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PRETENDER 2001

Plus: ROSWELL and BUFFY Chats; This Week's Episodes

By Steve Ryfle     December 18, 2000

Let me start this out by saying I never was a fan of The Pretender when it was on NBC. You remember, it was a series about a guy named Jarod (Michael T. Weiss) who's some sort of super-genius, with the ability to master any skill or profession and assume any identity, i.e., to 'pretend' to be anyone (like a nuclear scientist, animal wrestler, airline pilot or even a white supremacist). He used this expertise to help people out of various straits. And the show had sort of a sci-fi, X-Files-ish conspiracy bent to it because agents from a clandestine research complex called The Centre (which raised Jarod as a sheltered captive, and developed his powers in some sort of top-secret program) were chasing Jarod around, trying to catch their prized, escaped asset and use him for their own purposes.

Despite an interesting premise, the show seemed very ho-hum to me, and I probably watched half of one episode, tops. But there were lots of people who were miffed last spring, when the network canceled the show after a four-year run. These same people were, naturally, elated two months ago when TNT announced it will revive The Pretender in a couple of made-for-TV movies to air next year.

Surf over to tntpretender.com and check out TNT's new Website for The Pretender 2001, which is set to premiere on Monday, Jan. 22. You can't help admiring the slick promo job TNT is doing here. The site features the usual stuff such as cast and credits, biographies, pictures and video stuff, plus some nifty extras like customized Pretender 2001 e-cards, a mailing list you can join and a schedule of Pretender series episodes running now on TNT (including a best-of marathon, which began Dec. 14 and continues through the 29th).

But the really cool stuff (which they're calling a 'web site extravaganza'no kidding) concerns a live chat on Yahoo! (chat.yahoo.com) tonight at 7 p.m. EST with Steven Long Mitchell and Craig W. Van Sickle, creators of the TV series and producers of the new movie. The chat will also feature a 'mystery' cast member (again, their words). There's also some behind-the-scenes footage that will be unveiled, and two online games. Woo-hoo.

The 'mystery' cast member, by the way, probably won't be star Michael T. Weiss, who has cultivated a reputation as a loner who hates the limelight, and who was reluctant to pimp The Pretender even during its TV run. A TV Guide article published earlier this year, before the show went off the air, described Weiss as 'a mystery even to the Pretender cast' and noted that Andrea Parker, who played the series' Emma Peel-esque villain, Miss Parker, said she didn't feel she knew Weiss well enough to comment about him. Jon Gries, who played the Centre's computer geek, Broots, told the magazine: 'We rarely see Michael because we rarely have scenes with him. We're a family, but we think of him as our wayward brother.'

As those who watched know, The Pretender ended with a cliffhanger. TNT's press mavens claim that 'The Pretender 2001 blends contemporary storytelling with deeper explorations into the show's mythology. The movie will pick up where the series left off, while also taking viewers back in time to see how Jarod originally escaped from The Centre. The movie will close the door on some unanswered questions and open the door to new mysteries.' We shall see.

THE WB GETS CHATTY

Over at the WB Network's official site (wbnetwork.com), you can catch Roswell creator Jason Katims in a live chat today at 7:30 p.m. EST. And on Thursday, they'll have Buffy the Vampire Slayer cutie Michelle Trachtenberg, also at 7 p.m. EST. As if that weren't enough, today at 5 p.m. EST, they're having a chat with Gary (Diff'rent Strokes) Coleman! Now, we know he's no sci-fi icon, but hey, some folks think he's from another planet.

THIS WEEK'S EPISODES

God bless those folks at the WB Network. They sure know who they're audience is, and they're not afraid to pander to it. They've got the most genre-related programming on TV, but the sci-fi and horror elements in shows like Roswell and Buffy have always played second fiddle to the teen angst. That's the beauty of the WB formulapost-pubescent soap opera, with a paranormal twist.

As we present the rundown of this week's genre TV fare, we're also delving into that treasure trove of socio-cultural insight called the WB Network website, where devotees of the network's offerings have their own sounding boards to offer the unsolicited opinions on their fave raves. Thus, along with the weekly synopses, we'll take a few pointerscomplete with spelling and grammatical errors galorefrom the fans this time around.

* This week's episode of Roswell (WB, Monday @ 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, 8 p.m. Central) is a new one, titled 'A Roswell Christmas Carol.' The story: 'While Roswell is aglow with the holiday spirit, Max (Jason Behr) is wracked with guilt after he witnesses a tragedy and doesn't use his powers to save a man (guest star John Littlefield) who sacrifices his own life to save his young daughter's. The man's ghost haunts Max and confronts him about his decision, compelling Max to risk everything and restore the balance, bringing into question Max's healing powers and inclination to play God.'

