A Curiously Entertaining Series
Sometimes I need a break from consuming literature and do so by watching a good movie. Watching a great series is even better; I found one last week and I am hooked. My family accuses me of succumbing to soap opera dramatics with my obsessive watching of this series. Watching a TV series by the season is a major commitment since each season often has about 20 episodes–not including special featurettes. I really have no idea what the current shows are since I only use the telly for watching movies. When I discover a series I like it’s usually been over for several years. My local library gets major kudos for its video section because it’s well-stocked in both movies and television series. I do so adore my local library!
The series I discovered is called The Pretender. It’s actually based on a real person, Fred Demara, who successfully pulled off several impostor roles, including a ship’s surgeon. In 1959 Robert Crichton wrote a book about Demara, called The Great Imposter and in 1961 Tony Curtis starred in a fictionalized movie of Demara’s exploits (a recommended watch). The Pretender series is inspired by Demara’ in its premise that the main character Jarod is a genius who can assume the role of anyone and each episode he becomes someone different. What makes the series work for me? Curious George, for one.
Before we get to George here’s the Wikipedia summary of the show:
The Pretender is an American television series that aired on NBC from 1996 to 2000. The series stars Michael T. Weiss as Jarod, a genius and former child prodigy with “the ability to become anyone he wants to be,” i.e., to flawlessly impersonate anyone in virtually any line of work. Patrick Bauchau and Andrea Parker co-star as Sydney, Jarod’s childhood teacher and mentor, and Miss Parker, a childhood friend and an operative for the mysterious organization (called “The Centre”) that took Jarod from his parents as a child and forced him to unwittingly use his talents for their own interests. Jarod begins traveling around the country, searching for clues to his true identity and posing as doctors, police officers, attorneys, and various other figures in order to help those in trouble.
The series works because Michael Weiss brings this incredible combination of savvy and naiveté to his role as Jarod. Think of the skills of MacGyver and the boyishness of Gilligan in one package. The character Jarod never really had a childhood having been imprisoned by The Centre until he was thirty. Jarod in his new freedom takes delight in discovering all the wonderments of life, such as ice cream, Silly Putty, Spam, Bazooka bubble gum, doughnuts, Wheelos, Highlights Magazine and books like Curious George. Curious George becomes the working metaphor of the series, with Jarod being George discovering the world and having adventures and perhaps Sydney, Jarod’s trainer at The Centre, is the Man in the Yellow Hat, a sort of benevolent keeper.
I’m rather embarrassed how hooked I’ve become, and yet is that so bad? I shouldn’t feel guilt about momentarily ignoring Isabel Archer, et al in The Portrait of a Lady. But hey, Henry James just doesn’t have quite the spills, thrills, and chills of The Pretender.
It’s summer escapism, pure and simple. And if you are looking for Season Four I am hoarding it because I don’t want to be left hanging. Will Jarod get reunited with his parents? Will Mr. Rains get what’s coming to him? What about Jacob–does he wake from the coma? And Miss Parker, does she have a first name?