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Last Updated: 8 April 2002


RICHARD BURGI CHAT ON YAHOO/TVGEN - FEB 1 1999

Thanks to Kay Lynne for the chat transcript.


E! ENTERTAINMENT REPORT ON SENTINEL, TOO - PART TWO - Feb 1 1999

"In Voyager, Jeri Ryan has gone where no men, or women, have gone before..."]

[picture of Jeri Ryan as Alex Barnes]

"but now, a loyal following of TV viewers has enticed Jeri to reprise her more down-to-earth role on UPN's sci-fi action series The Sentinel. Patrick Stinson has more."

[title - 'back by popular demand' and footage of the temple and Jim-in-the-bath scenes]

Patrick Stinson (VO): " Jeri Ryan returns to The Sentinel for another guest appearance as Alex Barnes, a nefarious character with extra-sensory abilities."

[snip of Alex talking to Jim about how her sensory awareness has doubled, etc., ending "I want you to see what I see."]

PS (VO): "What Jeri's fans will see on The Sentinel is a character and a setting far different from her full-time job on another sci-fi show, Star Trek: Voyager."

[clip of Jeri in 7 of 9 outfit, putting on lipstick and mugging for the camera, cut to interview of Jeri dressed as Alex.]

Jeri Ryan: "My first scenes were literally in 50 degrees and, I mean, pouring down rain, and I'm rolling around in the mud and running through the woods and climbing on a downed chopper and things like that, but it's... I mean, we're having a good time."

[clips from the shoot-out in the jungle with her escaping on the chopper, and then JR hugging Tony Westman, director of S2p2]

PS (VO): "These are indeed good times on the set of The Sentinel, cast and crew have had their spirits buoyed by loyal fans who helped get the show back on the air after it was canceled last summer."

[clips of Jim in the tank, Tony Westman filming, cut to Richard Burgi]

Richard Burgi: "I was very grateful how people responded to the show, and, you know, just a way of receiving, you know, the input of the audience."

[cut to Michael Lacoe, producer]

Michael Lacoe: "The core of the fan base is largely female, and they're the ones that kind of rose to the challenge and came forward very vocally and put in ads at their own expense and dug into their pockets and put their money where their passions were."

[clip of Alex kissing Jim in the tank]

PS (VO): "Cast and crew, meantime, are facing their new lease on life with plenty of passion as well."

[cut to RB]

RB: "A lot of lip-locks, a lot of head-locks, a lot of love, a lot of sorrow, a lot of crime-fighting, action and adventure."

[clip of Jim and Alex meeting and kissing on the beach]

PS (VO): "The Sentinel airs Monday nights on UPN. I'm Patrick Stinson for E News."

[host reaction: <wide eyes>"Oh my!"]

(Thanks to Carla and the Official Richard Burgi Fan Club)


FUTURE IS TENTATIVE FOR SENTINEL - Feb 7 1999

The Arizona Republic
By Kate O'Hare
Tribune Media Services 
Saved from TV limbo by an eight-episode order from UPN, Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, creators and producers of The Sentinel, admit the show's future is uncertain.

"Our only shot here, this eight, is our reprieve," DeMeo says. "It's a crazy business."

The Sentinel, which airs Monday at 8 p.m., stars Richard Burgi as veteran police detective Jim Ellison, whose 18-month isolation in the Peruvian jungle allowed him to develop vastly enhanced senses. Acting as his partner is an anthropologist, Blair Sandburg (Garett Maggart), who helps him understand and channel his abilities to fight crime. The show began its fourth season on Jan. 18with a repeat of the show's pilot; the first of the eight new episodes aired Feb. 1.

"All we can do as creators and producers is try to make them as good as we can," DeMeo says, "and hope we get a response. Like Danny said, we love the show. Each one of these eight episodes is real special. They're all stories that we really like, they're stories we've wanted to do for a while, that we're finally doing now.

"We're doing a ghost story; we're doing an episode where we have Robert Vaughn as a guest star. He did a great job; it's a fun episode. He's playing an actor who used to play a detective on TV, and then he gets involved with a crime and the police department.

"In our final episode that we're shooting this year, we have Leigh Taylor-Young coming back as Sandburg's mom." 

Says Bilson, "We did another episode with NBA players. We did one last year, we're doing one this year, a big extravaganza." (That episode, "Four Point Shot," is scheduled to air Feb. 15.)

