Last Updated: 18 October 2000
TV GUIDE PRINT ARTICLE ALSO ONLINE - Jan 7 1999
The Winter Issue of TV Guide is now online and features the write-up about the show's return
and cast photo (shown at left).
The non-spoiler part of the write-up features a mention of the fan campaign:
The Big News: Intense fan support helped bring back this fantasy-action hour
The remainder of the article features spoilers for those who are sensitive to that sort of thing.
You can find The Sentinel
column under "Returning Series"
INTRIGUING SENTINEL STARS - Jan 8 1999
People Magazine Online have released the results of their online poll which
compliments their annual "25 Most Intriguing People" print issue.
After last year's Top Ten ranking for Garett Maggart (No.8) Sentinel fans
again achieved great success voting Richard Burgi into No.10 position and Garett
Maggart in at No.11.
As a Top Ten placewinner, Richard Burgi was featured with a photo and
write-up while Garett was also featured. (see below)
Burgi, 40, plays the psychic Lt. Detective Jim
Ellison on the UPN series Sentinel. The actor's
own second sense told him "fans had a great
influence keeping (the show) going" after more than
10,000 of them called to protest the show's one-time
imminent cancellation. He also credited the studio and
the second-tier TV network for keeping the show alive.
As Burgi revealed to PEOPLE Online recently, he married
kind of late in life -- just over three years ago, at
age 37. (A former girlfriend was Ellen DeGeneres'
current partner, actress Anne Heche.) He and his wife
Lori, who teaches yoga, have a son, Jack, born in 1996,
and the Burgis divide their time between Vancouver,
British Columbia, where the show is shot, and Los
Angeles, which they call home. In his spare time,
Richard pursues his love of music.
SENTINEL REPORT ON PASADENA PRESS TOUR - Jan 10 1999
From the Cop
Back in Saddle Again
The Sentinel Returns ...
Regardless of what happens with the 1998-99 television
season, the story of how The Sentinel made it back to UPN's schedule
will go down as one of the first cases of a show brought back by Internet fans
(along with CBS' Magnificent Seven.)
However, now that it's back, what can fans expect?
Television critics got a glimpse of the season's
eight shows (yep, that's it for this season) when series stars Richard Burgi
and Bruce A Young met critics last week, along with Executive Producer Danny
Bilson and Paul DeMeo, during the Television Critic's Association Winter Press
While several hundred fans who came to Pasadena to
visit the cast and producers were treated to lunch, a look at a new episode
and a visit from the actors, critics had a chance to ask questions about the
upcoming shows and the series' lucky return from the brink of annihilation.
(Thanks to Maria for the photo (above) of Richard
and Bruce signing autographs for fans at the Rally. Visit Maria's
Rally Website for her Rally report and more photos from the weekend.)
Also worth noting were just how much De Meo and
Bilson credit the fans for helping the show and how instrumental viewers are
to its direction.
"I like to credit the fans," Bilson said,
when discussing the show's return. "There's a huge fan element that is
very loud and has put a lot of pressure on everybody."
When asked exactly how the fans brought the show
back, Bilson was blunt.
"I think they tortured the network. I really
"It's pretty extraordinary." De Meo agrees.
"We had -- just in my office alone -- we had a notebook about that thick
(holds fingers apart) with literally thousands of email."
"I think the Internet definitely is a tool
that's become incredibly important." De Meo continued. "It certainly
revolutionizes this sort of fan-based support for any show. And, in
particular, our show."
However, Bilson also pointed out that the fans have
helped the show's current development.
"The most interesting effect of the fans to me
was that they absolutely affected the show creatively this year. Because we
were getting all this input of what they like and what they don't like, and it
had an absolute effect on choices that I made creatively of what we did in
these eight episodes."
what were some of those changes? Bilson focused on the mythology of the
Sentinel and the friendship between Ellison (Richard Burgi) and Sandburg
While the discussion with critics was fairly quick,
covering barely half-an-hour, Bilson said he hoped the season wouldn't be over
"The best thing that could happen to this show
is an order for 22 (episodes) next fall."
However, in case UPN decides again not to pick up the
show, and viewers are unable to save it again, Bilson and De Meo have no
cliffhanger planned for this season.
"We did -- and I directed it -- a finale, the
eight episode of the eight -- that allows the show to continue but wraps up
the first 65 episodes in a lot of ways, both emotionally, and some of the
situations that were set up in the pilot three years ago. We felt that for the
fans and for ourselves, if we're not going to go on beyond the eight, we
wanted to have something that would work as a series finale."
But, De Meo promises, "there is definitely an
opening at the conclusion of that episode" to continue if the show is
The Sentinel returns
to the UPN schedule on January 18 with the series premiere, followed on the
25th by last season's cliffhanger. The new season premieres on February 1.
Read the Press-Transcript here
UPN ON AIR ADVERTISING FOR THE SENTINEL - Jan 12 1999
As well as the numerous magazine and newspaper articles, there have been a number
of Sentinel commercials on UPN leading up to the series' return on January 18 (encore
screening of the pilot).
|Most unique of all is a commerical designed as a companion piece for Dilbert, which
will air Monday nights, before The Sentinel at 8pm/7c. It features an animated
Jim (Richard Burgi) Ellison in an action sequence, which eventually segues into the real
Jim. It says:
"What's the perfect companion to UPN's animated series, Dilbert?"
[enter animated Jim, wearing a black, form-fitting full-body armor suit (a-la Batman), running
down the street with gun in hand]
"The Sentinel -- that's what."
[more animated Jim, kickboxing and punching the air -- he finally kicks a window pane and
shards fly across the screen.]
"Okay, so he's not a cartoon..."
[flashing close-up of animated Jim alternates with real screen pic of Jim(Burgi)]
Jim: [from Neighborhood Watch] "Oops, cat's out of the bag, Chief."
"But in his own way, he *is* highly animated."
Followed by a collage of explosions, punch-ups, garbage truck scene, etc. from previous eps
including Switchman, Vow of Silence, Vendetta, Secret, etc.
It ends with:
"The Sentinel returns Monday on UPN."
(Thanks Cathryn, Tricia, Jean, Noon and especially Becky and Robyn for the grabs of the
Sentinel cartoon and the write-up )
THE SENTINEL STRIKES BACK - Jan 13 1999
Sci-Fi Teen #5 (March 1999)
by Steve Newton
Not even cancellation could stop TV's hero with super-senses
[Caption: The Sentinel stars Bruce A. Young, Richard Burgi and Garett Maggart
are happier now that the show has been given a new lease on life.]
