Posted by Don MacPherson on January 16th, 2010
Human Target TV series pilot
Starring: Mark Valley, Chi McBride & Jackie Earle Haley
Director: Simon West
DC’s Human Target property is adapted for the small screen for the second time, and judging from the pilot, it’s probably not going to last much longer than the 1992 TV series of the same name that starred rocker/actor Rick Springfield. This new take on TV’s Human Target looks promising on paper, given the strength of a couple of key cast members, but the end result is a generic action-adventure show. It’s so formulaic that the viewer is taken right out of the story. The dangers are often contrived, and low production values hinder the cool factor that the makers are clearly hoping to attain. Movie director Simon West is clearly unable to achieve the big-screen flavor the producers are looking for, no doubt due to budget limitations.
Human Target is entirely miss-able, but given Fox’s track record of dumping genre shows quickly, I wonder if viewers are even going to bother investing their time in this latest foray.
Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) is a bodyguard who inserts himself into the lives of his clients, waiting for assassins to reveal themselves as they stalk their prey. His modus operandi is to strike at the last moment, to eliminate the threat before it can claim its intended victim, with the support of his handler Winston (Chi McBride) and the skills of freelance hacker/investigator Guerrero (Jackie Earle Hale). A hired killer is out to eliminate his latest client (Tricia Helfer), an engineer who’s designed America’s first bullet train. As Chance fends off attacks on the speeding train’s inaugural run, he and his colleagues work to solve the mystery of who hired the assassin.
This TV show is linked to the DC comic book pretty much in name alone. Yes, in the comics, Chance also protects those who’ve been targeted for death, but he does so by replacing them with the use of elaborate disguises and a deep psychological transformation. There’s none of that in this TV show. It’s easy to see why: why would a star sign on to do a show in which his character rarely wears the star’s own face? Still, that psychological aspect is lacking here, save for the suggestion that Valley’s incarnation of Chance has a death wish.
Valley’s profile on TV has risen in the last few years with spotlighted roles on Boston Legal and Fringe. Unfortunately, being centre stage in his own show has highlighted his stiffness. His attempts to portray Chance as a thrill junkie or as a tortured soul fall flat. Valley might make a good stoic, all-American hero type a la Captain America, but he just doesn’t seem to have the personality for much more. Chi McBride is wasted here, playing the same kind of character we’ve seen him portray in the past. His presence in this show just made me miss his last project, Pushing Daisies, all the more. Jackie Earle Haley stands out as compared to the other performers, as he brings a weird intensity to the show. It doesn’t really fit, and his participation makes McBride’s character completely superfluous.
The plotting is awkward and contrived. The circumstances that lead the bullet train to become a death trap are painfully difficult to swallow, and all of the characters are portrayed as being far too skilled and uber-aware. The script almost portrays Chance as being superhuman, and that makes the character less interesting, not more interesting.
Given the debut of this new show, DC has been reprinting some of its more recent Human Target comics, namely, those written by Peter Milligan. He brought an interesting psychological component to the property during its time as a Vertigo property. He portrayed Chance as a man lacking identity who easily lost himself in the roles he played as part of his job. It brought an edgier and thought-provoking quality to the property as well as the potential to turn every story into a two-faceted character study (of Chance himself and of the person he impersonated). It’s a shame there wasn’t something of that brainier approach in this TV show. Of course, the disconnect between the premises in these two different media probably won’t help DC move many books either. 3/10
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