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The Pretender TV series (1996-2000)

“Jarod is a Pretender—a genius whose exceptional intelligence allows him to assume various identities at will, be it doctor, test pilot or lawyer.  Taken from his parents at an early age, Jarod was brought up in the Centre, a think-tank facility where he believed his computer-like mind was being used to benefit mankind.  But when he learned the simulations he solved were being sold to the highest-bidder no matter what their intent, Jarod escaped.  Now on the run, Jarod embarks on a search for his true identity while also attempting to balance out any wrong his simulations have caused by helping people who are as powerless as he once was.”

The Pretender - a 4-season TV series about a genius named Jarod, who can pretend to be anything - while on the run, searching for his family

Although that summary is accurate, it’s far from complete—and doesn’t really reveal why “The Pretender” series, which was on the air for only 4 seasons starting in 1996, is still popular with a sizable fan base still hoping for a final season, to tie up the loose ends and reveal the various mysteries unveiled during the series.  And that’s part of the appeal of the series.

Not unlike the new hit “Lost,” “The Pretenderbegins in the present, with frequent flashbacks to the past of various major characters, introducing mysteries to be solved.  But another major part of the appeal is watching Jarod, played wonderfully by Michael T. Weiss, who is effectively a man-child discovering the outside world for the first time, and experiencing his lost childhood, such as tasting ice cream for the first time, discovering the versatility of Silly Putty„˘ (“Why would they name something this versatile ‘Silly Putty’?” asks Jarod—a store clerk replies, “Would you be willing to buy ‘Versatile Putty’?”)

Other major characters include various people from the Centre, trying to bring Jarod back for a variety of purposes.

  • Sydney, the psychiatrist who raised Jarod and served as surrogate father to him. He wants Jarod to return to the Centre so that they can continue their work together.
  • Miss Parker, who knew Jarod slightly as a young girl, who is in charge of retrieving him for her father, one of the top executives in the Centre
  • Broots, a true geek, responsible for the technical side of tracking down Jarod
  • Mr. Raines, formerly Dr. William Raines, an unquestioned villain of the series, who may or may not be responsible for the death of Mrs. Parker, Miss Parker’s mother who seemingly died while trying to rescue children from the Centre