TV series get cancelled all the time: it's par for the course in the entertainment biz. But it
isn't often that a show gets canned and then brought back. That's what happened with The
Sentinel, UPN's popular series about a police detective, Jim Ellison (Richard Burgi),
who discovers he has developed a keen range of hyperalert senses. Like the mythical "sentinel"
of precivilized cultures, he possesses radically enhanced sight, hearing, smell, taste, and
touch. Ellison teams up with grad student Blair Sandburg, who taps into his encyclopedic
knowledge of the "sentinel" legend to aid Ellison in dedicating his newfound abilities to the
war on crime.
The Sentinel -- which has been resurrected after three seasons for at least eight more
episodes, to begin airing this winter on UPN -- was created by Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo. The
two wrote and produced such cult sci-fi films as Trancers, Arena and Zone Troopers
-- which Bilson also directed -- before going mainstream in '91 with Disney's The Rocketeer.
The duo's other TV credits include The Flash and The Human Target.
Bilson -- whose Pet Fly Productions also delivers the nationally syndicated series
Viper -- feels quite close to The Sentinel after three years, and was
understandably bitter when the show was initially given the heave-ho. He is very thankful to
the outpouring of support from hordes of Sentinel fans seeking to rescue the show from
oblivion. "We have a huge fan base that was writing letters and jamming their phone lines," he
says. "I had no idea that they had that much at stake emotionally, but I was surprised and
delighted by how passionate they were."
[Caption: In a series full of action, it's the relationship between Sandburg
and Ellison that stands out for the fans.]
Bilson thinks he has a pretty good idea what the main attraction is the people who put so much
time and effort into keeping the show going: the relationship between Ellison and Sandburg. "I
get a lot of feedback from the fans," he says, "and that's what I base things on. We even
adjust things based on the fan input. And they absolutely love the friendship between the two
guys; that's kind of the core of the show. The production value, the action and the adventure
are all secondary to their friendship."
The Sentinel is unique as far as TV cope series go, and Bilson traces its success to its
rare blend of elements. "We take a high-energy, over-the-top action/cop show and then add this
science- fiction aspect -- the heightened senses. That was always the concept we hooked onto,
and that's what we think is really fun."
[Caption: Having survived cancellation, situations like this should be a
breeze for The Sentinel's cast.]
Richard Burgi plays the tough but vulnerable Ellison, the sole survivor of a doomed
reconnaissance mission that forced upon him 18 months in the jungles of Peru. It was here that
he was instilled by the Peruvian tribesmen with the extraordinary sensory gifts that allow him
to hear a ticking bomb entranched in the deep recesses of a large building, or to discern the
emotional state of an adversary. While growing up in Montclair, New Jersey, Burgi was
surrounded by the performing arts -- his parents were involved in theater and his brother is an
Before taking on the role of Ellison, Burgi spent many years in TV soap operas, including
Another World, As the World Turns, One Life to Live and Days of Our Lives. But
he says that acting in soaps isn't really all that different from performing in The
Sentinel. "You know, it's all the same," he offers. "I mean, when it's presented in its
purest distillation, soaps are just actors living in a moment -- hopefully responding seriously
to a given stimuli. And it's fun; I enjoy soaps."
Burgi also enjoys the camaraderie involved in filming The Sentinel in Vancouver, Canada.
"The people I work with up here are just delightful," he says, "and I have a lot of fun with
the actors on the show. It's kind of like going on a madcap caper week after week. It's the
people that make it fun, and that's what excites me about it." His other passions include
surfing, traveling and playing music; he's the proud owner of the legendary Buddy Miles'
vintage drum set.
One person who has already tried out those prized drums is Garett Maggart, who portrays
Sandburg, the grad student dedicated to keeping his thesis subject (Ellison) in one piece.
Maggart claims he's a "hack" on drums -- and on guitar -- but admits that musical inclinations
run in his family. His father is actor and former opera singer Brandon Maggart, and his sister
is none other than pop vocalist Fiona Apple.
[Caption: Grad student Sandburg (Maggart) would never see this much action
hanging around a library.]
Maggart says that the biggest challenge of his Sentinel role is just sustaining
Sandburg's character. "It's different than doing a guest bit where you just go and you pop it
and leave," he says. "The longevity of the show is the challenge -- to keep the excitement and
the thrill and the energy of it up -- because sometimes you can get sort of complacent and
lackadaisical with it."
The actor was most impressed by how the fans of The Sentinel reacted in its defense when
word of the cancellation first got out. Their charged response also made him realize the power
of the Internet. "I think that our fan base are all on chat lines," he says. "They all have
Sentinel web pages and things, and they just inundated UPN with E-mails, jammed up the phone
lines, stuff like that. It's amazing what the Internet can do. It's scary, too."
The third star of The Sentinel is Bruce A. Young, who plays Captain Banks, Ellison's
tough but fair superior officer, who has no recourse but to accept the detective's erratic
behavior once his hyper-vigilant senses surface. No office-bound bureaucrat, Banks is
considerably more likely to thrust himself into an investigation alongside Ellison than to
toil at his desk pushing paper.
The classically trained Young has guest-starred on such series as The X Files,
Highlander, and Quantum Leap; his most recent movie role was opposite John Travolta
in the hit Phenomenon. Like The Sentinel's other principals, he was taken aback
by the fan support, and hopes the show will continue to win reprieves from cancellation. "It
is a different and offbeat type of show," he says, "not your usual crime drama, so we do have
a lot of fun with it. It would be nice to keep it going."
Young has actually met many of The Sentinel's enthusiastic fans in person during
conventions and such, and reports that they majority of them are female. "We have a very large
female audience that is very loyal," he says, "and they're the ones who are the most vocal. I
imagine there must be some guys, but they don't' come to the conventions. The girls are willing
to fly and come meet people; I think the guys just stay home and watch TV."
Contact details: (if you want to write and thank them for the coverage or just follow
up the article)
Starlog Presents Sci-Fi Teen
published bi-monthly by Starlog Group, Inc.
475 Park Ave. S.
New York, NY 10016
To obtain additional copies of the magazine, send $3.99 plus $2.50 to cover shipping to the
address above. [Note: There is no indication if that $2.50 covers international postage.]
(Thanks Juli and Sherry)
RICHARD BURGI SLATED FOR TV GEN/YAHOO ONLINE CHAT - Jan 13 1999
Richard Burgi will also be participating in the Yahoo/TV Gen online Sentinel chat series.
He'll be online on Monday, February 1st, 8-9 EST (5-6 PST).
The Sentinel chats commence Monday January 18 with Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, followed
on January 25 with Garett Maggart all at 8-9 EST (5-6 PST).
For more details visit Yahoo Chats.
(Thanks to the Official Richard Burgi Fan Club)
SENTINEL ARTICLE ON TV GEN - Jan 14 1999
From TV Gen Sci-Fi News
By John Walsh - email@example.com
Sentinel Star a Living Doll?
(Thanks Beth and Jean)
Talk about your action figures. "I wanted to put
out a Sentinel doll that was life-size," Richard Burgi told reporters at
the Television Critics Association's annual press tour in Pasadena, CA.
