Review by Michael Jacobson
Michael T. Weiss, Andrea Parker, Patrick Bauchau
Audio: Dolby Stereo
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: 3 Part Making-Of, Selected Commentaries
Length: 1100 Minutes
Release Date: March 22, 2005
airing in 1996, The Pretender is a series that has earned something of a
cult following. It seemed to appeal
to science fiction fans, though it wasn't futuristic or addled with technology,
to mystery fans who followed the unfolding yarns from week to week with
anticipation, and to cop drama fans, who probably saw the show as the greatest
chase series since The Fugitive.
ran for four years and spawned a couple of made-for-TV movies, and one gets the
sense that fans would eagerly eat up more if offered. Now, with the release of the first full season of the show in
a four disc set, they can re-experience how it all began...or newcomers can
finally see for themselves what it was all about.
involved the weekly adventures of a young man named Jarod (Weiss).
As a child, he was taken into custody by The Centre, because he had an
extraordinary mental ability that went beyond what might be defined as genius.
He was a pretender, meaning he could completely immerse himself into the
mindset of anyone else, and through books and other materials, learn how to
assume their identity perfectly. He
could become a doctor, a lawyer, a test pilot, a card dealer...anything.
Centre was using his ability to solve various problems, but as Jarod grew older,
he realized his gifts weren't being used for good...the company was simply
selling the information he accumulated to the highest bidder.
As the pilot episode begins, Jarod has fled from The Centre, and as a
kind of penance, begins using his talent for pretending to help those in need
and right some egregious wrongs.
Centre, of course, wants him back. It
might seem hard to track a guy with chameleon-like ability to become anybody he
needs to, but the company has their own secret weapon in Miss Parker
(Parker...not hard to remember), a sultry femme fatale ruthless and
uncompromising in her pursuit.
the basic framework of the show, but toward the end of the first season, the
series became more solidified and slight less episodic, building upon a
foundation of several intriguing premises.
For one, Jarod learns early in the season that the deceased couple he
believed to be his parents were not his mom and dad, so part of his quest
becomes to discover his own true identity.
We also learn of some of the history between him and Miss Parker...they
were children together at The Centre, and as a result, she has some tragedy in
her own past that slowly comes to life. And
finally, we learn that there's even more to The Centre than meets the eye, even
to those who so loyally work for it.
played by Michael T. Weiss, Jarod was an instantly appealing character, who
mixed incredible intelligence with a childlike sense of wonder...after being
shut away his entire life, he had many things to discover and take pleasure in,
like ice cream and Oreo cookies. His
abilities as a pretender allowed him to have great empathy for those in need or
in pain, especially children. And
his playful anti-authoritarian attitude cheered audiences...my favorite was in
the second episode where The Centre traces his call only to find Jarod has
scrambled and sent his phone signal bouncing all over the world...by the time
they find the original source, they learn Jarod had been in the next room all
even more appealing, at least to male fans, was Andrea Parker.
Her tough talk, ruthless ways, political incorrectness (mainly her
constant smoking) and incredible beauty redefined sex appeal for TV audiences.
I'd wager a lot of us fellows wouldn't have minded being a victim of her
grilling in some dark, damp room. But
she's more than a one-note character...as the series progresses, we learn that
maybe all isn't right in her life as well, and that she may have been as
victimized by The Centre as Jarod.
out the main cast for year one was Patrick Bauchau as Sydney, the man who was a
kind of surrogate father figure for Jarod as he grew up at The Centre.
He is equally determined to bring his prize back into the fold, but
moments on the phone between the frequently lonely Jarod and his one time mentor
are sometimes quite moving.
of the gems among the first 22 episodes include "A Virus Among Us",
where Jarod cleverly tricks Miss Parker into catching the flu (not that she
gives up the cigarettes, mind you), "Not Even a Mouse", where even the
bitter chase between pursuer and pretender pauses for a smile-inducing moment of
good will between them at Christmas, "Baby Love", in which Jarod
becomes the protector of an abandoned infant, "Keys", where Jarod and
Miss Parker confront one another during a hurricane and he manages to help her
unlock one of the secrets of her past, and the two part finale "The Dragon
House", which pointed toward many big things in the future as Jarod seeks
out another pretender and finally gets a solid lead on his real family.
first year of The Pretender gave audiences a solid foundation and
intriguing characters on which to build future dramas, and left them anxious for
the further adventures of Jarod and Miss Parker...which, of course, we'll pick
up on with the release of Season Two.
with many television shows on DVD, The Pretender is watchable but
unspectacular. There's no sense of
colors jumping out at you or detail levels impressing, and some of the show's
darker scenes look a little grainy and soft.
Brightly lit scenes look better, which makes this presentation about par
for the course.
5.1 remix might have been interesting with this series, but all we get is the
standard television stereo track...clear, but not a lot of dynamic punch, and
not exactly enveloping.
key extra is a making-of retrospective, which is divided into three parts over
the course of the four disc set. I'm
not sure why this was the manner chosen for delivering this feature instead of
one longer comprehensive piece, but the interviews with the creators and stars
will probably please the fans. In
addition, there are selected episode commentaries with the creators, but not the