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Retro T.V. Reviews: The Pretender (1996)

Show Name: The Pretender

Created by: Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle

Starring: Michael T. Weiss, Andrea Parker, Patrick Bauchau, and Jon Gries

Genre: Drama and Action

Number of Episodes: 86

Seasons: 4 (September 19, 1996 to May 13, 2000)

Channel: NBC


In the 1990's, this was one of my favourite shows. It had everything, drama, humour, action and a fun story. This used to play on Saturday night's with The Profiler as a one, two punch. It was called back then as the Thrillogy. The third show in that thrillogy changed but initially I believe was Dark Skies.


You follow a Pretender named Jerod (Played by Michael T. Weiss). He was born in The Center. Basically it was a place where kids with special cognitive abilities (prodigy's) would be experimented on. Jarod is told at a young age that his parents are dead and Sydney (played by Patrick Bauchau) mentors the young child.

When Jarod grows older, he realizes that The Center would take the responses to some random questions, that they would ask Center children and use it for harming other people. Frustrated after hearing this, Jarod decides that he needs to leave and escapes.

Miss Parker is the agent that is tasked to bring back Jarod to The Center. She grew up with Jarod and probably knows him best.

Until now, I have not really described what a Pretender is. A Pretender is one that can adapt to any situation and profession. The Pretender is so intelligent that he can become anyone from any profession when he wants. Although the main plot is to capture Jarod (similar to The Fugitive), every episode Jarod helps someone in need based on the profession of the day. Jarod has a big heart and because he has a guilty conscience he wants to help others.

The Pretender Commercial

That commercial pretty much sums up the main plot of the series. It is amazing what 30 seconds can do.


The original theme was written by John Debney. There were slight modifications in subsequent seasons, but here is an example from season 1.

The theme is very drum heavy and suits the show very well. I like the fact that they did not go with the traditional route for this one.


What do I like this show? Well it was cool and refreshing at the time. I remember watching the first episode and was hooked on the premise. The fact that a guy that is so intelligent that he can become anyone in any profession was really cool.

I also loved the character of Jarod. The fact that he can be anyone he wants to be was cool, but there was an innocence to him. Due to the fact that he lived for years in The Center, he never did the things children do and enjoy his childhood. So his inner child sometimes comes out. He loves ice cream and Silly Putty. It was nice to see that part of the character.

The supporting cast were also were very good. Miss Parker (played by Andrea Parker) was a good fit to play opposite of Jarod. You see her evolve as the show progresses and see that she becomes less and less ruthless with every episode. You always thought that eventually she would become the love interest of Jarod but you never see it play out that way. You see that they care for each other but she is bound by her mission.

The main villain in this story is Dr. William Raines (played by Richard Marcus). He plays one of the leaders of The Center. He always has an oxygen tank with him. I am not sure why though. He over looks many of The Center projects and he is the one behind trying to get Jarod. He has enough of that mean streak to make it believable and not too annoying. He fit in well with the cast here.

Jarod was always a step ahead of anyone at the Center and one of the reasons is Sydney. He has a soft spot for Jarod and wants him to be safe. So every time The Center wants to use more force than is necessary, he always manages to get his message to Jarod. You can see him as a father figure to Jarod and one of the only few people that Jarod can trust.

In the end, this is just a good entertaining show. This was back when there were actual shows on Saturday and you could watch them with your family. It had a good mix of action and mystery that kept the audience coming back.

This was a solid show and it could have played for a few extra years. NBC ended up cancelling the show after 4 seasons, but there were 2 made for TV movies that aired on TNT. They were named The Pretender 2001 and The Pretender: Island of the Haunted. I cannot really say how those movies are as I never watched them. I do not own the DVD's at this time and these aired on TNT which we did not have at the time.

Do you remember this show? Let us know below.

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