But what would Burgi have liked? "You know, whisked away by giant Andean condors, plopped into a seething froth of Amazonian piranhas, something like that would be, I think, fitting and wonderful. I'm sick of Sandburg in my apartment, time for him to move out! I don't have a life!" 

Speaking of Sandburg and Ellison in close quarters, among the show's Internet fans, discussion constantly circles about supposed homosexual undertones. 

"Yeah," Bilson says. "Actually, in the last episode, you find out they are lovers."

"He's kidding, of course," DeMeo chimes in. "When we read that, we always laugh about it. To us, it's so obviously just a perception. There's no intent there at all, but hey, whatever gets viewers to the show, great." 

Do the actors have any fun with this idea? "Not on camera," Bilson says, "but off camera there's lots of fun with that. If you ever saw the gag reel, there's so many scenes of them kissing."

"We were just talking about the homoerotic thing the other day," DeMeo says, "and we said, 'Why don't we make the last shot of the show, the lights come on, and the two of them are in bed together with the sheet pulled up . . .' " 

"Smoking a cigarette," Bilson says.

"Smoking a cigarette," DeMeo says, "and 'The End.' " 

"Anyway," Bilson says, "it has nothing to do with the show. It's a show about two friends. The appeal of the show has always been, at least with the fans, the friendship. . . . They go through all this stuff, and they always honor their friendship in the end.

"In the finale we're doing, that's exactly what happens. Sandburg makes a major sacrifice for his friend. It's going to be a really nice way to end." 

Finale? Are you giving up? "What we're doing in the last episode, if it is the last one, it completely closes up everything we opened up in the pilot, yet leaves a window open for us to continue," Bilson says. 
 
 

(Thanks Pam and Suz)



 
 

FANS ARE RALLYING TO KEEP SENTINEL ON UPN - Feb 8 1999

Albany Times Union
By Mark McGuire
Staff writer
The Sentinel is a nice little show, a very nice little show by UPN standards. But a better story than the plotlines in this unique cop drama is how it got back on the air for its fourth season.

The show was dead after three years. Technically, UPN didn't cancel it: It was "bumped" from the schedule until mid-season.

It didn't make a difference: canceled, bumped, shoved -- it wasn't on.

The Sentinel is the story of a Cascade, Wash., cop who had survived a crash in Peru as a member of Special Forces and walks away with magnified sensory powers. Paired with Lt. Detective Jim Ellison (Richard Burgi) is Blair Sandburg (Garett Maggart), an anthropology graduate student who is aware of the Peruvian Sentinel myth behind these powers and is studying the detective as a full-time observer.

It is a cop series, a buddy series, with a heavy accent on the mystical and special effects. But there is something else you should know about The Sentinel.

It has fans. Not a lot, but they are there -- and rabid. Throughout this country. Germany. Italy and Australia. And they're tenacious.

"We have a very vociferous fan base," said Burgi, the former soap star (Days of Our Lives, Another World, One Life to Live). "Their ferocity is something to be reckoned with. The people behind it are zealously passionate."

The show is back, for now. The Sentinel (Mondays at 9 p.m., WSBK, Ch. 38, WVBG, Ch. 25) is not a ratings winner. For one, it is on UPN. Secondly, it is normally up against Ally McBeal (Fox) and Everybody Loves Raymond (CBS). For the week of Jan. 25 it finished 111th out of 132 shows.

But it finished fifth out of 12 UPN offerings, which made its absence from the fall schedule upsetting to the cast and producers -- and excruciating to its small band of hard-core fans.

Daria Littlejohn, a 50-year-old illustrator from Dearborn Heights, Mich., is one of them. She was of the group that took an ad out for the show last Monday in USA Today (at a cost, she said, of $9,000; previous fan-paid ads have also run). Littlejohn was also with SOS -- Save Our Sentinel -- which was among those who demonstrated in January at the Television Critics Association gathering in Pasadena, Calif.

"There were over 250 of us there," Littlejohn said. "There would have been more, but a lot of people spent money in October for a Sentinel convention in Vancouver" (where the show is shot).

Burgi shook every hand of the fans, who were overwhelmingly female. "I like going into the fray," the actor said. "I enjoy meeting the people."