"It would know your feelings and hug you a lot."
Failing that, the Sentinel star said, "I
want to establish my own web site so I could interact with the fans on that
level." Unfortunately, he said, "I'm computer-illiterate. My wife is
the one who's online."
When UPN pulled the action-buddy series from its
lineup last fall, "fans tortured the network" with calls, letter and
faxes, executive producer Danny Bilson laughed. The show returns Mon., Jan.
18, at 9 pm/ET.
"The fans absolutely affected me creatively this
year," Bilson continued. "We were getting all this input about what
they like and what they don't like, and it had an effect on the choices I made
in these last eight episodes."
Wait: Is that last as in "most recent," or
last as in "final"? Without giving away too much, Bilson said the
finale "wraps up the first 65 episodes in a lot of ways. We felt that for
the fans and for ourselves, if we're not going to go beyond these eight
episodes, we wanted to have something that would work as a series
Burgi hinted that the final episode "opens the
door for the show to go in a completely different direction," but
admitted he had mixed feelings about it. "Any time you're looking at that
finite quality, it brings up a lot of stuff," he said.
"But I'm so grateful the fans responded the way
they have," Burgi said. "All I can do is talk from my heart and give
them my sense of gratitude."
RICHARD BURGI - URBAN SENTRY - Jan 15 1999
From TV ZONE, #111 (cover features Lisa Howard and
Robert Leeshock from Earth:Final Conflict)
By Steven Eramo
Star of The Sentinel, Richard Burgi explains why
Ellison is a "throwback from the Sixties"
(Thanks Sue, Michelle and Michelle)
In the late 19th Century famed British explorer
Richard Burton became aware of a curious phenomenon in his study of remote
tribal cultures. He discovered that each tribe posted a watchman to patrol its
borders, but this was no ordinary sentry. This individual was chosen because
he had a unique genetic advantage over his enemies - a heightened sensory
awareness beyond anything displayed by his fellow tribesmen. Sadly, Burton's
findings were not enthusiastically received by most of his peers and his
research was nearly forgotten.
some people have a keen sense of hearing or taste, no human has ever exhibited
what Burton claimed to be the acute development of all five senses. In the UPN
series The Sentinel, however, Lieutenant Detective James Ellison is the
television equivalent of these gifted natives that the explorer met. An
ex-soldier Ellison was the sole survivor of a disastrous reconnaissance
mission that marooned him for eighteen months deep in the Peruvian jungle.
During this time he honed the very same sensory skills developed by these
tribal watchmen or sentinels. Nowadays, he uses these abilities to battle
crime in the fictitious town of Cascade, Washington. Handsome actor Richard
Burgi had just returned from Hawaii and working with ex-Charlie's Angel Cheryl
Ladd on the short-lived CBS police drama One West Waikiki when he
auditioned for the role of Ellison.
"After I auditioned for The Sentinel I
didn't hear from them and the programme kind of disappeared. Meanwhile I
needed some time to clear my head and recharge my batteries after Hawaii, so
my dog and I did a five-state tour of the California coast, Nevada, Utah,
Arizona and New Mexico. When I got back they still hadn't found anyone to play
Ellison, so a couple of weeks later I went in and auditioned again. That
afternoon I read for the network and got the job."
"One of the things that really attracted me to
the series was the writing," he continues. "The characters were
clearly defined in that there were a set of parameters for each of them but at
the same time there was lots of room in terms of development potential. Jim
Ellison is a stoic, laconic, toeing-the-line kind of guy who has a fairly
straightforward view of right and wrong. He can also be a bit acerbic and
cynical at times. Jim is sort of a throwback to the old-fashioned action
heroes seen on television and in films during the Sixties and Seventies."
In the show's pilot episode Switchman Ellison
is on the trail of a serial bomber who is planning to blow up a lumber mill.
While alone in the woods on a long stake-out the detective suddenly begins to
suffer from symptoms that he attributes to mental stress. In fact, what he is
experiencing are his burgeoning hyper-senses. When the Switchman succeeds in
destroying his target Ellison blames himself and requests a leave of absence.
Fortunately for him he meets anthropology graduate student Blair Sandburg
(Garett Maggart), who offers the police officer an explanation for his recent
feelings of uneasiness and disorientation. Ellison reluctantly agrees to let
Sandburg observe him while at work in exchange for helping him learn how to
control his newfound powers.
think Ellison still has certain reservations about being seen in public with
Sandburg," jokes the actor. "I remember when I was a teenager I met
this guy who had either been in World War II or Vietnam. He had this
tremendous energy about him and an attitude of, 'Unless you've been there,
unless you've been indoctrinated, trained and broken down, I've got nothing to
say to you.' I can recall feeling, I think, what Sandburg must feel towards
Ellison sometimes, which is that maybe he should do the right thing which is
cut his long hair, go to the police academy and develop a stomach disorder.
Because they're so opposite, though, the two of them complement each other. At
first Ellison has reservations about allowing Sandburg into his private domain
yet he's someone that Ellison needs at this point. However, the more they work
together the more they come to realize just how much they count on each
Ellison and Blair report to Captain Simon Banks
(Bruce A. Young), a veteran police officer who likes nothing more than getting
out from behind his desk and taking an active role in keeping Cascade safe.
Initially, Banks is very reluctant to make use of Ellison's powers but he
finds them to be an invaluable resource in tackling particularly difficult and
"My character is more on a par with Banks in
that Ellison has a military background and he definitely understands rank as
well as the role Banks plays as his superior officer," explains Burgi.
"The captain is a by-the-book type of guy but he has a big heart. Because
of his ethnicity he's worked twice as hard to get to where he is and perhaps
holds his people accountable twice as much as other captains because of his
high ethics and standards. He's a valued individual and I mean this about
Bruce Young the actor as well. He and Garett are two of my favorite people.
They bring their characters to life with a wonderful blend of spontaneity,
humour and compassion."
In The Sentinel's three seasons on the air
Ellison and Blair have faced an elusive serial killer who adopts the identity
of his victims (Cypher), prevented the distribution of a deadly new
'designer drug' (Blind Man's Bluff) and stopped a poaching syndicate
responsible for killing endangered animals (Poachers). In addition to
the show's pilot Burgi has a few other episodes he counts among his favorites.
did a story involving a Mafia family last year [The Inside Man] that I
really enjoyed. I like The Rig which takes place on an off-shore oil
rig and also Vendetta involving road rage. That one was directed by a
fellow by the name of Tim van Patten, who used to be on The White Shadow.
He's a terrific guy and a great friend. We always have a lot of laughs working
together. Incidentally, it was written by a close personal friend, David
Thoreau, of the Thoreau lineage. I have fun on all our episodes except that
once in a while I get frustrated because I want the material to be great, all
of us do. Occasionally, though, a story comes along that is less than
brilliant but we still try to do our best with it."
