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Last Updated: 29 November 2000


'The Sentinel' rates as super role for Richard Burgi

Special Projects Editor
April 10, 1997

Available online at

What would you do with vision so powerful that it could enable you to detect an insect several hundred yards away? Hearing which could make that insect chewing on a leaf sound like a deafening roar?

Your senses of smell, taste and touch would be similarly sharp. This keen hypersensitivity would prove formidable, particularly if you made a career out of law enforcement.

Jim Ellison is a police detective who develops such extraordinary powers, then uses them to fight crime in The Sentinel. The United Paramount Network airs the action drama at 8 p.m. Wednesday on WUAB-TV (43) here. (Check weekly listings in Sun Stations as time and date may vary due to baseball and basketball).

Richard Burgi plays Ellison, an Army officer who was isolated in the Peruvian jungles for 18 months after his squad was wiped out on a reconnaissance mission. Later, Ellison discovers this solitary time has sharpened his perceptions past normal human bounds.

It wouldn't take much to mold Ellison into a superhero. After all, series creators Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo were familiar with the genre from creating The Flash. But Ellison and The Sentinel are more grounded in humanity, a choice which the 38-year-old Burgi appreciates.

"It would be so easy to portray this guy simply as an action character," Burgi says in a morning call from Vancouver, where the series is filmed. "But their concept of adding the human element to him works well. It gives Ellison a real cynical kind of assertive edge, something which he needs just to survive. Plus, the writing and the character developments offer attempts at bringing a little bit of humor into the drama surrounding this guy's life."

"Even more than that, I'm happy with the fact that this guy also is a regular schmuck hwo just happens to have something extraordinary that helps him out in certain situations -- and also can hinder him in others."

A native of Montclair, N.J., Burgi was surrounded by the performing arts with his parents involved in community theater and his brother with music. Traveling throughout America and Europe landed him in Manhattan, where commercials and cameos led to several roles in daytime dramas, including Chad Rollo on Another World, Glenn Harrington on As The World Turns and Randy Stone on One Life to Live.

Burgi moved to Los Angeles and quickly earned a villain role on the adventure drama Viper, also created by Bilson and DeMeo. That led to One West Waikiki, a crime drama in which he played a Honolulu homicide detective working beside medical examiner Cheryl Ladd. "It was a great job with great people," Burgi says of the midseason series, which CBS cancelled quickly. "We did solid numbers, including 14th in the week for the first episode, but the network changed the guard, as it seems to do a lot, and that was that."

Shortly after Burgi returned to the mainland, Bilson and DeMeo called about The Sentinel. Now, with Lori, his wife of two years, and 4-month-old son Jack, Burgi is savoring what he admits is "a great job and a great time. Sure, I have problems with material and execution sometimes, but for the most part, this is a good show that's getting better. Hey, I'm gonna ride this pony until it drops, or at least until it isn't fun anymore."

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