98089089067667868 languages, and can take down five bad guys single-handedly simply makes it more a typical spy drama, which there are many of. "24", on the other hand, doesn't need these flashy stereotypes to be thrilling and highly entertaining. Sure, it's fun to see Sydney dress in a different outfit every episode, but it's neither realistic nor relevant. It's, as you say, escapism . which, while it doesn't necessarily mean inferiority, it certainly doesn't guarantee superiority. "Alias" is able to show us these little outside-the-job emotional insights of Sydney's because of the format. "24" simply doesn't have time to delve into the persona lives of the characters . time is limited, and most must be spent on furthering the plot. This doesn't mean we don't get any emotional scenes . Jack's reaction to being told by Nina that Kim's body was found, the office romance of Tony and Michelle (a subplot I've always preferred this romance to the inevitable pairing of Sydney and Vaughn . which I have no doubt will reoccur soon), and Palmer's reaction to being questioned by his cabinet come to mind. As for empowered women, I am shocked you try to reason that "24" does not display resilient women based solely on one female character. Look at Michelle Dessler, who maintains a high position at CTU and, in light of current events on the show, will likely have a chance to shine as she takes over as director of the Unit. As far as I can remember, we haven't seen women in positions of seniority over men in "Alias". Or Nina Myers, who while a treacherous character (a double agent in her own right, in fact), is a strong personality and a key player in the plot, nailed by the powerful acting of Sarah Clarke. And, Sherry Palmer, another villain (though this status is arguable after the finale of season two) whose manipulative character has made her a term in the show . "pull a Sherry", as used by Palmer's brother. As for resilience, Michelle has survived an explosion in her office and aided in averting the implosion of a nuclear bomb, not to mention being the key to preventing a misguided war and going against her superior (and love interest) to aid Bauer in preventing the attack. Nina Myers must face the unfaltering interrogation of the man whose wife she killed, and cleverly bargains her way out of federal prison. Sherry is stabbed and must later act as a double agent for Jack to prove the falsity of the Cypress recording. Even Kim and Teri, Jack's dead wife, put up with their share of misery. Not to mention the painful and extensive scenes showing Jack's torture, which really are only rivaled on "Alias" by the torture of Will in the season finale . both times Sydney is faced with torture, we are quickly saved from actually viewing it. Even I can get tired of Sydney's karate scenes. Yet another spy stereotype . Sydney could kill with a paper clip, while more realistically, Jack needs a gun. I don't see what's wrong with being at least a little fantastical. The only time I watch the clock during "24" is to lament that so little time is left in the hour. There were several times during the first season I felt I was watching just for the performance of Bradley Cooper as Will Tippin. I don't see anything with a show that doesn't bring people back to life with 15th century prophets, have immortal characters, or mystical elements. I like "24" for sticking to the real world and dealing with real issues, and I admire it taking the disadvantages of steering clear of magic or typical spy drama stereotype. I like "Alias" because the elements can be fun to watch. Both shows deliver thrills and twists, though I'll still always prefer "24", if "one is drowning."


No contest - Alias wins hands down!

mmack, canaan, nh

Alias totally is the best written televisoon spy show on the air. it delivers a great acting exprience and plots counter plots subplots etc. Not only is the acting above average the well writtne scripts are the best i've seen. Jack's dry humor and the romantic triangles , the twists and turns. Almost being considered as television spy scifi, Alias brings roamnce with action , adding humor , and the perfect amount of suspicion. If you don't belive me try the members at (founded by Charlie) (the best alias site ever) ~Chanel Alias wins over 24 anytime

chanel, riveredge


Susan Raines, Grundy

I watch every episode of both shows, and I have to say "24" is the best. "Alias" is alot of fun to watch, and I love how it constantly reinvents itself. "24" is more addictive, and more thrilling. With all the trash that is on TV nowadays, it's a shame that Gilbert has to slam "24," a show that has been nominated for 2 Emmys. Sure, you can nitpick it to death, but it feels real. The show thrives on the situation, much like "Law and Order" and from the situation you learn about the characters. Jack does not have the time to have nice little dinners with his loved ones like Sydney. That's how the show is, and if you don't like it, fine. However, this element gives "24" a sense of urgency that "Alias" will never have. And "24" can throw some twists at you, too. Who thought Tony would get shot last week? And calling Jack Bauer a statue that grunts? Absolutely ridiculous. Anyone with half a brain can watch the show and tell you Bauer is a great character and Sutherland personifies him to perfection. "24" may be serious and dark, but it's fun to watch, too. It's the best show on TV without a doubt.

Steve, Boston

Alias!!!!!! By far the best!!!

Brenda, Tucson/Arizona

ALIAS! Hands down...

Liz, Somerville, MA

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