Last few months I really have been in de mood for my favorite 90’s shows. Perhaps it has something to do with the volatile times we currently live in. I have watched these TV shows so many times by now, the characters of these shows could be considered as…family! At least with these characters I feel comfortable, it brings me back to a time where I felt safe, where everything seemed “normal”. It was a fairly peaceful time, the 90’s, different from today where the whole world seems to be on fire.


That is the reason why I currently rewatch Star Trek: DS9, Star Trek: Voyager, SeaQuest DSV, Stargate SG-1, Frasier, and The Pretender! I’ve just finished The X-Filles and are planning to rewatch Babylon 5 when it has been released on Blu-ray. Furthermore, I really want to start rewatching Highlander, The Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation as soon as possible.


This blog is about one of my all-time favorite shows, the 1st season of The Pretender. This is a show that first aired in 1996 and ended in 2000. Two out of Three movies have been made but apparently the ratings weren’t high enough because for TNT cancelled the 3rd movie, which means the story hasn’t been completed on TV.

A dear friend of mine tipped me this TV show back in 1996 and I have to say I was hooked from the get-go! Jarod is played by Micheal T. Weiss, who I’d never seen in anything else before. He is the most important reason why I love this show so much. The way he portrayed this character, with lots of depth and emotion was just very impressive. The list of lead characters in that 1st season isn’t that long. Miss Parker played by Andrea Parker. She has been tasked to bring Jarod back to the Centre where he has escaped from. Sydney (Patrick Bauchau), Jarod’s mentor, is also tasked with Jarod’s return because he has an emotional bond with Jarod, it is believed that if he wouldn’t be there at The Centre anymore, Jarod would disappear for good. The last one is Broots (Jon Gries), the tech guy or the IT guy who is tasked to help Miss Parker and Sydney find Jarod. I consider Broots to be the real hero, he constantly is afraid about his job, his life, and his daughter, yet he continues to help Miss Parker and Sydney.

Beside these 4 lead characters, The Pretender also has some very interesting recurring characters which make this show extra special. Most of these recurring characters are linked to this place called The Centre. Mr. Parker (Harve Presnell), Miss Parker’s father, who is the CEO of The Centre in Delaware. Mr. Raines (Richard Marcus) is a creepy guy, who long ago also was a doctor like Sydney, but where Sydney is a good person, Mr. Raines is not! Young Jarod is played by Ryan Merriman and young Sidney is played by Alex Wexo and Jarod’s brother Kyle (Jeffrey Donovan, Burn Notice), who also was taken from their parents. In the later seasons the recurring cast becomes bigger with some very interesting characters which made the show more interesting. Think Mr. Lyle (James Denton) or Brigitte (Pamela Gidley). In every episode current Jarod is looking back at D.S.A. files (like mini discs) of experiments he had to perform for The Centre. Where Sydney first thought he was working for a virtuous organization, he later becomes aware that this isn’t the case. His twin brother Jacob already had tried to warn him long ago, but he didn’t believe it, he couldn’t imagine it. Also, Miss Parker’s mother worked for The Centre, she was working against The Centre in secret, trying to rescue children from a life Jarod had lived. It is assumed that Miss Parker’s mother committed suicide but very soon Jarod uncovers that this most likely isn’t the case. And it is entirely possible that her father knew about it or was involved in it somehow, same as Mr. Raines.


The Pretender is more or less a procedural show in my opinion. Every week he pretends to be someone else, helping other families, evading Miss Parker. That being said, there are a few story-arcs which run through the whole 4 seasons and even the movies. First, it revolves around family, the most important aspect of the show. Jarod is looking for his mother and dad and his brother and sister. And while looking for his own family, he is helping other families find what he cannot find for himself. Also, Miss Parker’s family plays a very important part, from her mother and father, her brother she didn’t know she had and of course her stepmother! The other story-arc is of course The Centre itself. The Centre, a sinister think tank located in the fictional Blue Cove, Delaware. Funny thing about Jarod is that when starts a pretend, people ask him about his skills and he always tells the truth, like “I’ve read in a book somewhere”. He laughs with them as they think he is funny, but he actually is telling the truth.

