InsidePulse DVD Review – The Pretender: The Complete Fourth Season

Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: July 18, 2006
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 19
Running Time: 881 minutes
MSRP: $39.98

Created by:
Craig W. Van Sickle
Steven Long Mitchell

Starring:
Michael T. Weiss ………. Jarod
Andrea Parker ………. Miss Parker
Patrick Bauchau ………. Sydney
Jon Gries ………. Broots
Pamela Gidley ………. Brigitte
Jamie Denton ………. Mr. Lyle
Ryan Merriman ………. Young Jarod

The Show


Imagine that there are people smart enough, with high enough IQ’s that they could slip in to any life they wanted. They could one day pretend to be a doctor or an officer of the law and the next an arms dealer or a pilot. Nothing can stop them from placing themselves in the shoes of another person and think, act and feel like the ones they want to be simply by picking up and reading a single book or file.

Jarod was a pretender, he helped The Centre, a secret organization for years to help them solve some of the most complex simulations possible. Only he was never helping out of the goodness of his heart, he was kidnapped when he was a child and was then lied to by the Centre in to believing his parents died in a plane crash. It wasn’t until almost twenty years later that he found out the truth of how he wound up at the facility and that some simulations he was helping with were being used for war tactics killing countless people. Now he’s on the run trying to relocate his once thought lost family and to reveal the evil of the Centre.

On his way to reunite with the ones he thought he had lost forever, Jarod takes time to help the helpless, to protect those who society turned their backs on. What gave this show its uniqueness was that it took the stale boring random hero saves the day concept and spun it on its head by simply tweaking said random hero in to a super genius who can slip in to any character he chooses at any place and time. He can think like his adversary would which usually leads to him playing a game of cat and mouse knowing in minutes who caused the crime only playing mind games for the rest of the episode. And man is it fun to watch.

Things aren’t that easy of coarse, the Centre has put much time and money breeding Jarod in to the super genius that he is. Naturally they want him back. There are three key people chasing after him, Sydney his former mentor who acted not only as a teacher but also a father figure, Ms. Parker an old friend from the Centre who’s the daughter of the second in command of the facility, she’s now leading the hunt to capture Jarod and then there’s Broots her assistant. Jarod always manages to stay one step ahead of his hunters, slipping away just before they figure out where he is.

Season three ended leaving many (including myself) wondering if the writers and producers could get the show back on track from the bizarre turn it had taken during the season. Well, what we get here is an odd offering that while in some ways does answer many of the issues presented, creates a few new ones of its own. A lot of the melodramatic subplots surrounding the Centre and Ms. Parker are still around, but luckily the creative staff has made it a story that is worth sitting through this time.

In this season, Jarod seems to take even more of a backseat to the stories revolving around the Centre and its personnel than any season before. While he’s off doing his tried and true “getting families back together” routine, Miss Parker, Sydney, Broots, and even Mr. Raines and Mr. Lyle get more character development this season than Jarod. How is it that the star, the person this is based upon and should be revolving around is nothing more than backdrop? And what makes this all worse is that they only even bothered to give Jarod a true story centered around him in the first and last episodes, everything else is just a story of the week.

This fourth season shows the weakness in the concept by having nearly every episode follow the same structure to the T. They’ll start with Ms. Parker, Broots, and Sydney hot on Jarod’s tail only once again too late to make the capture. Then we’re off to see what Jarod is really up to, followed by him interlacing some moral story or provide clues to his hunters in regards to what ever their subplot of the week might be. That’s it, sure each episode is different in the way that each has a new guest cast and crime for Jarod to solve, but they all are the same when you break them down.

Perhaps it would be better to call this season a “Best Of” collection because nearly every episode in this fourth and final season is an attempt to recycle old episodes and plotlines in to something new. Sadly they never succeed at that attempt, as it’s all thinly veiled retreads that weren’t too engrossing or complicated the first time around. From Miss Parker looking for her mothers killer, to her chasing after another cryptic name, people magically finding themselves employed by the Centre again, more about Jarod’s genetics, even a season finale cliffhanger that ends with a huge explosion. But they didn’t stop there, oh no, they even spent a few episodes knocking off hit movies at the time like Kindergarden Cop, Reservoir Dogs, and The Blair Witch Project. There is nothing new to be found here.

Writers fail to branch out at this point which could have been a major factor in to the cancellation of the show. Perhaps the writers boxed themselves in to a corner with the concept but they could have very easily tried to break that, as we saw them attempt with season three. Even if that season was in some ways a failure, atleast it was attempting to try something new and fresh for the series.

There is a running theme in the show that really allows us to see how lazy the writing staff had became by this point, nearly every episode has Jarod trying to solve his case and at one point becomes an officer of the law, gets what ever file or evidence he needs, and then goes back to whatever occupation he was pretending to be for the week. Sure that might be a believable scenario for someone in his position to do but it also shows the lack of creativity by those behind the show, and how they used it as a crutch every chance they could.

As a series finale, there are still countless questions left unanswered. The show was scheduled for a fifth season but during its hiatus the show was pulled by NBC, in favor of the infamously unsuccessful XFL football league created by WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. The creators and studio would later produce and show two made for TV movies that, while I’ve never seen them myself, many say still leave questions lingering in the viewers mind and don’t give the series as much closure that it needs.

The DVD


Video:
(Presented in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen)
On standard TV’s the picture looks great, bright sharp and very pleasing to the eyes. But on higher end systems the over all quality seems dull with very little line definition and an overall flat appearance, not very impressive. The interlacing and aliasing problems that occurred with the previous season set have been somewhat fixed, but still pop up.

Audio:
(English, French & Spanish 2.0 Stereo Surround)
For a regular stereo surround track it has a surprisingly dynamic range where sound is coming at you from all sides really pulling you in to the story. The musical scores on each episode come through clear as does the dialog.

Extras:

Much like with the last set there are audio commentaries available on three of the seasons episodes. Series creators Craig W. Van Sickle and Steven Long Mitchell are on all three tracks, and are joined by alternating executive producers for each episode. Also popping in during two tracks are actors Andrea Parker and Michael T. Weiss. The commentaries are very much the same as before, there are some very informative bits or information discussed but they still lose focus and leave long dead spots in the audio.

And again, very much like previous sets we get a three part featurette. Previously this would be split up over the discs, but Fox has decided to finally place them all together on side b of the fourth disc, something I’m sure many will appreciate. First is a two part piece called Jarod’s Mythology and while this is the fourth season a lot of what is discussed about is more of an overview for the series as a whole than the season itself. The creators talk about how they always plan big cliffhangers for each season and that they never knew that the plug would be pulled on the show until after the finale aired leaving them disappointed that they didn’t give the fans the true finale that they deserved. The third part of the featurette Looking for Chip Greenfelt is pointless, all that’s talked about in it is how the writers got so caught up in poker that they made their own poker room in the studio. And that they would spend most of their days inside playing cards. This might explain why so many of the episodes fell flat on their face this season, and why they kept going back to the well for ideas. There are also hints that another installment of The Pretender might be on its way.

InsidePulse’s Ratings for The Pretender: The Complete Fourth Season
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE SHOW

5
THE VIDEO

6
THE AUDIO

6
THE EXTRAS

5
REPLAY VALUE

6.5
OVERALL
5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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