You have to ask Littlejohn, nicely, why this show? Why such devotion?

"I never really felt before like this for a show. I guess having met the people makes it even more special," Littlejohn said. "Each show in itself is like a mini-movie. The special effects, the storyline . . there is quality."

This is a relatively new battleground. There have been other fan-based movements like this before. Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman. My So-Called Life. I'll Fly Away. All quality shows.

The Sentinel? Again, a solid show, but not in the realm of those above. The difference today is pockets of fans across the country are now bonded by a second technological tool: the Internet.

"It really surprised me," said Maggart, 29, the son of actor Brandon Maggart (Chicken Soup, Jennifer Slept Here) and half-brother of rocker Fiona Apple. "Not being too computer literate, the effect the Internet has, specifically in this situation, is incredible."

And loud. The Internet -- Web sites, e-mails and chat rooms -- amplify those frustrations throughout the general public. There is still bitterness between the network and fans -- and UPN and the show itself.

"I took it personally," Burgi said. "I don't think I have the same sense of blind trust or faith with the network. I wasn't dealing with people who were clear-thinking or compassionate with their employees."

UPN spokesman Paul McGuire (no relation) said the show was bumped for Seven Days. He said while plans were in place to bring it back, the fan revolt played a factor.

"They are fanatics. . . . It is definitely on the radar of the people involved," he said. "It reminds you of the power of the people watching the show. It is a phenomena."

And a welcome one at that. Fans of Cupid and other quality shows departed or on the rocks, are you paying attention? Guess what: You can have a voice.

Mark McGuire is the Times Union TV/Radio writer. His column generally appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Call him at 454-5467 or send e-mail to mmcguire@timesunion.com.

(Thanks Rosemary)


MASTER OF PERCEPTION - RICHARD BURGI INTERVIEW - FEB 15 1999

Sci-Fi TV magazine
April 1999
by Kim Howard Johnson

The Sentinel is standing guard for another season. And Richard Burgi is glad to be back - especially since the series managed to dodge cancellation, returning to UPN early this year. As viewers know, the hour long series combines action and fantasy as it chronicles the adventures of Lt. Detective Jim Ellison, a former soldier and sole survivor of a mission to the Peruvian jungle that left him with radically enhanced senses.

Ellison appealed to Burgi from the beginning. "it was his sense of honour", says Burgi, "his integrity and his ascerbic, sarcastic wit. Plus, the fact that he was taller than me."

But it wasn't just Burgi's interest that won him Ellison. A recurring part on Viper, produced by Sentinel creators Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo, helped lead to his star role, although Burgi's first encounter with Bilson and DeMeo came in an earlier genre outing. "I actually read for the original Flash. I did not get it, but I ended up doing an episode of that show for them later," says Burgi. "I've known them since then."

Bilson and DeMeo called in Burgi to headline The Sentinel, but the actor doesn't attribute any special significance to their choice. "I was just another schmuck, another actor in town, " he says. "I had finished a series in Hawaii when they called my agent, and one thing led to another."

Ellison is aided each week by anthropology student-turned police observer Blair Sandburg (Garett Maggart), who helps him deal with his radically enhanced senses. Sandburg's encyclopedic knowledge of the "sentinel' mythos forces Ellison, albeit reluctantly, to team up with him as they battle terrorist, hijackers and assassins. The Sentinel triumvirate is completed by police captain Simon Banks (Bruce A. Young), who supervises the pair and begins to rely on Ellison's unique abilities.

Burgi guarantees viewers that this season will include more of the action and excitement they've come to expect from The Sentinel, along with a few twists. "We did a noir-ish episode, we're doing some wacky, funny stuff in another show, and we're doing a fair amount of mystically-influenced work," he says. "We're trying to continue with many of the essential ingredients that have been the mix from the beginning.

"Viewers can expect much more of the seat-of-the-pants variety of action-adventure that we've been providing. The writers and producers have really made an effort to bring a fun DJ to the dance floor, so everybody can have a good stomp with The Sentinel. They've really tried to come up with some interesting, yet do-able shows consistent with what we've done in the past."

Yet despite the action and paranormal abilities, it's the character's relationships that the fans cherish. "Viewer's love the characters and (love to watch them) overcome obstacles in their lives, whether it's within their personal relationships or their relationships with the outside world," says Burgi. "It's classic good guy-bad guy stuff. Fans want to see their hero's lives within the choices they make each episode.

