Reviews: The Pretender

Admittedly a guilty pleasure

Pretender was like a proto-USA detective series: A quirky male lead with a Mensa-level IQ who can charm or con anybody; it begins from a dark place, but strikes a silly tone throughout; and so forth. Much like USA shows, the lack of ambition in the writing can annoy at times, but it's alright for what it is.

The show is anchored by Miss Parker's team, working out of a dusty Delaware office (which oddly doesn't affect their ability to catch up with Jarod at the end of each episode): sort of a Fugitive / NCIS / Person of Interest team of oddball cops and psychologists, who poke fun at each other and talk about inane things. They're in the employ of The Centre, the bad guys, despite none of them seeming particularly evil. (Sidney, in particular, is more interested in helping Jarod along than catching him.)

Especially interesting, we find ourselves liking and even rooting for this team, which is odd, given how Miss Parker is unambiguously bad (she knows The Centre is wrongfully chasing Jarod), and so wind up having a "good" Centre, set in the familiar office and run by clowns like Broots and Angelo, and the "bad" Centre, the basement run by the eeevil Mr. Rains and Mr. Lyle. Nobody seems to know what The Centre is about, or why they need Jarod to keep doing whatever they're doing.

We gradually learn more about their personal lives, although "learn" might be over-stating it. Miss Parker is career-driven but lonely. Sidney and Broots are just two guys supporting their families. It's a ticket to Nowheresville. The strength of Pretender was Jarod, and the random people he meets on his travels. When the show lost focus and became more about the Centre team, it floundered.

It never had a satisfying conclusion, and from what I read, a lot of fans were annoyed at the predictable directions it took. I rather liked the final TV movie, Island of the Haunted, but it did have a Da Vinci Code vibe which is odd for this series. I know the fans preferred Pretender 2001 (the first movie), but the bland mystery and mustache-twirling villain didn't impress me.