In old tribal cultures, every village had a Sentinel.
The Sentinel was chosen upon a genetic advantage: a sensory awareness which is
more developed than of other people. I have hundreds of documented cases of
one or two hyperactive senses but none with all five. You could be the one I
am looking for..."
With those words spoken by the young scientist Blair
Sandburg each episode of the spectacular action-fantasy series The Sentinel
- in the eye of the hunter starts, and which is on the air again
prime-time PRO7 since June 7.
Caption (left): With the weapon in hand against
crime: The Sentinel (Richard Burgi)
Hadn't two theater enthused students met over 20
years ago at a performance of the California State University, this different
police-story of the sensitive detective Jim Ellison would never have happened.
Danny Bilson, born in Los Angeles, and Paul DeMeo, coming from Buffalo,
quickly figured out their same love for adventure stories and old action
movies. They sat together and began writing theater pieces. As other famous
writer clubs (e.g., Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond) they spent more time
together than with their current girlfriends.
In the eighties the both had their breakthrough with
Science Fiction B- Movies such as Future Cops (1985), Destroyers,
Zone Troopers (both 1986) and the comedy Scout Academy (1988). For
TV Bilson / DeMeo wrote 1990 the interesting but only short-lived fantasies
show The Flash. Today Paul still goes into raptures about remembering:
"Gosh, what did I love this show. We had a lot of new ideas and were
going to write the scripts for the second season, when the TV station told us
it had been canceled."
The following works Rocketeer (1991) and The
Human Target (1992) didn't succeed either. Then the two producers
catapulted themselves with two international successful action shows to the
top of the US TV charts. Viper (1994) and finally The Sentinel
CBS wasn't interested in a story about a cop with
heightened senses. After Warner didn't want The Sentinel, even though
one of the leading producers Ron Taylor voted for it, the script ended up in a
desk drawer. When Taylor moved to another company the time for the Cop Ellison
had come. UPN wanted a test script but the writing friends Bilson and DeMeo,
who were working on two movie-scripts at that time, demanded a warranty for a
pilot movie, which they got. The outcome: 65 episodes of The Sentinel
and a compassionate fan-community, which goes through hell and high waters for
(right): Sometimes the unequal friends must go to the extreme
Detective James Ellison lives in the fictional city
of Cascade and is a successful police officer. After a helicopter accident he
was the only survivor of, his five senses became heightened. Since his
18-month stay with a tribe in the jungles of Peru, he has been capable of
seeing finger prints with his eyes, smelling scents over great distances,
eavesdrop on arguments, feel certain motions in the air and detect microscopic
surface breaches by touch. Thus The Sentinel is one sole annoyance for
But his superior, Captain Simon Banks, is not always
enthusiastic since James has problems to deal with his new capabilities. Help
comes in form of the anthropologist Blair Sandburg whose dissertation is about
the phenomenon of Sentinels. He is more than happy to have found in Ellison
the first modern of his kind. A friendship develops between the two private
completely different men, which cannot be shaken. Nonetheless, they fight word
battles in a funny and sometimes fierce manner in which James calls his
ponytail wearing partner ironically 'Chief'.
Besides the especially in the third and the fourth
season spectacular chasing and action scenes, the only real replacement for MacGyver
has gained a fanatic fan- community precisely because the interpersonal
involvement adds spice to the show. When in spring 1998 it became known the
series would be canceled the protest streamed. The fans bought entire ad pages
in TV and movie magazines to emphasize their protest. On the Internet a
Sentinel Webring had been founded to promote a continuation of the adventures
of detective Jim Ellison. There are still 90,000 (!) entries for the search
string The Sentinel today.
The wave of protest doesn't fail its effect. UPN
decided to order a fourth season. Main actor Richard Burgi: "Although the
fans had a great deal in this, I hope that a further reason for coming back
was the capability of the relevant people working at the TV station to learn.
They made an error by canceling a successful and high quality product and had
the bravery to correct it."
