Leaping from comics to cathode tubes, “Human Target” fills the void in the networks’ collective prime-time schedules: a kick-ass action/adventure series. To be honest, I thought the same of 2007’s “Bionic Woman” reboot, but that couldn’t survive past a single season. This one already has “ plus, it need not dabble in sci-fi trappings or get too involved in, y’know, emotions.
It’s simply interested in blowing things up real good, and there’s nothing wrong with that when it’s this well-done.
Mark Valley (late of fellow Fox series “Fringe“) stars as Christopher Chance, a freelance bodyguard who’s like MacGyver, James Bond and Ethan Hunt rolled into one. Breaking from the comics, in which Chance’s disguise skills allow him to step in for the to-be-assassinated, the show has him act as the bulletproof vest, so to speak, for that week’s given would-be victim.
With the assistance of boss Winston (Chi McBride) and tech-geek Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley), Chance spends each of the first season’s 12 hours going through enough derring-do and rigamarole to fill an entire feature film. For example, take the pilot: It begins with a tense hostage situation, ends with a speeding train explosion, and spreads Tricia Helfer thick all in between “ could the series have begun any more promising?
Well, Helfer could be naked, but this is Fox, not HBO.
“Human Target” tops that debut in its second episode, in which Chance flips an at-capacity commercial airliner “ yep, read that again “ to save his mark. Generally beginning in medias res, other eps find him going undercover at a monastery to play a little “National Treasure“-style hijinks, running hand-in-hand with a philandering British princess, and skydiving onto the roof of an office tower to be infiltrated. The season ender is even an origin ep, which goes against the network grain.
Whereas the show is obviously big on action, it’s also quite adept at humor, particularly in the needling repartee between Chance and Winston. The latter asks, “Did the hooker just punch you in the face?,” while the former describes his pal as “a mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in cashmere.”
The casting is pitch-perfect, starting with Valley’s easy-going but not arrogant Chance “ reminiscent of Jeffrey Donovan’s work on “Burn Notice,” but with less wiseacre and more charm. And I don’t know where the casting directors are finding their females, but week after week, “Human Target” is a showcase of the most beautiful women on TV; in addition to the aforementioned Helfer, there’s Emmanuelle Vaugier, Kristin Lehman, Christina Cole and Amy Acker. And not one of them plays mere eye candy, either.
Disc three holds two 15-minute featurettes: one detailing how the show pulls off its movie-quality stunts and set pieces on a comparatively limited budget, and the other on how the character of Chance changed, yet remained true, on its journey from page to screen. A few deleted scenes round out this excellent triple-disc set.
You’ve got plenty of time between now and next month, when “Human Target” returns for its sophomore year. If you’re into acts of espionage “ watching them, mind you, not committing them “ odds are you’ll be wowed, then addicted. It’s deserving of higher ratings, so get to it. “Rod Lott