Human Target (TV show)
The Show: Human Target
Premiere: 17 January 2010 (Fox)
Format: Hour-long TV series, Wednesdays at 8 (7 Central)
What is this?: A bodyguard with a shady past helps people.
The culprits: Mark Valley as Christopher Chance, the Human Target; Chi McBride as Winston, his manager; and Jackie Earle Haley as Guerrero, a psychopathic freelance employee
I’m not sure why I decided to watch the first four episodes of Human Target. I’ve never read an issue of the DC comic starring the character; heck, I’ve never even seen an issue in which he’s been a supporting character. I’m certainly no fan.
Which is fortunate, because as noted elsewhere, Human Target is not distinctively like the comic book. Oh, sure, both feature bodyguards who flush out their clients’ attackers, but what set the comic book version apart was that Christopher Chance, the Human Target, was a master of disguise who could actually take the place of his client. On the TV show, he’s just a clever, athletic guy with a shady past. Frankly, unless Fox was in love with the name, the show could have been called anything and DC never would have had any reason to complain about infringement.
So, that out of the way, how does Human Target do with the premise it runs with? Fine, I suppose, although each episode has been a slow descent into forgettability. (There’s a reason I’m reviewing the first four episodes even though the fifth episode aired Wednesday.) The action is good enough, the character well enough defined (although not always compelling), and it has a bit of a sense of humor. But it never distinguishes itself by being very good at anything.
The pilot began with Chance protecting No. 6 (Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer), who is now a hotshot bullet train designer that someone wants dead. The action’s fun enough, and there’s a nice mystery element as well. But the action (and most of the episode) is confined to the train, and the mystery is solved by Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) off the train. Then, after that, they spend the entire next episode on a plane. (What’s next? A sub? A bus? Wait, I have it — a Winter Olympics tie-in with the entire episode being on bobsleds!) Then there’s the infiltration of a Russian embassy to save Dr. Simon Tam’s (Sean Maher) life and rescuing a criminal and a 1600-year-old document from an isolated monastery under assault by Ethan Rom (William Mapother) …
But even the writers seem to lose interest in those last two plots. There are many ways you can go with getting secret information at a party at the Russian embassy. Locked-room mystery? Wacky buddy comedy with the pretty FBI agent who wants the same information? Super spy sneaking around? No, the writers add in a slow-acting poison that can be quickly neutralized once the antidote is found. A monastery and a lost manuscript should be cool — you can go Dan Brown or Indiana Jones, whichever you prefer, or some other interesting way — but no, it’s just a straight hostage + MacGuffin setup.
Part of the problem is that there is no bite to any of the clients. Only Helfer has had any spark to her character; the rest were either anonymous or bland as Quaker Taste-Free Oatmeal (now with packets of brown!). That puts the onus on the main cast, which isn’t going to work. Valley brings bland handsomeness to the role, but Chance is meant not to be excitable (which also means, in practice, that when he’s not fighting, he’s not exciting — or interesting). Chi McBride is fine, but his character is straight from central casting: uptight manager guy who (although he never says this) is too old for this $&*#. Haley’s character is supposed to be an amusing, wry psychopath, but they forget to add the amusing. Or wry. For that matter, we don’t see him do much violent, except in the fourth episode. We mostly have to take his word for it that he’s actually a violent man.
And part of the problem is the writing. As I mention, the plots are dull, and they’re somewhat predictable. For instance, in the second episode, you have a computer programmer on an airplane. You know, as Chekov told us, that there must be a computer fired at the plane in the final act, and so it is. The humor, which is predicated on the uptight Winston being put in awkward or active situations or Rorschach acting like a jerk, mostly falls flat. I believe Chance had his sense of humor removed in order to make room for a working knowledge of Russian.
There was just enough to make me continue, despite the diminishing returns. Each episode has had an intriguing subplot. Why did Chance decide to become the Human Target? Does Rorschach have a chance to stay on the side of angels, despite his obvious violent tendencies? Will the sexy FBI agent find Chance again? Would she have a chance to find him if she were not attractive? These are questions that will probably be addressed, and I actually am interested in the answers. (Although I don’t want to find out that Chance’s life was turned around when he failed to protect a woman he loved. That’s not very interesting.) But I’m not interested enough to watch more episode. Wikipedia, will you watch the show for me? Thanks!
That being said: The opening titles are very sharp, and the theme song is nice as well. Whoever did the opening titles needs to get more work, and I wouldn’t mind hearing more themes from Bear McCreary either.
Verdict: See if you can get someone else to watch it for you and sum it up, but don’t waste your time on this.
Note: Episodes can be found at http://www.fox.com/humantarget/.