(left): For the super hearing, safes with number locks are not a problem
For the authors Bilson and DeMeo it had been a
wonderful experience in learning not to be completely helpless in facing a
sudden cancellation. Due to the bad memories regarding The Flash both
of them are immensely grateful for the support: "The enormous fan- echo
did put a tremendous pressure on all of us. This made finally the
Admittedly the fourth season only consists of 8
episodes, but they are rich. Each of the particular lavishly arranged stories
costs 1.85 Million Dollars: a record for TV shows! All went through much
trouble improving their work. This was what we owed the fans (Bilson).
Whether there will be a fifth season isn't decided
yet. The last episode The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg is not a
cliffhanger but ties-up many loose ends for a harmonic conclusion. Yet
everyone, authors and actors, are open for continuation. Should the financial
backer decide otherwise they already know what they'll catch!
James "Jim" Ellison
had survived as the only soldier of a covert ops troop a
helicopter crash in the jungles of Peru. While his involuntary 18-months stay
in the wilderness, his senses became heightened. He can see, smell, feel,
taste and hear better than others. After his rescue from the primeval forest
he returns to the city of Cascade. As a detective his extraordinary senses
stand in good stead. As support and help his superior put the young Blair
Sandburg at his site.
was born July 30, 1958 in Montclair, N.J. After
traveling through Europe and the rest of the United States the son of theater
loving parents decides to become an actor. In Manhattan Burgi earned his first
money with commercials and small roles before he became known as Chad Rollo in
the soap opera Another World. After roles in shows such as As The
World Turns and Days of Our Lives, he played his first bigger part
in the TV movie Chameleons in 1989 at the side of Stewart Granger. To
force his career the nature lover and enthusiastic surfer moves to Los Angeles
and soon has success. In the Hit series Viper Richard plays 1994 the
diabolic Lane Cassidy and in One West Waikiki he can adore his partner
Cherryl Ladd as a detective Mack Wolfe. The producers of Viper were
shortly after looking for a main character for their newest project named The
Besides working for TV Richard, who engages himself
heartily for ecological themes, plays the drums and likes traveling, still
finds time to do movies. Thus we will see the married father of a 2-year old
son soon* in the sci-fi movie I Married a Monster. What does only his
wife think about this title?
*note: the movie hasn't been aired yet in Germany
is a young anthropology student who is working on his
dissertation on Sentinels. He will prove Sir Richard Burton's thesis that
people with a certain genetic advantage can improve their senses by spending a
longer time in the wilderness and solitude. Up to now this individual lived
only in pre civilized cultures but Sandburg considers Jim for the modern
version of this kind. Blair is for the Sentinel some sort of 'Guide' helping
him to understand and control his senses.
comes from an actor family and was born in May 24, 1969.
He gave his debut in the series Brothers in which his father played a
part. After he had a tiny part in Garp and how he saw the world (The World According to Garp) as a
child (1982 with Robin Williams), the boy decides to stay in this business. In
the TV series Frasier Garett gives a memorable performance as the crazy
technician Bruce before he becomes recognized in April 1994 in the soap opera Days
of Our Lives and shortly after as the host of the music show House of
Blues. The sports enthusiast and musician in leisure time lives in Los
has been captain for four years and knows as the only
member of his department about Ellison's special skills. Over time he had
learned to esteem the hot temper of his best detective and trust The
Sentinel's instinct. To diminish Ellison's eagerness a little and to give him
the opportunity to even improve his skills he agrees to Sandburg being an
official observer and thus ride-along for Jim. Banks had been recently
divorced and has a fourteen year-old son.
Bruce A. Young
is a well-known TV, movie and theater performer. Bruce
who studied theater science is guest star in uncountable popular series such
as XFiles, Highlander. In movies the actor could also be seen at the
side of Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct), Paul Newman (The Color of
Money), John Travolta (Phenomenon), Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon II)
and Madeleine Stowe (Blink). On stage Young played last Shakespeare's Othello.
He lives in Los Angeles.