There are pretenders among us, geniuses with the ability to become anyone they want to be... In 1963, a Corporation known as the Centre, isolated a young pretender named Jarod, and exploited his genius for their research. Then one day, their pretender ran away….. The intro is fantastic, just hearing this narrator saying these words made the anticipation for the next episode even greater, it sounds ominous, it sounds…..like a damned good premise for a television show.
It has really been 25 years already! It first aired September 19, 1996. The Pretender, definitely one of my all-time favorite television shows. A dear friend of mine tipped this show when it was just airing some 24-25 years ago. It was not something like we’ve ever seen before, I thought it rather was original. Although The Pretender was mostly episodic, there was a story-arc which ran through the entire series, family! Jarod escapes a place called the Centre to go an look for his parents and along the way he helpes people who were in trouble or were also looking for family or a home. The Centre basically kidnapped Jarod when he was a little boy. And the viewer soon learns he was not the only one.
An absolutely brilliant cast, Michael T. Weiss, who plays Jarod. I think he did a great job, very believable, a man with a lot of emotion. As a viewer you really felt what he was going through. Andrea Parker who plays Miss Parker who is tasked with the almost impossible job to bring back Jarod to the Centre. Miss Parker hasn’t had an easy life, her father was head of the Center in Blue Cove for most of her life and lost her mother at a very young age, because of the Centre. For most of her life Miss Parker believed her mother was dead, but is she? Patrick Bauchau is Sydney, Jarod’s handler inside the Centre. Sydney was the only reason the Centre still had a chance of catching Jarod because to Jarod, Sydney was just like a father, a father he never had. Jon Gries was Broots, the tech guy, the very nervous tech guy. He probably was the bravest of them all! He constantly was afraid, yet he stayed and performed all his tasks as ordered by Miss Parker and other people within the Centre. He also had a daughter, he was a single dad and the one he most was afraid of, was Miss Parker, but also was attracted to her…
This brilliant cast had a lot of help from some fantastic recurring characters, the list is long but I will name a few. Harve Presnell, who passed away several years ago, was Mr. Parker, Miss Parker’s father. He stole the show in every scene he was in! Richard Marcus was Mr. Raines, what a creep he was. Jamie Denton was Mr. Lyle, who turned out to be Miss Parker’s brother. A slick dude who had some horrifying hobbies! Pamela Gidley, who unfortunately also is no longer with us, played Brigitte, she married Mr. Parker! She gave birth to a son, according to her it was Mr. Parkers’ but he apparently was incapable of procreation according to the test done proving a lack of viability of his sperm sample in the movie The Pretender: Island of the Haunted. Which means Miss Parker is also not his real daughter but already was suggested throughout the series. Then there is young Jarod, mostly played by Ryan Merriman and also young Sydney, who was played by Alex Wexo.
Every episode you would see flashbacks of Jarod’s time at the Centre. You see him perform tasks of which he long thought were being used to do good in the world but at some point he figures out that the Centre is not that kind of an organization. He comes to the conclusion that the Centre is an evil corporation, they are in it for the power, for the money.
The Pretender was cancelled after 4 seasons and the last episode ended on a big cliff-hanger. Fortunately TNT was interested in closing the story via 3 telemovies. The first one called Pretender 2001, the 2nd named The Pretender: Island of the Haunted. Unfortunately the 3rd movie has never been created, presumably because the movies did not attract a large enough audience to grant the 3rd movie. In 1996 The Pretender was part of a Trilogy short lived sci-fi/action block with shows like Profiler and Dark Skies. When Dark Skies was cancelled after one season, NBC tried it two more times to add another series, first Sleepwalkers, but it also was cancelled very soon. Later on they tried it again with The Others but this also was not a success and with season 1999/2000 NBC cancelled all three and axed the trilogy block. There are however some cross-over episodes between The Pretender and its sister show Profiler. Jarod crossed over 3 times into an Profiler universe: Season 3, episode 3.19 Grandmaster, season 4, episode 4.10 Clean Sweep and the last one also season 4, episode 4.18 Pianissimo. Profiler character(s) crossed over twice during season 3 and season 4 to The Pretender universe: Season 3, episode 19 End Game, season 4, episode 10 Spin Doctor.
The creators Craig W. Van Sickle and Steven Long Mitchell tried to resurrect the show, in the form of a final movie or miniseries, between the telemovies and 2013 but it needed to be financed. When this was not feasible they wrote two novels in 2013 and 2014, first one named Rebirth, the second one Saving Luke. According to both creators, back in 2013, after the novels, it was their plan to bring back The Pretender to TV as a miniseries or a telemovie but till this day, 8 years later this unfortunately did not happen. I’ve read the first book, I found it to be very enjoyable but for some reason I could not get through the 2nd one. I will have to try again sometime in the near future.
The Pretender is not a show that has been released on DVD all over the world. Only in North America and in France has the show been released completely including the 2 telemovies. In Germany only the first season has been released on DVD and as far as I know, that’s it. The prices for both releases, the French and the North American, are preposterous so unless you got lucky and find them for a reasonable price, you’ll have to rely on streaming services and I have to say, I am not sure if The Pretender is streaming anywhere. If you get the chance to watch it, take it, you won’t be disappointed!
The Pretender is a must see show if you like secret organizations, mystery, and an ongoing story-arc, packed in mostly self-contained stories. A great cast, fantastic product values. It’s beyond me why there isn’t a fifth, sixth and even a seventh season. As I said, it's an amazing TV show, it belongs to the best of the 90s TV shows but of course is just my humble opinion! Everybody should watch this terrific TV show at least once in his or her lifetime, I'll bet you will immediately be hooked! It's that good!
Screencaps taken from: PretenderCentre.com