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Last Updated: 18 October 2000

[ January 1-15 1999 | January 16-31 1999 ]


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)


Richard Burgi
Paramount TV

 

1275 Votes 
Richard 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 TV website

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 Tour.

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.)

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 do."

"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."

And what were some of those changes? Bilson focused on the mythology of the Sentinel and the friendship between Ellison (Richard Burgi) and Sandburg (Garett Maggart).

While the discussion with critics was fairly quick, covering barely half-an-hour, Bilson said he hoped the season wouldn't be over so quickly.

"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 picked up.

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 accomplished musician.

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 - jwalsh@newscorp.com
Sentinel Star a Living Doll?

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 finale."

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." 

(Thanks Beth and Jean)


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"

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.

Although 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.

The Audition

"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.

"I 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 other."

Captain Courage

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 bizarre cases.

"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.

"We 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 opener.

"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.

Fan Power

"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 this season."

"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

(Thanks Sue, Michelle and Michelle)

[ January 1-15 1999 | January 16-31 1999 ]

 


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