When Jarod escapes from The Centre, he was their prisoner for 30 years. His days were mostly filled with acting out simulations for the corporation The Centre on the request of clients. His work is used wrongly and his mentor, Sydney, who is like a father to him, does not know this either. Both Jarod and Sydney believe that his parents are killed in a plane crash. Miss Parker, daughter of the CEO is tasked with the retrieval of Jarod, Sydney and Broots assist her, but Jarod usually is one or two steps ahead. Always leaving clues behind in a red notebook. He not only searches for his parents, but he also tries to help Miss Parker find out what happened to her mother, that she didn’t kill herself. Miss Parker at first doesn’t believe him but when she does follow a lead, she finds herself meeting a man who saw her mother once a year when she retreated from The Centre. It is more than likely that this man is her real father. Jarod’s first love is arguably Miss Parker, when he was a young boy, he met her while he was locked up. When he escapes, he also finds his first mature love in episode 14 “Ranger Love”. It is obviously that Miss Parker has feelings for Jarod, although she will not admit that. It is bothering her that Jarod felt love for this woman. “Ranger Jarod” probably is the best episode up and till that episode.


We also learned that Sydney has a twin brother, Jacob. Jacob and Sydney were in a car crash when they both were very young and both working at The Centre. Sydney only had a few bruises, but his brother was unconscious and slid into a coma which, he 30 years later, still is in. Sydney feels guilt about his brother’s condition because they were arguing during the drive, it was raining very hard and when Jacob got distracted, he could no longer control the car. Jarod also tries to help Sydney’s brother, there was some experimental drugs which could wake up Jacob. He did wake up but unfortunately it was only for a short time. Still in this short time Jacob is awake, he lets his brother know it wasn’t his fault, the car crash, Sydney mustn’t feel guilty. Another thing, Jacob writes down on a piece of paper SL-27. Furthermore, when Raines learns that Jacob is conscious again, he orders Miss Parker to kill him, he leaves his right hand there to be sure Miss Parker performs this act.

The search for Jarod continues, Angelo, another now full-grown man who was taken by The Centre as a kid, is being enlisted to find Jarod. Angelo is not a pretender, but Angelo is like a sponge, he absorbs everything, he has no personality of his own. But Angelo is actually an ally to Jarod. Sydney shows Miss Parker and Broots the paper he got from his brother on which he had written SL-27. The team finds out, with the help again of Jarod that this actually is a sub level in the Centre building, when they decide to go and find this sub level 27, they find that it hadn’t been used in a long time, but it becomes clear that strange and disturbing experiments have been done there. When we go towards the end of the season, we meet another young kid who lived at The Centre, his name is Kyle. Kyle turns out to be Jarod’s brother and he also was kidnapped from his parents, like Jarod. While Jarod had Sydney as a counselor, Kyle had Mr. Raines. Raines learned Kyle to hate, he indoctrinated him, he especially taught him to hate Miss Parker’s mother. Sydney isn’t sure Mr. Parker wasn’t aware of what was going on. Miss Parker, Sydney and Broots learn that Kyle even had a room on SL-27! And it was not a room at the Ritz!


Jarod learns more about his parents, his brother and sister. His brother supposedly died while trying to save himself, Jarod and Harriet Tashman, who knew more about their parents. Via a contact she comes in contact with Jarod’s mother and sets-up a meet. But unfortunately, The Centre is also aware of this and of course they want to stop Jarod from meeting his mother. For the 1st time in 30 years Jarod sees his mother when she steps out of the cab, and his sister is there too. But when he sees the Centre personnel roaming around because Sydney alerts him who is there too, he tells his mother to run! She yells to him while crying ‘I love you’, to Jarod. He escapes and is cornered by Raines. Jarod refuses to kill him but when he runs away, Raines takes his gun and aims at Jarod. At that moment someone shoots his oxygen tank and Raines explodes. Meanwhile Mr. Parker is being held responsible for the mess and he has to come to the Triumvirate to explain himself. Mr. Lyle says this over the phone, this is actually the first we hear of the name Mr. Lyle.

The Pretender is just a brilliant show! If you don’t like it, there must be something wrong with you! 😊 In general, it seems like an ordinary procedural show but every episode we learn more about Jarod’s search for his family, we learn more about the sinister corporation called The Centre. We find out that this corporation is doing some disturbing things for many years now. So yes, as I said in the beginning, it is a procedural in some ways, but it also has some heavy story-arc which returns every episode. For me this is definitely one of my all-time favorite TV shows and it is a real shame that it didn’t get a satisfying ending after 4 seasons and two telemovies. It does come close but not close enough. Definitely a reason to hate TNT for not bothering to finish the story. Still, it is a joy to rewatch it every 3-5 years, my last rewatch however was in 2016, 7 years ago, long overdue!


Final Word:

Although season one is very entertaining, the following seasons there will have more story-arcs, the characters get more fleshed out and some very interesting recurring characters and guest stars. From season two on The Pretender is presented in widescreen, which enhances the viewing experience. I don’t know if The Pretender is streaming anywhere, if not, it has been released on DVD, still available via Amazon, Ebay and such. Highly recommended, especially if you love these 90’s TV shows. I would rate the first season an 8/10.

Screencaps taken from: IMdB

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