Big Guest Stars
Last season's Sentinel ended on a dramatic but
downbeat note with the episode Sentinel Too. In it one of the show's
regular characters is left for dead and a female Sentinel named Alex, alias Star
Trek: Voyager's Jeri Ryan, arrives in Cascade bringing with her a dark and
disturbing secret. This past September Ryan returned to Vancouver, British
Columbia, where the show is filmed, to reprise her role for its fourth-season
"Jeri is a sweet lady," says the actor.
"She's very talented and extremely professional. We lock lips a fair
amount in this new episode," he laughs. "Jeri is a real trooper and
we had a lot of fun working together."
While UPN continues its struggle to find it audience
base The Sentinel has performed particularly well for the network and
has developed a loyal viewer following. The first convention for the show was
held in Vancouver this April and a CD soundtrack was recently released by
Sonic Images. With all this support it is no wonder that Burgi and the rest of
the cast and crew were taken by surprise when The Sentinel was not
renewed for the 1998-1999 fall season. Happily, the network had a change of
heart - greatly influenced by the fans and their massive Save The Sentinel
campaign - and is bringing the series back as a mid-season replacement
beginning Monday, 25 January 1999.
"I was somewhat disappointed when the network
people pretty much overlooked us last season," he continues. "The
series has proven itself and it feels as though they've never gotten behind it
for one reason or another. I was hurt and I took it personally because I
looked at the show as a family that I didn't want to break up. Of course, I
experienced the usual feelings of self-doubt and failure. That just made me
want to redouble the efforts of everyone on the show, especially the writers,
to really come up with fun and riveting material that all of us can get behind
"The fans are great," he continues.
"They're certainly one of the reasons why we're coming back,"
enthuses Burgi. "Besides the fact that The Sentinel is one of
UPN's better-rated shows, the fans were so vociferous when it came to dealing
with the network. They flooded UPN with phone calls and e-mails to the
Internet site demanding the show's return. They're very sweet and particularly
generous. We recently held a successful fund-raiser to benefit Pediatric Aids
and the Elizabeth Glaser Foundation."
In God's Hands
With The Sentinel having wrapped production in
December and its fate dependent on how it fairs opposite Fox Network's popular
Ally McBeal, Burgi has no idea what the immediate future holds. "All I
hope is that I'm able to work on something like The Sentinel where the
people are committed as well as compassionate
MORE MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE SENTINEL'S RETURN - Jan 19 1999
Monday 18 January
INJ TV - Cover Story
From INJ TV Online
Burgi plays the title character in The Sentinel, returning tonight at 9
p.m. ET on UPN
Fans on the Internet saved this program from
extinction. The Sentinel was canceled by UPN last spring for sagging
ratings, but did an about-face on that decision after fans organized a World
Wide Web-based protest. Tonight, UPN airs the drama's pilot episode. This will
be followed next week by the last season's cliffhanger. The week after that on
Feb. 1, new episodes will start.
Tonight, Det. James Ellison (Richard Burgi) is
introduced. He's a former Army captain who was left in a Peruvian jungle, where
he developed enhanced sensory abilities. With the help of Blair Sandburg (Garett
Maggart), he tracks a serial bomber.
WATCHING OVER THE SENTINEL - JAN 17 1999
From the Houston Chronicle
By Ann Hodges
Houston Chronicle TV Critic
Crusading fans celebrate return of UPN action series
(Thanks Tany and Congratulations to the Texas Tribe)
Pasadena, Calif. - Never underestimate the Internet.
It has the power to do the next-to-impossible: save a TV show from a network's fiery furnace.
The Internet saved The Sentinel.
If that makes you say, "Say what?" just take an online hike to http://www.egroups.com and let
Kaytee and her chat pals at Texastribe fill you in. They're the top fans of a UPN series that
most viewers have probably never seen.
The Texastribe flew to California to meet with UPN and the Television Critics Association.
Other Sentinel fans - more than 250 of them - came from all across the country, Canada,
Germany, Italy and the Bahamas. They came on their own to fill up a Ritz-Carlton Huntington
ballroom with a rally to celebrate The Sentinel's reprieve.
After teetering on the brink last spring, The Sentinel returns at 8 p.m. Monday, when
UPN will rerun the original pilot to give those unfamiliar with The Sentinel's
action-packed adventures a chance to catch up. The show, by the way, got a good review from
this critic when it premiered.
And take it from one who saw the rally, the fans' devotion is above and beyond. It would take
a cold heart to deprive this fervent crowd of its favorite TV show.
UPN's heart melted.
The show is explosive action and intrigue, centered on Det. Jim Ellison (Richard Burgi), a
policeman with remarkably sensitive senses. Once a captain in the Army's Special Forces, he
survived 18 months in a hostile Peruvian jungle, which left some lasting mystical touches.
Ellison's secret is known only to Blair Sandburg (Garett Maggart), the young anthropology
student who's studying Ellison's gifts, and his superior, Capt. Simon Banks (Bruce A. Young).
The fans were mostly women, with a sprinkling of males. From the looks on their faces as they
cheered their hero Burgi, this was their moment of triumph.
"I saw some previews of the show on Star Trek: Voyager, said Texastribe's Kaytee
(she uses her e-mail moniker on these occasions). "I liked the mystical aspects of it and the
relationship, the real chemistry, between the characters - all the things I saw on it that are
not on any shows now."
On the Internet, Kaytee found a lot of other fans who felt the same way. They were all on
different e-mail lists, so she invited Texas fans to get together on their own, the Texastribe.
"We got together and really bonded," she said. "We've become friends. About 20 of us have met
five times now for rallies. Ten are here today."
Houston's Carol Shorn was here, too. She flew in for the rally because she loves the way the
character of Blair Sandburg is presented. He's a nice normal guy. So many times TV makes
scientists look foolish or nerdy, said Shorn, who's a scientist.
Shorn, a sci-fi fan, heard other fans talking about The Sentinel. When one of them sent
her a tape, she was hooked.
Bryan's Ann Walton flew in, too. Like Lorrie Roussin of Austin and Carmen Medina of San Antonio,
she finds a spiritual quality in the show.
"Most of the mail tells us they love the mythology, the back story of the jungle and the cats.
And they love the friendship between Ellison and Sandburg," creator and executive producer
Danny Bilson said. "We've tried to do more about those things in the next eight."
"We never cancelled The Sentinel. We just put (it) into back-up," said Tom Nunan,
president of UPN Entertainment. "It performed well for us, but we weren't sure whether it
would be a building block for next fall."
He thinks moving it from Wednesday to Monday will bring in "an interesting male skew,
especially with Monday Night Football off the air."