Many viewers simply tune in to The Sentinel for the action. "That also intrigued me about the show, some of the stunts, the fun and the wacky predicaments that the characters get into," notes Burgi. "Some of the action sequences are appealing. I find all that very fun - hanging off helicopters, jumping on and off trains, driving locomotives and boats, falling into water, jet-skiing and escape mechanisms in assault and pursuit vehicles."

Burgi likes to do many of the stunts himself, though the line has to be drawn somewhere. "I try to do a fair amount, but when it becomes unnecessary for me to do something, I'll opt to have them use my stunt guy," he laughs. "If it's something that I think might be dangerous, I obviously won't do it. I like the stunts, but when you do a tonne of them, it gets old after a while.

The actor has done so many stunts that he can't recall a single one he is most proud of. "I liked hanging off the helicopter and climbing up on it. I liked walking on the back of a moving plane," he says. "There have been times that it has been fun and risky at the same time."

Ellison's hyper-vigilant senses have historical precedent in the writings of 19th century British explorer Richard Burton, who described a phenomenon in remote tribal cultures. Villagers chose a watchman or "sentinel" with a sensory awareness developed well beyond ordinary humans, senses sharpened by solitary time in the wild then charged him with guarding the tribe's borders. Burgi uses the little-known phenomenon as background for his role, noting that everything he does with Ellison is based in the real world. "I try to ground all of it in a sense of reality, and the potential for the human condition," the actor says. "I've experienced moments of heightened sensory awareness under various circumstances in my life. I think that all people have the potential for hyper-awareness or a higher consciousness. I try to live in a moment when these things are happening and suspend my disbelief, because I think the character has a sense of disbelief or cynicism about the whole possibility or having heightened senses."

The Sentinel is much more than just another cop show. It explores Ellison's hyper-senses, but it also has a somewhat glib take on events. "Many times when we go into a scene, we need to put our tongues in our cheeks," says Burgi. "We try to dance between comedy and drama, between fantasy and reality. It's an interesting kind of rumba to play week after week, because it can get silly - it can become a parody. We go into it with a sense of humor and integrity in terms of playing it real, and going into it with an appreciation for the theatre of the absurd. We just constantly try to infuse each scene with quality that's consistent with the integrity of the show and its characters."

The Sentinel expertly balances characterization with action, according to Burgi. "To me it's all entertainment. We look to pursue the various forms within the paranormal world with equal vigor, with a sense of constantly delving into areas with a sense of wonder. Banks is the grounded character, and Sandburg and Ellison are tethered in reality in some way by Banks as they're flying around, involved in these wacky capers and supernatural, mystical escapades. We allow for the characters to live that way."

But how would Burgi use such interesting powers, were he to find himself blessed with superior faculties? "I would probably use those powers to further my Peeping Tom adventures!" he jokes. "I would then listen in on conversations where I was sure people were talking about me, and I would be better at the race track! Seriously, how would I use them? If I had been blessed that way, I would like to give back to mankind a certain gift. I would use it for the betterment and the potential evolution of mankind.

Ellison sometimes finds his abilities a double-edged sword - even a curse. Burgi points to the drawbacks of such hypersensitivity. "As far as the character is concerned, there are times where something comes in to overload his senses," he says. "That's probably the only time it becomes a hindrance. When he's doing some investigative work or tuning in to a certain frequency, an aberration of some sort sometimes come in to knock him out of it. It's a little to disruptive and jarring for his liking. That's where it gets in the way."

Burgi says co-stars Maggart and Young are wonderful to work with, and their interactions strengthen the series. "Garett and Bruce are sweethearts, two of my favorite people," Burgi enthuses. "I'm really blessed to be working with them. We have a lot of fun - we have our differences at times, but we're a little family unit here. We're subject to so many familial (situations) that we've become very close. We approach work differently, and the confluence of those approaches produces a very interesting product. But I really love both of them very much."

Last season's cliffhanger, in which viewers witnessed the apparent death of Sandburg, in the cross fire between two Sentinel titans, will be resolved early this season. "Sandburg was killed off because he's no-god ne'er-do-well who was starting to bug Jim and the rest of the police department," jokes Burgi. "Seriously, he's going to be revived, either in spirit or corporeally. So, it's very possible that his returning to the show might be an altered capacity. In other words, it's not all bad news for Sandburg fans."