Today on the fan board, the discussion focuses on the weighty subject of whether Max and Liz will reunite romantically; as one viewer named Jennifer writes, '... if they don't get back together, bye bye Roswell.' Man, that's some serious opining. Another watcher, Jessica, agrees and goes one step further. 'I agree totally max and liz 100% [sic sic sic] if there [sic] not together the show ****s and I think tess would be cute with kyle cause I like tess but not with max. I think its unfair to hurt liz.' Meanwhile, Meighan in Houston has another romantic scenario in mind: 'I think Michael should be with Isabelle and Max with Tess. I think as long as they keep the show cool like it is people will watch it. I hope this season they will explore more with Isabel and Micheal and not just focous on Max and Liz.'

Um, what about the aliens?

* This week's episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (WB, Tuesday @ 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, 7 p.m. Central) is titled 'Into the Woods.' The story: 'The communication breakdown in Buffy and Riley's relationship goes into meltdown in a confrontational and heartrending episode. Riley's dirty little secret finally hits the fan when a doting Spike (James Marsters) reveals to Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) that her beau's been sneaking out to pay vamps for their blood-sucking services. Reeling from shock, the overwhelmed Slayer avoids discussion of the discovery with her friends, and becomes hell-bent on destroying the den with which Riley was associatedonly to find the undead denizens missing from their lair. As Buffy's rage gets the best of her, a supremely miffed Riley (Marc Blucas) pays a visit to Spike.'

So, what would you expect to discuss on the Buffy page? Bloodsucking vampires? Martial arts techniques? No way! 'Ok well i really don't care what happens to Riley as long as he dies or leaves or whatever!' writes a fan named Jennifer. 'I just dont' wanna have to look at him anymore! But as far as Spike and Buffy go i DEFINITELY DON'T THINK THAT Spike and Buffy should hook up or become a couple or whatever! That would be the grossest thing ever! It wouldn't even be funny! OR CUTE! Just gross! maybe not as gross as Riley...but still very gross! I think the only person Buffy should be with is Angel! Thats what I think so ha! And anyone who thinks differently besides having problems is just well i can't think of the right word right now but thats what you are!' [sic sic sic...]

* This week's Angel (WB< Tuesday @ 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, 8 p.m. Central) is titled 'Reunion.' The story: 'Angel (David Boreanaz) goes on a frantic search after Drusilla (guest star Juliet Landau) turns Darla (guest star Julie Benz) back into a vampire, and he must catch them before she rises again and the two go back to their old ways and paint the town red. Meanwhile, as Angel goes off the deep end, his staff worries they are the only ones standing between Angel and real darkness.'

Leave it to the English to show us Americans how shallow we are. Billie, a fan from Bradford, England, writes: 'I love angel. I know its the best thing on tv apart from Buffy. I think there should be another crossover between angel and buffy. Also we need vamps like drusilla to spice things up. I'm glad they bought her back in and i hope some other familiar faces turn up. I can't get enough of angel. the best looking vampire since lestat.' A genuine literary referenceso, how do we fans on this side of Pacific match wits? Daisy from Tustin, Calif. writes: 'I think David is hottttt.'

* This week's episode of Charmed (WB, Thursday @ 9 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, 8 p.m. Central) is called 'Magic Hour.' Story: 'Piper (Holly Marie Combs) tries to secretly plan her wedding to Leo (Brian Krause) without the Powers That Be finding out and quashing their plans of defiance with unspeakable wrath. Meanwhile, Piper, Prue (Shannen Doherty) and Phoebe (Alyssa Milano) must help two young lovers kept apart by a sorcerer's curse and try to find a way to prevent the couple from sacrificing themselves in order to break the spell once and for all.'

This is an Aaron Spelling show, so naturally we'd expect fans to be wrapped up in its soapy characters' lives. But what gives with Jenn, a fan from California? 'Can anyone tell me why I've been watching new Charmed and Buffy episodes on Fox instead of WB at the regular times?' [Cut Twilight Zone theme here, please.]

* On Sabrina, The Teenage Witch (WB, Friday @ 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, 7 p.m. Central), this week's episode is 'Welcome Traveler.' Story: 'When Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart) tries to pull Miles (Trevor Lissauer) away from his latest conspiracy theory and into some semblance of a social life, she unknowingly pushes him right into the hands of a cult whose eccentric leader (guest star Richard Kline, 'Three's Company') claims to be a witch.'

From the Sabrina board, we bring you a little fan fight:

NUKIE (a fan from Clarkston): ' I think Sabrina should be moved back to ABC because her show is giving the WB a bad name when friday gets here i leave my tv off til 9:00 because i dont want to be bothered with knowing that show is coming on twice.'

TIA (a fan from somewhere else): 'Nukie, go to hell b*i*t*c*h! Sabrina is a great show!'

Can't we all just get along?

As for non-WB stuff, you're looking at reruns this week on Dark Angel, X-Files, The Simpsons, Star Trek: Voyager and most everything else.

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