On Jan. 25, UPN will rerun last season's finale, which was a cliffhanger. New episodes begin
on Feb. 1. The Sentinel had just finished shooting the second half of the cliffhanger
last May when UPN sent the message now etched in the memory of Bilson: "The words were, 'You
are not on the schedule.'"
Those were the last words he expected. The ratings were "relatively good for UPN," and the
show had been running for 57 episodes. "Our studio is partners in the network, and the show's
been sold to syndication, and we felt there's no way we're going to get cancelled. It just
didn't make financial sense," Bilson said. "We were completely shocked."
That's when the news hit the fans - like a ton of bricks.
"I like to believe they brought us back," said Bilson. "That feels really good....a huge fan
element that is very loud and has put a lot of pressure on everybody. I contact some of them
on e-mail. If they brought us back, that's the best scenario for what could have happened, so
I like to think that is what happened."
How did they do it?
"I think they tortured the network," Bilson said. "I heard stories like they were jamming the
phone lines and sending them so much e-mail that ultimately they started turning the mail back,
there was so much."
"It was pretty extraordinary," creator and executive producer Paul DeMeo added. "In my office
alone, we had a notebook with literally thousands of e-mails."
There were 1,500 in the first 48 hours after word of the cancellation got out. That's an
avalanche to UPN, which has had its problems rallying fans to anything this season.
"I think the Internet is a tool that's become incredibly important," DeMeo said. "It certainly
revolutionizes this sort of fan-based support for any show. And on our show in particular, it
really did make a big difference."
There is, to be sure, the question of whether all this celebrating is premature. UPN has
ordered only eight more episodes, and there are no assurances The Sentinel will survive
"I'm very, very grateful we're sitting here today from where we were in early June. And if
it's only eight, I'm just happy that we have another shot to get on the air and let the people
come and watch it," Bilson said.
As the star, Burgi has been thinking a lot about how to thank the fans.
"I was hoping the network would get behind it, and put out a Sentinel doll that was a
life-size figure people could take home, and it would know your feelings and would hug you a
lot," he quipped.
But seriously, folks, though he professes to being "computer illiterate," Burgi wants to
establish his own Web site, the better to interact with fans.
"We've had some conventions and spent some time with them," Burgi said. "I feel so grateful
the way they've responded, all I can do is speak from my heart and give them my gratitude."
He did that, down the hall in the ballroom, and they all went home happy, with autographs and
MAKING SENSE OF THE SENTINEL - Jan 20 1999
From TV Guide, British Columbia - Canada - Jan 23 Issue
By Steve Newton
(Thanks Cathy, Lois and Dianne)
TV series get cancelled all the time; it's par for the course in the entertainment biz. But it
isn't too often that a show gets cancelled than brought back again. That's what happened with
The Sentinel, Vancouver-shot series about a police detective, Jim Ellison (Richard Burgi), who develops
a keen range of hyper-alert senses. Like the mythical "sentinel" of precivilized cultures, he
possesses radically enhanced sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Ellison teams up with
anthropology student Blair Sandburg, who tapes into his encyclopedic knowledge of the sentinel
legend to aid Ellison in the war on crime.
The Sentinel was created by Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, who wrote and produced such
cult sci-fi films as Trancers, Eliminators, Area and Zone Troopers before going
mainstream in '91 with Walt Disney Pictures' The Rocketeer.
Bilson is very close to The Sentinel after three years, and was bitter when it was
given the heave-ho. He is thankful to the show's fans, but notes that it was mainly corporate
pressure by associate producers Paramount Network Television that resulted in The Sentinel's
new lease on life. "We have a huge fan base that was writing letters and jamming their phone
lines," he says. "I had no idea they had that much at stake emotionally, but I was surprised
and delighted by how passionate they were. And I would love to think that [UPN] cared about the
fans, but I can't tell you that's what it was."
Bilson believes the relationship between Ellison and Sandburg is the show's magic formula.
"I get a lot of feedback from fans," he says, "and that's what I base things on. We even adjust
things based on the fan input, 'cause that's the only input we get. And they absolutely LOVE
the friendship between the two guys, that's kind of the core of the show. The production value,
the action, and the adventure is all secondary to the friendship of the guys."
While The Sentinel is unique as far as TV cop series go, Bilson traces its success to
its rare blend of elements. "We take a high-energy, over-the-top action-cop show and add this
science-fiction aspect - the heightened senses - to it. That was always sort of the concept
that we hooked onto, and that's what we thing is really fun."
Richard Burgi plays detective Ellison, the sole survivor of a doomed reconnaissance mission
that stranded him in the jungles of Peru for 18 months, where tribesmen instilled in him the
extraordinary senses that allow him to hear a ticking bomb entrenched in the recesses of a
building, or to discern the emotional state of an adversary. His quest to become an actor -
and to portray a detective on TV - originated in his childhood, when he and his brother
operated a secret detective agency from his parents' garage. In addition to that convert
activity, Burgi was surrounded by the performing arts in his hometown of Montclair, New Jersey,
where his parents were involved in theatre and his brother is an accomplished musician.
Before taking on the role of Ellison, Burgi spent many years in soaps. Avid fans will remember
him as Chad Rollo on Another World, Glen Harrington on As the World Turns, Randy
Stone on One Life to Live and Phillip on Days of Our Lives. But he says that
performing in soaps isn't really all that different from performing in The Sentinel.
"You know, it's all the same. I mean, when it's presented in its most pure distillation, I
think that soaps are just actors living in a moment, hopefully responding seriously to a given
stimuli. And it's fun' I enjoy soaps, I enjoy the kind of familial and ensemble qualities of
Although he still likes watching daytime drama, Burgi, a nature lover, favors the Discovery
Channel and National Geographic specials. he is actively involved with the Montana-based
Yellowstone Ecological Survey, which strives to inform and educate people about Yellowstone
Park's fragile ecosystem. He also enjoys surfing, travelling and playing music - he's the proud
owner of the legendary Buddy Miles' vintage drum set.
Garett Maggart, who plays Sandburg, the anthropology student dedicated to keeping his thesis
subject (Ellison) in one piece by accompanying him as a permanent police-department observer,
has had a crack at the prized drums. Maggart claims he's a "hack" on drums - as well as on
guitar - even though musical inclinations run in his family. His father is Brandon Maggart, an
actor and former opera singer, and his sister is none other than pop vocalist Fiona Apple.
Maggart's previous TV credits include a memorable portrayal as Weird Bruce, the radio
technician on Frasier, and a recurring role on Days of Our Lives. He says the
biggest challenge about his current role is just sustaining the character of Sandburg. "it's
different than doing a guest star where you just go and you pop it and you leave," he says.
"The longevity of the show is the challenge, to keep the excitement and the thrill and the
energy of it up, because sometimes you can get complacent and lackadaisical with it."
