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.
Jarod (Michael T. Weiss) is a Pretender. As a five-year-old in 1963, he was taken from his home and "adopted" by The Centre, a mysterious Delaware-based think tank. Why Jarod? His superior intellect--Jarod can "pretend" to be anything he wants: doctor, lawyer, engineer, astronaut and, as he quips in episode five ("The Paper Clock"), "I'm working on Indian chief."
Thirty years later, once he realized his efforts were not being used for good, Jarod escaped from the Centre. Psychiatrist and surrogate father Sydney (Carnivàle's velvet-voiced Patrick Bauchau) and sociopathic sidekick and Emma Peel lookalike Miss Parker (ER's Andrea Parker) have been trying to track him down ever since. Theyre assisted by the technically proficient, if socially inept Broots (Napoleon Dynamite's Jon Gries). Each and every time, Jarod eludes their grasp, but not before helping some stranger who's been dealt an injustice (just as he once was). Along the way, he hopes to figure out who he is and where he came from.
Each of these 21 episodes moves deftly from Jarod's lonely past to his more satisfying, if precarious present (the human "science project" was constantly videotaped as a boy, hence the abundance of footage from his childhood). It's a worthy successor to paranoid thrillers like The Fugitive and the unjustly obscure Nowhere Man (from X-Files creator Chris Carter), and the droll performance of Weiss (Jeffrey) adds a dose of levity to a concept usually painted with a darker palette. The Pretender ran on NBC for four seasons and was followed by two TV movies, The Pretender 2001 and Isle of the Haunted. --Kathleen C. Fennessy