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PHOTOGRAPHY

THE PRETENDER- THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 1078 minutes, 21 episodes on four flip discs (3 dual/single and 1 single/single), two audio commentaries, three part featurette, TV spots

STUDIO: FOX

RELEASE DATE: 3-22-2005

DISC ONE, Side A

PILOT, EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY, SLYER, CURIOUS JAROD

Side B

THE PAPER CLOCK, TO PROTECT AND SERVE

DISC TWO, Side A

A VIRUS AMONG US, NOT EVEN A MOUSE, MIRAGE, BETTER PART OF VALOR

Side B

BOMB SQUAD, PRISON STORY

DISC THREE, Side A

BAZOOKA JAROD, RANGER JAROD, JAROLDO!, UNDER THE REDS

Side B

KEYS, UNHAPPY LANDINGS

DISC FOUR, Side A

JAROD'S HONOR, BABY LOVE

Side B

DRAGON HOUSE, PARTS 1&2

ANALYSIS: THE PRETENDER was one of the last good shows on a Saturday night when NBC started a Saturday line-up consisting of Dark Skies (which was cancelled after one season and still not on DVD), The Pretender, and Profiler (all four seasons on DVD and even did crossovers with The Pretender). THE PRETENDER lasted four seasons (before being cancelled for the ratings bomb known as the XFL) and two movies (creators Craig W. Van Sickle and Steven Long Mitchell hope to make a third one to bring a conclusion to THE PRETENDER saga). The show has that special charm as Jarod (Michael T. Weiss) sought out justice to atone for all the work that the Centre twisted over the years. Sydney (Patrick Bauchau) was the one who observed Jarod over the years at the Centre after Jarod was taken from his parents as a young boy. Sydney became a kind of a disfunctional father figure. Does Sydney want Jarod captured and brought back to the Centre or will he just play along with Miss Parker (Andre Parker) who thinks getting Jarod is her ticket away from the Centre? Or will Jarod just keep giving them clues about the Centre's past and how it connects to each of them (including the death of Catherine Parker, Miss Parker's mom)?

Many of my favorite episodes of THE PRETENDER come from seasons 2, 3, and 4. Season 1 does have great episodes like the PILOT, MIRAGE, RANGER JAROD, UNDER THE REDS, KEYS, BABY LOVE, and the season finale DRAGON HOUSE. I can't wait to see GIGOLO JAROD when future seasons are released to DVD. Hopefully, DVD sales will be good enough to convince FOX to make a direct-to-DVD movie to wrap up some of the storylines left unanswered after 86 episodes and two TV movies (made for TNT).

The actors ultimately make the episodes very enjoyable. Michael T. Weiss nails the childlike innocence of Jarod while being a little sociopath in other moments. Andrea Parker plays the emotions of miss Parker quite well while also being able to play Catherine Parker as a seperate character. Patrick Bauchau brings class to the role of Sydney (while also being able to play Sydney's comatose brother, Jacob) from wisdom to father figure to a guy questioning some of the work being done at the Centre.

VIDEO/AUDIO: All 21 episodes (including the double length season finale) are presented in their original 1.33:1 Full Frame versions. Colors are rich and bright. Blacks sometimes are good while being grainy at other times. Aliasing is present at times and so is video noise at a few moments in many of the episodes. I even paused the episodes at various times. Sometimes you see lots of detail and other moments feature lack of good detail. It looks like the same people who did the MURDER ONE DVDs also did this release. I wish the transfers were as great as the ones I've seen on the DVD sets for MILLENNIUM, ROSWELL, and TRU CALLING. The video seems to be the best overall on the fourth disc.

You can hear THE PRETENDER in English 2.0 Dolby Surround, French 2.0 DD, or Spanish 2.0 DD with the option of English or Spanish subtitles. Dialogue comes across very clear. Music is loud (perhaps louder than the TV broadcasts).

SPECIAL FEATURES:

MAKING THE PRETENDER- SEASON ONE (presented in three parts over three discs) is an OK featurette on the show's first season with interviews from the cast (Michael T. Wiess, Jon Gries, Patrick Bauchau, and Richard Marcus) and the crew (the creators and a couple of other people).

Part 1 (side B of Disc One)- The origins of how the show came about and got picked up, and Michael T. Wiess talks about Jarod.

Part 2 (side B of Disc Two)- The Poop (aka Jarod's discovery of the week from ice cream to SPAM to Mr. Potato Head), Miss Parker, and Sydney.

Part 3 (side B of Disc Three)- Broots (the normal guy who got hired by the Centre and had to deal with it, an one off character who turned into an important recurring character), Raines, The Centre, and Family

Included on side A of Disc Four are five TV spots hyping the coming of THE PRETENDER to NBC. Too bad no episode preview spots are included.

Two audio commentaries were recorded for the first season: the first is for the Pilot episode (with Creators Craig W. Van Sickle and Steven Long Mitchell) and the second commentary is for DRAGON HOUSE (the season finale) with Craig W. Van Sickle, Steven Long Mitchell, director Fred Keller, and Jon Gries. The thing that stuck out to me on the commentary for the pilot were that the black nurse was originally a transsexual and they created an action scene through editing. The commentary for Dragon House reveals details about the production of the season finale, the casting of the main characters, and the show's storylines. They say the 2 hour episodes were the best for the mythology storylines. Jon Gries tries to get the creators to reveal details about the final Pretender story, but they keep silent about that. Hopefully, future DVD sets will include commentaries with the main cast (Michael T. Weiss, Andrea Parker, and Patrick Bauchau).

DVD PACKAGE ART/MENUS/DISC DESIGN: The package art is quite good. The flipper discs remind me of the DSLs that Jarod stole from the Centre. The static menus do look rather bland.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  Finally, fans can rejoice that FOX has finally started releasing this appealing show to DVD. THE PRETENDER Season one set isn't bad, but I would love to see more extras (like deleted scenes) on future seasons and less aliasing in the episodes.

this DVD Review is (c)3-16-2005 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com and look for additional content (and site updates) at http://www.livejournal.com/users/enterlinemedia