Maggart says he was impressed with how the fans of The Sentinel reacted in its defence
when word of the cancellation first got out. Their charged response also made him realize the
power of the Internet.
"I think our fan base is all on chatlines," he says. "They all have Sentinel web pages
and they really just inundated UPN with e-mails and jammed up the phone line. It's amazing what
the Internet can do. It's scary, too."
Maggart, who volunteers as a children's acting teacher in his spare time, says he hopes The
Sentinel will continue, but is realistic about how TV networks sometimes do business. "I'd
love to keep working at it," he says, "it's a great job, and as long as people want it, let's
keep giving it to them."
"It would be nice to keep it going," agreed Bruce A Young, who plays Captain Banks, Ellison's
superior officer who has no recourse but to accept the detective's erratic behavior once his
hyper-vigilant senses surface. "It is kind of a different and offbeat type of show. It's not
your usual crime-drama, so we do have a lot of fun with it." No office-bound bureaucrat, Banks
is more likely to thrust himself into an investigation alongside Ellison to toil at his desk.
The classically trained Young has guest-starred on such series as The X-Files, Highlander
and Quantum Leap. On stage he has starred in Driving Miss Daisy, The Taming of the
Shrew and Macbeth. His most recent movie role was opposite John Travolta in
Like The Sentinel's other principals, Young was taken aback by the fan support, many of
who he's met at conventions, and reports that the majority of them are female. "We have a very
large female audience that is very loyal," he says, "and they're the ones who are the most
vocal. I imagine there must be some guys, but they just don't come to conventions. The girls
are willing to fly and come meet people; I think the guys just stay home and watch TV."
As long as they're watching The Sentinel, the show will go on.
SOAP OPERA NEWS RICHARD BURGI INTERVIEW - Jan 21 1999
Soap Opera News issue Jan 26
by Paulette Cohn
Former Daytime Star Richard Burgi Owes His Second
Chance On Prime-Time to Fan Letters and Calls
What self-respecting daytime fan doesn't remember that
fans picketed NBC to save Dr. Marlena Evans when it appeared she'd been
murdered by the Salem Strangler? Or how fans saved Brad Maule from the ax on
General Hospital? Now it's multisoap veteran Richard Burgi (ex-Philip, DAYS;
ex-Chad, AW, et al.) who's being brought back to TV by popular demand as
Detective James Ellison on UPN's The Sentinel.
"The fans just inundated the network, jammed up
the Internet and the phone lines," Burgi acknowledges. "We hadn't
been picked up, so I guess that means we were officially canceled -- but then
there was this enormous amount of mail and phone calls."
Now the last episode of the series' third season airs
on Jan 18, the pilot re-airs the following week (to provide new viewers with
back story), then season four begins on Feb. 1.
According to legend, Sentinels were individuals with
heightened senses that they put to use to protect their tribe. The show's
premise is that Ellison is essentially a Sentinel, but living in a modern
society bereft of any primitive faiths that believe in the existence of
"Actually [his hyper senses] were with him as a
child and through his whole life," Burgi says. "He was shut down
emotionally in many ways, but the time he spent in the Peruvian jungle brought
it all out again. All his senses are heightened. He can see farther and taste
better. I think we all possess the capacity to have our senses sharpened. How
else do you explain the palate required by wine tasters or the sense of smell
needed to become a perfume sniffer?"
Working in Vancouver, where the series is shot,
leaves Burgi little chance to stay in touch with his daytime roots, although
he's still in contact with onetime AW co-stars Hank Cheyne (Ricardo, SUN) and
Kale Browne (Sam, OLTL). Nonetheless, he has happy memories of his time on the
NBC soaps. "I had a great great time on Days of Our Lives and Another
World," Burgi says. "DAYS was one of my more enjoyable experiences
under contract. I wasn't content at all on the other shows, but it had more to
do with me."
One reason that Burgi is even more content today is
his family: his wife of three years, Lori, and their son, Jack Charles, 2.
"Lori moved in across the street form me," the actor reveals.
"I think I offered to have my dog protect her -- if she needed company or
something. We just started talking, she invited me over for a bite to eat one
night and I pretty much knew that was it. I was hooked. Wife, child -- it was
all in the picture."
Speaking of his child how did they decide on the name
Jack Charles? "His name came to my wife in a dream and it's a name I
always liked," Burgi explains. "Various characters named Jack have
influenced me: Jack London, Jack Kerouac, Jack Nicholson, Jack Johnson, the
boxer. While she was pregnant, Lori saw this little boy in her dream and he
told her his name. She also has an Uncle Jack, so it's a family name. Having a
child is the most profound experience of my life."
Happily, Lori teaches yoga, which she can do in
Vancouver, so the family is able to stay together while the show is filming.
And yoga has also been a physical blessing to Burgi. "I had a herniated
disc in the '80s and chronic back problems for years," he says. "I
was going to get an operation, but then I started doing yoga, and as long as I
do it, my back is fine. I also walk as much as possible and hike with my son
and my wife."
While Burgi is excited about the show's reprise, if
it turns out to be the last season for The Sentinel, he'll take that setback
in stride. "All you can do is enjoy the experience," he says.
"Enjoy the present situation and realize the ephemeral quality of it all.
What does foster security? I think that's an internal thing. I think wanting
to become a doctor, a banker. a lawyer or a ball-player -- none of it
engenders security, if you think about it."
"Personally, I think I've come into a place of
my own connection with work and life. It's a time period that suits me. My
personal growth and emotional experiences have accrued in a way to allow me to
express myself in a certain way and be present in a way where I wasn't
before," he adds.
"I have some projects in the works, but I don't
really know what I'll do [if the show is canceled]. We may take a years off to
travel. I'd like to spend as much time as possible with my family. I've always
enjoyed traveling and sampling different cultures. It's an amazing world and
I'd like to see more of it."
MORE SENTINEL COVERAGE - Jan 25 1999
TV Guide has a blurb about the upcoming TV Gen/Yahoo Richard Burgi chat. On page 55 in a box
titled "sitelines" and it reads as follows:
Ask nature-lover Richard Burgi about The Sentinel's return when he visits TV Guide Online,
FINDING CLOSURE - CHICAGO TRIBUNE ARTICLE - Jan 26 1999
By Allan Johnson
Tribune Staff Writer
There were those who were somewhat amazed when UPN last season canceled its
sci-fi series The Sentinel, a pretty entertaining show about a lawman
who developed supersensitive senses after a lengthy stint in the Peruvian
The Sentinel had more action than a regular police show, likable
stars headed by Richard Burgi as supercop Jim Ellison and a small--but
So when The Sentinel closed its season with a potent cliffhanger
featuring special guest Jeri Ryan of Star Trek: Voyager, and UPN
announced the show wouldn't show up on the 1998-99 schedule, Sentinel
fanatics let their e-mail, letter-writing and paid advertisements do the
talking. These are the same tactics that fans of CBS' The Magnificent Seven
used to help get that show back on the air.
