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Human Target Review: Series Premiere

By  · Published on January 18th, 2010

Greetings fellow couch potatoes! I’m back to pepper another television series with my perspective; such as it is. Given that covering V has been no walk in the proverbial park, you may wonder why I agreed to undertake another show. Well from the promos, Human Target seemed a little more up my alley so I thought I would give it a shot. Also, should it not thrill me, Human Target is airing on Fox so I have about a one in three chance it will be canceled. Human Target centers on a bodyguard named Christopher Chance. Along with his put-upon handler and a rogue behind-the-scenes operative, Chance is the best protection money can buy.

My good friend John Gholson of Cinematical informed me, prior to watching the pilot episode, that Human Target is based on a DC comic. Instantly I was intrigued by the idea of covering this series. It doesn’t take long for Human Target to flex its comic book roots. It opens on a hostage situation that is thwarted expertly by an already established hero. Not that the populous is familiar with him, but its crystal clear that we won’t be needing an origin story. What follows is an opening title sequence that is one part graphic novel and two parts James Bond. Right off the bat, they establish the energy and style that will define the show.

For reasons I will expound upon in a moment, I am going to break down the plot of each episode thusly…


An inordinately gorgeous engineer is in the final stages of completing a new bullet train in California. She doesn’t consider her life to be out of the ordinary until her mechanic finds an unexploded bomb under the hood of her car. She enlists the help of Christopher Chance to help unmask her assassin. Chance convinces her to attend the inaugural voyage of the train; bringing him along under the guise of being her interpreter. Chance sees this as the perfect opportunity to not only draw the villain into the open, but also gives him the perfect mobile cage in which to keep him cornered. As the trip progresses, more and more details come to light that narrow this whodunit down to one undeniable conclusion.

Let’s talk cast. The lead, Chance, is played by Mark Valley of Fringe. He is pitch perfect for this role. He is kind of a meathead, but he is also suave and dispenses the wit masterfully. I really like Valley, but then I was one of eight people who actually watched Keen Eddie so I may be oddly biased. Rounding out the cast we have Chi McBride as Chance’s boss. McBride is so dependable he may as well have the words death and taxes tattooed on his knuckles. No matter what film or show he’s in, or the overall quality of that project, you can set your watch by his sound performances. He’s the straight man to Valley’s macho, wise-cracking hero. Finally, we have Jackie Earle Haley as the unscrupulous operative whose intel-gathering provides the clues for Chance to find the perpetrators. I love Haley and he shines in this with just the right amount of snark and a complete lack of conscience.

I dig Human Target quite a bit. It is like 24 stripped of its political intrigue, and by that I really just mean that it’s a dumbed-down action series. I have nothing against shows like Lost that are incredibly layered or procedural cop shows that tend to venture into more cerebral territory. But every now and again it’s nice to see a scripted series that aims for all-out entertainment and cheesy characters you can’t help but love. It is by no means a bad show, it does everything it sets out to do with great skill and care, but it offers no threat to the front-runners for Best Television Series Drama at next year’s Golden Globes. But again, this thing is immensely entertaining.

What I really love about Human Target is that it feels like a show ripped from the 80’s. I can hear Dr. Abaius mentally writing this show off somewhere just reading that line, but I love the hell out of it. What we basically have here is a bunch of over-the-top characters hamming it up and delivering the chuckles as well as the punches. We also have some of the most generic music I have ever heard in a television series and pacing that never bothers to sit in the quieter, more thoughtful moments. These aren’t going to be overly intelligent stories, but they will offer outlandish stunts to get the good guys out of harm’s way and plenty of explosions. Airing on the side of fun over strong character development or deep, meaningful plot? Sounds pretty 80’s to me.

Also we have what is essentially a “monster of the week” story structure that provides compartmentalized plots. These plots allow our heroes to be in different locales with different gorgeous co-stars from week to week and ensure that audiences don’t have to be in on the ground floor to enjoy. That’s why every week I will break down the episode’s new mission (the target) as I did today. That structure is exactly what defined MacGyver or Magnum, P.I. Everything about this show feels like a cheesy action series from my favorite decade. We were a Mohawk on McBride and a fancy van away from calling this an A-Team reboot. Just watch for the cameo just before the end credits and you will understand exactly what I mean.

I really enjoyed Human Target. I am hoping that the episodes that follow will be just as fun as the pilot. This is a show that will be a joy to cover for as long as Fox allows it to exist. I don’t know, we’ll see.

Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.