In an interview with Nerdist, the prolific producer/writer/director explains how Alias was much the result of his dilemma with Felicity:
“What happened was, as a fan of genre stuff and I had just worked on Armageddon while we were working on Felicity as well, so I had just gotten a fix of doing sci-fi stuff, which was a blast. [Felicity] was based on an idea that I had and [Matt Reeves] and I developed it and he directed the pilot and it was a very sweet story that literally had no stakes whatsoever. It was so hard because when you got to Episode 3, you’re like ‘um..’. There were no bad guys, there were no monsters, [there were literally only] grades. There was no way to do a show, the were no crimes, there were no legal cases or medical cases. A TV show typically needs a door that every week bursts open with burden that the main characters have to hold, carry and deal with, and help people in a selfless way. The model of a TV show is a condition that characters can actually deal with stuff that’s not just their own issues, college is only about your own issues. I’m not saying we didn’t do shootings at parties and dramatic breakups, and horrible stories. There were things that were substantial; whether it was anything from date-rape to drug use — there were all these kind of things that were where you need to go to find stories, and of course there are things that are sadly very relevant to that age, but typically it was [very difficult] to come up with what’s the ‘thing’ every week.
While we were working on that show, I pitched ‘what f Felicity were a spy?‘ and I said it simply because it would answer evey problem I have. Because she could go out on crazy missions, she could be in insane chases and fight scenes and be sneaking around, and the stakes would be literally life and death for the world, and she’d come back and no-one would know what she’d been doing and she’d still have the issues of Ben or Noel or whatever we were doing. And everyone looked at me as if I was insane, and I wasn’t serious but I was looking for something to make that show [easier] in terms of finding ways to tell stories. Around that time, ABC/Touchstone came to me and said ‘we’re looking to do a show that’s a young, female-driven show, would you have something?‘ [I shared my idea with the head of the studio] about a young girl who’s a spy and she’s in Grad school, because I know you can’t in Episode 16 say ‘and Felicity’s a spy,’ and they said ‘that sounds great why don’t you write it,’ and so I put the Run Lola Run soundtrack on and I listened to it non-stop and wrote the Alias pilot to that score and I turned it in. They said ‘who do you want to direct it?,’ and I heard myself say ‘me,’ and they said ‘OK,’ and I thought ‘they’re crazy’, and we cast the show with Jennifer Garner who had been on Felicity, so it was fun.”
“[I wrote the theme for Alias and LOST in sound mixers] because we needed a theme and I had my laptop, so I just did whatever I had to do thinking they’d be temporary stuff and then thought, ‘screw it, let’s just leave it’”.
The LOST theme by the way is one note, for which I won an Ascap Award — whenever I’ve done more than one note I’ve won nothing. [Ed note: fans of Fringe may be aware that Abrams also created the Fringe opening theme].
It’s easy to see how Alias essentially spawned from Felicity, though I must say, I’m more partial to Sydney and the gang.