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Chase Fizzles for TNT's 'Pretender'

Turner Network Television next month will run The Pretender: The Island of the Haunted
— the latest in a series of periodic original movies designed to bolster ratings for reruns of the eponymous off-net NBC series. But the creators of that once-promising series seem to have forgotten what made it so intriguing.

Michael T. Weiss continues to ably portray Jarod, a child prodigy taken from his parents to work in an ominous think tank called The Centre. Once he escapes as an adult — using his superior intelligence to assume many identities and master any profession — he's relentlessly chased by Miss Parker (played by Andrea Parker).

But this latest movie is too centered on The Centre, in the process nearly eliminating Jarod's pretender skills and his five-year cat-and-mouse game with the pursuing Parker. The series' creators have replaced their battle of wits with a possible romance.

Well before this, The Pretender's co-creators— executive producers Steven Long Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle — had softened Parker's villainous edge and built up her evil father (Harve Presnell) and the even more devious Mr. Raines (Richard Marcus). In one bizarre twist, Raines now appears to be her father's brother and — maybe — her real father.

Patrick Bauchau, who portrays Sydney — the psychiatrist who was, in effect, a proxy parent to Jarod at The Centre — has surprisingly little to do in this latest saga.

The producers also focus the latest story line on an Africa-based Centre rival called "the Triumvirate" that's bent on finding mysterious scrolls that contain prophecies. After 90 minutes of mystic mumbo jumbo, however, those scrolls remain mysterious.

Jarod briefly becomes an "archeo-symbologist," tracing the history of an eight-skull symbol. His search leads him and his nemesis to an island off Britain. While a major storm frightens its villagers to the mainland, Jarod briefly spots his mother — easy to do, since she's dressed in bright red while everyone else wears shades of grey.

Jarod and Miss Parker join forces to track down the hidden scrolls. The latter constantly chases through a cemetery, after a girl who turns out to be a spirit. At the end, Miss Parker learns more about her own shady ancestry than Jarod does about his.

Although the movie's overall look suggests it may have been planned to air closer to Halloween, TNT will premiere The Island of the Haunted
on Dec. 10 at 8 p.m., as the climax to a 19-hour Pretender
series marathon — one that its creators would do well to watch.