The Pretender: The Complete First Season (review)
If government conspiracies and supernatural chic were all the rage on the air in the 1990s — it seems you couldn’t go wrong aping The X-Files — then The Pretender was the show for those who wanted a kinder, gentle top-secret black-ops drama, one without all that uncomfortable paranoia and existential unease. Jarod (the androidlike Michael Weiss) is a particular kind of genius, one who can become whatever he wants to be — a doctor, a U.S. marshal, a test pilot, whatever — and this paranormal skill attracted the attention of a mysterious think tank called the Centre, which kidnapped him when he was a boy and used his talents in all sorts of bad ways (mostly having to do with military contracts and weapons research). Now, having escaped from the Centre, Jarod wanders from town to town, helping people and trying to find the truth about the family he was stolen from as a child, always on the run from the nefarious operators of the Centre. It’s kinda like Quantum Leap crossed with The Incredible Hulk, minus all hints of charisma and charm. Jarod’s “innocence” — the result of being raised in a laboratory — comes across as a creepy roboticism, and his ability to “just know” things makes for strikingly uninteresting drama. And it’s supposed to be, I dunno, fascinating or something that he can go from being a surgeon to an airline pilot from one commercial break to the next, but it’s kinda scary — I’d hate to think the guy flying my plane had never even been in a cockpit before. Four double-sided discs contain all 21 episodes of the debut 1996-7 season of this NBC series, including the two-part season finale; the set includes commentaries on select episodes, making-of featurettes, and other bonus material.