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Review: Human Target - Pilot (series premiere)

by Mike Moody, posted Jan 18th 2010 1:31AM
human target
(S01E01) Chris Chance is The Mentalist's Patrick Jane, Lie to Me's Cal Lightman and Die Hard's John McClane rolled into one phenomenal package. It's ridiculous, but it works.

The same can be said for this show. Simply put, Human Target rocks. It's a lightning-paced, cocksure and surprisingly funny contempo version of an '80s action TV show. So rejoice, folks. The smart action-packed hour we've been waiting for has arrived.

If there's any justice in this world, Human Target will make Mark Valley a star. No -- a superstar. Three minutes into the pilot and I saw the makings of a classic witty TV hero in his performance. The veteran actor hits all the right notes and manages to make his implausibly awesome character feel like a real person.

And what a character! I had a blast watching Chance do his thing. He's cocky, but in a good way. He's also incredibly intelligent, seemingly indestructible and possibly unhinged. (Why else would he do what he does?) He's a superhero, but he can't fly, walk through walls, or shoot lazers out of his eyes. "Cool" is his superpower.

By now you're probably screaming, "Of course he's a superhero. This thing is based on a comic book!" Indeed. DC has been printing Chance's adventures since the seventies. In the comics, Chance actually "becomes" the person he's supposed to protect by altering his voice and appearance to fool the assassin, thus literally making him a human target.

Thankfully, the show alters the story and ditches the costume changes. Instead, Chance poses as someone close to his client and allows the killer to reveal himself before taking him down. I'm cool with the change. It makes the show feel more believable, or at least as believable as a show like Human Target can possibly get. ABC's 1992 version of Human Target kept the chameleon angle and also starred Rick Springfield. Needless to say, it was a complete disaster and didn't go far past the pilot stage.

I obviously had a lot of fun watching this premiere, but I did see some flaws. The terror train mystery was too predictable and the ending to the main story was a little too perfect. But the great cast, clever dialogue and sensational action easily made up for all that.

I found myself craving some ass kickin' right around the time Tricia Helfer (who was great in her guest spot) almost brought the plot to a grinding halt while explaining the train's complicated brake system. Thankfully, the show soon delivered one of the most exciting and brutal fistfights I've seen on TV in quite a while. I really didn't expect Baldy McBadguy to get eviscerated at the end. It would've been gross if it wasn't so awesome.

Speaking of gross and awesome, I loved Jackie Earle Haley as poindexter assassin Guerrero. It was refreshing to hear him use his natural flat voice after growling his way through Watchmen. We should all feel lucky that Hollywood has seen fit to return such a great and unique actor to the limelight. I'm looking forward to learning more about Guerrero's seemingly pitch black past and watching him work more jobs with the good guys.

Chi McBride as Winston was just icing on the cake here. He's perfectly exhausted as Chance's handler and perfectly gentle as his conscious. It's through Winston we learn that Chance might be slipping after blowing up the building at the start of the series. Winston also posits a much darker observation: It seems like Chance has a death wish. I guess that would make sense for a guy who puts his life on the line and doesn't mind getting paid in booze.

So count me in. I'm excited about learning more about Chance's past and watching this crew work together again. Hopefully you are too. This is a fine show, and it deserves an audience.

One more thing ... Danny Glover!

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Well, I'm not going to say that the show is clever. If plot holes ruin your day, you probably won't want to stick around. Fortunately for this show, I was so entertained that I couldn't spot a plot hole if I fell through it.

Mark Valley's Christopher Chance seems to be this generation's James West (played by Robert Conrad in "The Wild Wild West," a James-Bond-meets-the-American-West TV show that played on CBS during the 60s).

And when one compares the shows, The Wild Wild West and Human Target seem to have a great deal in common. They have crazy plots, an insane premise (what kind of bodyguard walks you INTO a dangerous situation?) and neat solutions to finish off the grand adventures. Not to mention the shows also feature fight sequences designed especially to showcase the physically prowess of their stars.

If you're wanting a fun ride with entertaining banter and cute solutions, Human Target might be the show for you. Lets just hope that the decision-makers at Fox have a taste for the ridiculous.

February 17 2010 at 12:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

well, loved the actors and their work,other than that, I wont be watching. what a ridiculous visual mess. ugh, have to stop or I will get rude I hated this so much! it will be gone really soon

January 22 2010 at 3:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The main characters are fine, but that was an unfortunate choice of actress for the guest lead. Really, I can't buy a woman who spends that much time on her hair and makeup as any kind of engineeer (and I know several female engineers!)

January 20 2010 at 1:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dan H

I couldn't help but laughing during the big fight scene because of the bad music bed. I don't think that was the effect they were going for.

I thought the show was pretty good, and yes, pretty derivative of Burn Notice.

January 19 2010 at 10:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"shoot lazers"

I don't understand the misspelling; is that a reference to a superhero I am unaware of?

January 18 2010 at 9:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I didn't have any difficulty suspending disbelief for the plot, but I really wish someone would shoot the composer. The musical score was god awful. It pulled me out of the action and just made me want to laugh. I've heard better scores on SyFy original movies.

Keep the show. Can the music.

January 18 2010 at 8:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why do I get the feeling that the same people who are bashing this show for it's "unbelieveablity" are the same people that scream & holler that "Chuck" is the greatest show ever? Like Chuck is so realistic. This show is meant to be fun, not picked apart. And without all the annoying ( and unfunny) costars that work at the Buymore.

January 18 2010 at 7:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Obviously the Reviewer owns stock in the production company making Human target. Pardon the pun but this thing was a train wreck. The sad thing is I really like Mark Valley, and agree he's long overdue as a 'star'. He stood out back in his 'soap' days, Boston Legal, and Keen Eddie. He has a terrific personality and great screen presense, however, that alone won't save this show. Fire the writers now, you may be able to salvage it!
Script, what script?. Brainless would apparently describe the writer's opinion of the audience. For God's sake, did we time-warp back to the 70's? The scene editing was horrible. Dodging bullets in a gunfight? Tricia Helfer unhooks a few flexible airhoses by hand and seperates the cars on a 150-mph bullet train? Seriously? Then there's the crawling through airducts on a train that are the size of the 'Jeffries Tubes' on the starship Enterprise? This episode didn't even come close to cutting it, and as the premier of a new series it was dismal. I'm a fan of the cast, but this really needs work.

January 18 2010 at 1:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The epilogue with Danny Glover was awesome.

The point of the scene was that Chance was back on the job - and using the Saki as a weapon shows things won't always be what they appear to be on this show.

I had a great time!

January 18 2010 at 1:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It was fun but:

-Mid season replacement
-On Fox
-Based on a comic
-Has the under-appreciated Mark Valley

I'm not getting too attached.

January 18 2010 at 12:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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