Another returnee - if only for the first episode of the new season - is Jeri Ryan, who was responsible for Sandburg's apparent demise. "She's coming back to wrap up the cliffhanger," say Burgi. "We have to expunge that entity and vanquish the evil within her, and in some way resuscitate the essence of Sandburg. The show must go on." The return of The Sentinel to the UPN lineup was due to at least in part to the letters, phone calls, E-mail and other support from its loyal fans. And Burgi couldn't be more grateful. "A large amount of the energy behind the decision was due to the cascade of fan calls, feelings and responses," says Burgi. "Fans had a lot to do with it."

Burgi's career began on daytime dramas, a perfect training ground. "I loved 'em," he admits. "I learned to memorize an inordinate amount of material in a short period of time. I really just tried to hang on to the essence of my acting style, which I guess is a Method approach. I tried to incorporate a lot of Eastern philosophy in my work, coming to the material in a childlike way, always with the beginner's mind and a sense of exploration."

The actor eventually moved to prime time action shows, including a guest role on the "Deadly Nightshade" episode of The Flash. "It was really fun wearing that outfit," Burgi confesses, "and I love diabolical characters. I've always gravitated toward darker, twisted, gnarled personalities. I've always been intrigued by that side. I remember driving one of the first NSX cars, the high-end Accura that looked like a Ferrari, before the car hit the showrooms. It was real fun, wacky experience - a comic book, kind of torqued reality. I really like that stuff."

Afterwards, Burgi won a recurring role as diabolical Lane Cassidy on Viper. "I was on there for months and had a great time," he recalls. "I was playing the sinister head of the syndicate. I had my own set, so I never interacted much with the other characters except when they pursued me. It was fun to have that autonomy."

Though he went on to co-star with Cheryl Ladd in One West Waikiki afterwards, he says the producers of Viper remembered him when they creating The Sentinel. "They respected me as an actor, and it was just a question of whether or not the people they were with thought of me as some archetypal leading male," Burgi notes. "I was always happy to be playing the second banana or the bad guy. I prefer character roles."

During the breaks from The Sentinel, the actor portrayed a monstrous husband in the UPN TV movie remake of I married a Monster from Outer Space. "I tried to keep it simple, and to feel uncomfortable being a human, in my own skin. I tried to just live in an uncomfortable place," he says. "Anybody can feel like an alien if they've moved from one place to another or if they've changed jobs. If they really check in with themselves, they only have their skin to be comfortable in, and in the event that's challenged or rendered uncomfortable, it's a very odd feeling. I've been in situations in my life where I have been uncomfortable in my own skin - subsequently, all my movements and feelings and behavior were attenuated. So, I think more people than you might believe can relate to being an alien.

For the moment, however, Richard Burgi is having fun as the world's super-sensitive guardian. "The Sentinel has laughs," he says. "It's silly, it's serious, it's dramatic, it's goofy, and there's an overall positive message. It's a great ride."

(Thanks Kathy and Sherry)


SENTINEL EPISODE PREVIEW - Feb 21 1999

New Orleans Times Picayune
TV Focus magazine
by Benjamin Morrison, staff writer
Film Noir In Color

The UPN action series The Sentinel mixes a little black and white (and even some sepia) with its color for a film noir episode offering style and suspense.

Many standard motifs of the dark films of the '40s are pulled out, including the police interrogation under the bright light, lots of cigarette smoke (Lucky Strikes, in one case), trench coats and the vampy woman with a past.

She in in fact called Veronica, and she has these scenes at a lake. (Hmm.) Water and the water's edge were often part of film noir, as well as boats and beaches. It's all here.

This time out, perennial good-guy Jim Ellison (Richard Burgi) is in trouble, a suspect in a complex plot and double-cross tied to an ex-love (Veronica) and a former best friend, who happened to marry each other. When there are missing drugs and a fiery death, Ellison is the prime suspect. 

The hour handles time shifts by going to black and white (recent past) and sepia (memory). One bit is particularly nice, when an explosion adds a single segment of color to an otherwise b&w landscape. 

The program may be a little offbeat for show fans, but it's a good outing from a good series.
 
 

(Thanks Lyrica)


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