The protests worked, and The Sentinel was slotted as a backup
series. Smart move, considering UPN went into a ratings tailspin this season.
"We always knew that we might need to slide it (The Sentinel)
into a number of different slots in the schedule," admits UPN
Entertainment President Tom Nunan.
The Sentinel resurfaced Jan. 18 with a replay of the series pilot.
Monday's episode was last season's cliffhanger, during which Ryan, whose
character also has Sentinel-like abilities--heightened sight, hearing, taste,
smell and touch--seemed to have killed Blair Sandburg (Garett Maggart), the
anthropology graduate student helping Ellison get a handle on his abilities.
Next Monday (8 p.m. on WPWR-Ch. 50) The Sentinel launches the first
of eight new episodes with the resolution of the cliffhanger. Producers Danny
Bilson and Paul DeMeo obviously would have liked a full-season order of 22
episodes, but they'll take what they can get.
"I'm extremely grateful that we're back on the air at all,"
Bilson says. "We were really, really disappointed in being canceled,
because I felt like we were making a good show, and for that network, we were
holding our own."
Both producers were also amazed they were yanked because if UPN had given
them signals to the contrary they wouldn't have ended the season with the
apparent death of Sandburg, according to DeMeo. DeMeo, with his partner, also
created the syndicated action series Viper and previously developed the
superhero show The Flash for CBS.
The Sentinel will run new episodes through March 1, followed by a
couple of months of repeat shows the two producers consider their favorites.
Three new shows then will air for the May sweeps.
The eight shows represent a wide variety of styles that DeMeo and Bilson
always wanted to try with the series--one episode has a film noir-ish slant
with elements shot in black and white; another show is something of a sequel
from a previous episode starring several professional basketball stars;
another features Robert Vaughn of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as an actor
from a 1970s detective series who tries the real thing.
"All the episodes I think are really rich. So what we were doing was
making like eight pilots in a way," Bilson says.
UPN will monitor the ratings for The Sentinel to see if it warrants
renewal. If not, then the season finale won't keep fans in suspense.
"The last episode that was shot had definitely a sense of closure on
what we've done," says Burgi, the 40-year-old star of the series.
But if The Sentinel does return, Burgi adds that final episode also
"opens the door for a whole new way for the show to go."
Burgi has been an actor for 12 years. His credits include One West
Waikiki with Cheryl Ladd and soap operas As the World Turns and One
Life to Live. He says one reason fans like the show is the relationship
between Ellison and Sandburg, who pretends to be a special police consultant
so he can ride along with Ellison. The pair also share a kindred spirit in
Ellison's superior, Capt. Simon Banks (former Chicago actor Bruce A. Young)
and all three keep Ellison's superpowers a secret.
"I think we always tried to bring a real level of vulnerability and a
heart quality to (the show); I can't find any other way to put it," Burgi
says. "These characters are struggling with their place in life . . .
especially Ellison. This isn't something he wears easily."
Adds DeMeo: "There's a lot of humor between (Ellison and Sandburg),
there's a spiritual bond between them, and these are characters that you come
back to week after week.
Burgi is pleased to have returned to the role of Ellison, a character he
thought he'd never play again after seeing the show disappear without any
"I like his cynicism," Burgi says of Ellison. "I guess I can
be very cynical as well, but his wearing that as a badge is just an acerbic
way of relating to things. I think he's kind of an old schooler and old
thinker, and he is thrust into this world of rapidly changing cyberdynamics--what
do they call it?--the Digital Age. He's an analog guy to a degree."
RICHARD BURGI'S UPN MOVIE TO RERUN IN MARCH - Jan 29 1999
UPN has plans to rebroadcast "I Married a
Monster" starring Richard Burgi as the newly-wed husband who falls prey to
alien possession, on Thursday March 18.
(Thanks Linda )
ONLINE CHATS UPDATE - Jan 29 1999
Garett Maggart and Richard Burgi will be doing online
chats for People Online on Monday, February 8. Garett will be chatting from
8-8.30 pm ET (5 - 5:30 pm PST) while Richard will be following on at 8.30-9 pm
ET (5:30 - 6 pm PST).
People Online is now on America Online - AOL Keyword
"People" but to access the chat you will need to be an AOL subscriber.
(Thanks Linda and Ann)
Read Richard's AOL Chat Transcript here
GIST TV FRONT PAGE FEATURE ON SENTINEL, TOO - PART TWO - Jan 29 1999
Gist TV has a feature
article on The Sentinel, in the lead-up to the screening of new fourth season episodes.
Saving The Sentinel
Mondays, 9 to 10 p.m. ET
By Frank Lovece
"And now, the senses-shattering conclusion of The Sentinel!"
That's what its fans faced last spring, when the hour-long series about a police detective
with super-enhanced senses was abruptly canceled mid-cliffhanger. You could almost
hear them crying out, in time-honored comic-book fashion: "Noooooooooo!!!"
But this is real life, not comics. And the series' media-savvy audience had a weapon
more powerful than repulsor rays or super strength: activism. After a telephone, letter
and e-mail campaign that even raised money to buy support ads in USA Today and Daily
Variety, fans helped convince UPN to bring back The Sentinel. The fourth season
began Monday, Jan. 18 with a rerun of the pilot episode, followed a week later by part one of
the third season's cliffhanger finale, guest-starring Star Trek: Voyager
Borg-babe Jeri Ryan. The first new episode premieres Monday, Feb. 1.
"I think they tortured the network," says a beaming Danny Bilson, one of The Sentinel's
two co-creators and executive producers. "I mean, I heard stories where they were jamming the
phone lines and sending so much mail that ultimately [UPN] started turning the mail back."
"We had 1,500 e-mails in the first 48 hours of cancellation," marvels fellow executive producer
Paul De Meo, who with Bilson had previously brought DC Comics' superhero The Flash to TV.
"Having an audience that's vocal like that," says Bilson, "has been really great in the face of
Series star Richard Burgi gives credit to both ends. "I'd like to think that one of the reasons
it's back on is that the people who are running the network are flexible. And to be flexible in
this day and age is a very necessary qualityto admit you've made a mistake and to
look at something that's a good product and to support it as such."
The series stars Burgi (center) as police detective James Ellison, a former Army captain
who'd been stranded 18 months in a Peruvian jungle. He adapted and survived with the unknowing
help of some mystical science that gave him super-sensitive hearing, touch, taste, smell
and sight, in a manner supposedly similar to that of ancient tribal sentinels who developed
their senses to peak human degree. Ellison later discovered he'd had this latent ability since
childhood. Now, living and working in (fictional) Cascade, WA, he's learned to focus his
potentially overwhelming senses with the help of anthropology grad student Blair Sandburg
(Garett Maggart, right above, son of actor Brandon Maggart). Bruce A. Young (left above)
co-stars as police captain Simon Banks.
