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First look: ‘Alias’

Grad student by day, CIA agent by night

At first glance, “Alias” is not exactly the kind of show you’d expect from the creator of “Felicity.”

It’s packed with high-tech gadgets, loud explosions and virtually nonstop butt kicking. And while it’s got a female hero at its center — played by Jennifer Garner (“Pearl Harbor”) — this femme doesn’t spend much time gazing at her navel.

Garner’s Sydney Bristow is leading a secret life: grad student by day, CIA agent by night. She’s also dealing with the sudden death of her longtime boyfriend and the revelation that her dad’s a spy, too. And lots of people are being mean to her.

“The premise of the show is ludicrous: The idea that there would be a young woman, who is in grad school, who is a spy. That’s not neces-sarily the sort of show that interests me from the outside,” admits Jim Abrams, creator of “Felicity,” a show that helped create the WB’s young-femme appeal. “I really came to it from the inside: Who is this woman and what is her loss and what are the relationships in her life? It’s (both) the obvious sort of flash and the kind of stuff that is sort of more high concept, and then the more intimate, dramatic stories that I find really compelling myself.”

Abrams hopes the show’s multiple layers will help it attract a broad audience in a tough timeslot, Sundays at 9 p.m. opposite Fox’s “The X-Files” and NBC’s latest “Law & Order” series, “Criminal Intent.”

ABC execs haven’t been shy about their love for “Alias,” giving it the biggest promo push of any of their new dramas. Its premiere will air without commercials via a deal with cell phone giant Nokia.

Industry analyst Steve Sternberg, senior VP at Gotham-based Magna Global USA, thinks “Alias” should help ABC attract a much younger aud than had been watching “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”

“It was one of the better-done pilots this year,” he says. “The question is is it a really good two-hour movie or is it something you can do week after week?”

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