Jeri Ryan guested last May on the third-season finale, "Sentinel Too," as a heretofore
unknown second Sentinelone who, after awakening from a coma with unformed Sentinel
abilities that Sandburg helped nurture, turned on her benefactor and killed him (or so we
"It's a great group of people to work with, so we had a lot of fun cutting up on the set,"
recalls Ryan (left), whose skintight outfits as Voyager's sexy Seven of Nine helped turn
her into a sci-fi icon. However, her evil Alexis Barnes was not, she laments, "a huge, huge,
huge departure. I mean, she's obviously very different from Seven, but it's not a drastic
enough departure to make it enormously fulfilling." Still, the actress quickly notes, "I don't
mean to disparage the character at all. It was fun. And it was great fun being out of [my
Star Trek] corset and catsuit, lemme tell ya!"
In traditional heroic-fiction form, the two sentinels face each other mano-a-mano
in the long-delayed part two of "Sentinel Too." But for now and for the remainder of the
eight new-season episodes so far, it's clear the show's fans have gone mano-a-mano
with UPNand everybody won.
MORE SENTINEL MEDIA COVERAGE - Jan 30 1999
ON SAT magazine - Feb 8-14 - "Tube Talk"
by Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith
Richard Burgi's "The Sentinel" has risen from the dead--thanks solely to the show's fans.
After three years on the air, the network had canceled the drama about a policeman with
extraordinary senses, but a deluge of letters, e-mails, and phone calls prompted UPN to rethink
its decision--and the show will go on! The new season's first original episode aired Feb. 1.
And you thought your opinions didn't count!
E! News Daily will be running a story on The Sentinel featuring interviews
with Richard Burgi and Jeri Ryan, and clips from Sentinel, Too, Part 2. It is scheduled
to air on Monday, February 1 at 7 p.m. and on Tuesday, February 2 at 10 a.m. ET and 7 a.m. PT.
(Thanks to the Official Richard Burgi Fan Club)
CNN Headline News - Friday Jan 29
The Hollywood Minute featured a spot on The Sentinel's cliffhanger resolution.
The promo said:
"The Final Showdown between The Sentinel. Det. Jim Ellison and his evil counterpart, Alex, is
coming to UPN. The second half of the two part cliffhanger that ended last season will air
Monday night on UPN."
The trailer they showed Jim in Alex's burned apartment. He was feeling fabric on the couch and
appeared to have a vision of Carl and Alex in the room (the vision was all in blue), the scene
then flashed back to Jim's face (again in color, hands still on the couch), then back to a blue
scene of Alex at a window in a tropical locale, and finally back to Jim's face in the apartment
(in color, removing his hands from the sofa, looking puzzled).
Richard Burgi & Garett Maggart pinups in POPSTAR!
From: Hollywood's Hottest Hunks Magazine
"Richard Burgi & Garett Maggart will each be featured in a full-page pinup in
POPSTAR! (v.3 #2), which goes on sale March 9. It's an
all-Hollywood's hottest hunks issue."
Entertainment Weekly - TV section
Monday - Series Premiere
Thanks in part to a grassroots fan campaign, UPN and star Richard Burgi decide to stick around
for season 4 and keep it real for the people.
SENTINEL SUPPORTERS ARE ON GUARD - Jan 31 1999
by Kate O'Hare
Tribune Media Services
Anyone walking into the lobby of the swank Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif.,
in the late afternoon of Jan. 8 would have been greeted by the sight of Richard Burgi, star of
UPN's The Sentinel, posing for photo after photo with excited fans sporting Sentinel
T-shirts and badges.
As part of the Television Critics Association's annual Winter Press Tour (an opportunity for
networks and cable channels to show off their new product to a large assemblage of reporters),
there was also an event for fans of The Sentinel, who are a large reason the show is
back on the air.
After The Sentinel did not appear on UPN's fall schedule last year, dedicated fans, many
of them communicating through the Internet, began a determined campaign to assure that the show
would get a fourth season. They barraged UPN with letters, calls and e-mails, and even raised
money to purchase ads in USA Today and Variety.
They were rewarded earlier this month by the show's fourth-season premiere on Jan. 18, actually
a rebroadcast of the show's original pilot (in case we'd all forgotten what it's about). Last
week, the third-season cliffhanger, "Sentinel,Too, Part One" aired. Monday, a string of eight
new episodes begins with "Sentinel, Too, Part Two" the conclusion.
In both episodes, Star Trek:Voyager star Jeri Ryan plays Alex, the evil counterpart to
Detective James Ellison (Burgi), a man whose experiences in the Peruvian jungle gave him
radically heightened senses, which he uses to fight crime. In the cliffhanger, Alex apparently
killed Ellison's partner, anthropologist Blair Sandburg (Garett Maggart). Now, Sandburg leads
Ellison on an adventure into the jungles of Peru (sic - actually the action takes place in
Mexico) (actually Vancouver, B.C., where the show is filmed), on a mission to sell nerve
gas to drug lords.
Although fans no doubt are thrilled to have new episodes, Burgi and the show's creators, Danny
Bilson and Paul DeMeo of Pet Fly Productions (Viper), have mixed feelings about the
whole affair, as expressed in interviews conducted just as the show wrapped production last
"I just wish that the whole affair was handled better and there was some sense of understanding
of the thinking of the network," Burgi says. "Well, we've proved ourselves, I think. Oh well,
let's just go on. There's some strange contest that goes on, on the executive level, sometimes,
that circumvents all rational thought and potential creative integrity. We're all befuddled as
to what the real reason for it was, because it definitely wasn't about lack of viewership."
Although the ratings for The Sentinel, which airs Mondays at 8 p.m. (Channel 45), didn't
light any fires by the standards of ABC, NBC, or CBS, in the UPN universe they far outdistanced
most of the new shows that were put on the fall schedule in place of it.
"It feels like a stay of execution," Bilson says. It doesn't feel very alive. They gave us
eight episodes, and they can kill us again. Our reruns did better than most of their premieres.
You know, we can keep this, like, really superficial and positive, but we're getting abused.
"I don't understand, nothing makes sense to us except that it feels like discrimination for
some reason. We have no idea why. Two plus two isn't equaling four."
Did UPN ever offer explanations for why the show was canceled or why it then was brought back
for just eight episodes? "No," Bilson says. "They don't talk to us. We have no communication
with UPN. Isn't it bizarre? It's the worst situation I've ever been in in 20 years in the
business. I don't know what to say."
While producers fight the network wars, Burgi soldiers on to finish a last scene for "Sentinel,
Too, Part Two." "This weekend, I have to go down and run amidst the crashing surf with Jeri Ryan,
once more in a liplock."
Every job has its perks.