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EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: 'Human Target' Hits the Bullseye in Season 2

by Maureen Ryan, posted Nov 16th 2010 4:20PM
Christopher Chance makes it clear to his clients that he's not a fan of game plans. He likes to wing it.

But 'Human Target' (8PM ET Wednesday, Fox), which depicts bodyguard/fixer Chance and his buddies helping clients deal with tricky situations, has a smart new game plan for its enjoyable second season.

The first three episodes of season 2 address the issues that affected the show's uneven first season, and they also deftly introduce new characters and situations that give the show's lead trio -- Chance (Mark Valley), Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley) and Winston (Chi McBride) -- good new material to play.

The end result is that 'Human Target' is both lighter and heavier: There's an energetic vibe, a slightly snazzier look and even more dry humor, but the emotional bonds among the characters have more heft and depth.

It's "not just about a guy dangling out of a plane, but he's dangling out of a plane because he's got [something] at stake," new executive producer and showrunner Matt Miller said in a recent interview on the 'Talking TV with Ryan and Ryan' podcast.

What was frustrating about the show's first season -- the half-dozen episodes I saw, anyway -- was that the right pieces were in place for a moderately fun show, but the execution lacked oomph. The show has always had three exceedingly skilled leads, each of whom brought a different kind of presence and charisma to the screen, but the lack of substance in the early going eventually drained my interest away. Nobody was expecting 'The Wire' -- 'Human Target' is an an action hour, after all -- but the show's plots felt like shaky excuses to string together a bunch of action beats.

As Chance, Mark Valley didn't get enough opportunities to employ his deft comedy skills, and quite a few of the clients felt like predictable types. But the biggest problem was the puzzling underuse of McBride and Haley, which felt like a crime against not just television but the universe.

Winston and Guerrero aren't different guys this season, but they and Chance get much more intriguing things to do, as people and as men of action. Each episode, Miller said, will "reflect back on" one of the lead characters or introduce someone from their checkered pasts, but so far, 'Human Target' is managing to insert those kinds of layers and stakes with a deft touch.

[Note: The clip below and the photo above are from the fourth episode of 'Human Target's' second season. The photo below is from an episode that will air in a couple of months. Clip courtesy Bonanza Productions Inc.]

Angst is not something Chance has much time for, though Valley is very good at making it clear that the character does this work as a form of penance for very bad deeds in his past. That desire to atone can make him something of a wild card -- he doesn't fear death in the way that normal people do -- but his is a dry, almost thoughtful unpredictability.

Wryness pervades 'Human Target' these days, and the cast nails those kinds of subtle beats very well. Miller used to write for 'Chuck,' which, as he noted, can effectively go a bit broader in its humor, but with 'Human Target,' the goal was to echo the laid-back comic tone of an Elmore Leonard novel.

Nobody does exasperation better than Chi McBride, and he gets a lot of chances to display his simmering frustration as billionaire widow Ilsa Pucci (Indira Varma) learns the ropes of the dangerous, morally ambiguous business that Chance and his friends are in. The enigmatic Guerrero, on the other hand, acts as a mentor of sorts to a young thief named Ames (Janet Montgomery), who gets mixed up with the team early in season 2. Guerrero is not a man who displays much emotion, but he's clearly both bemused and a little rattled by his new protegee and her cocky attitude.

None of the above would work quite right if 'Human Target' didn't deliver on the big moments, and though there are some implausibilities (bullets never hit the heroes, no matter how close the bad guys are), the show still has some of the most memorable action sequences around. We've all seen diamond heists and parking-garage chases a million times on TV, but the Fox show gets very inventive with both of those old standbys early in Season 2.

I'd watch any show that simply used Valley, McBride and Haley well, but season 2 of 'Human Target' does more than that. It builds on the character development that began in season 1 in a compelling and entertaining way, and made me care about the members of this strange, driven crew. Talk about near-impossible feats.

A few more notes on 'Human Target':

• In the podcast with Matt Miller, which you can find here and here, he talks in depth about what he wanted to keep and change in the show's second season, and he addresses why Bear McCreary (of 'Battlestar Galactica' fame) is no longer the show's composer.

• In season 2, Miller said you will see the San Franscisco setting much more.

Casting news and information about specific episodes is below

• Miller said he would "explore" Ilsa and Chance's romantic chemistry without "hitting people over the head with" their possible relationship.

• As noted here, the upcoming guest cast includes Molly Parker in episode 2, Lennie James as Baptiste in episode 4, Tracie Thoms as Winston's ex-wife in episode 5, and John Michael Higgins in episode 6, the Christmas episode, in which we learn that Chance hate Christmas. In later season 2 episodes, Lenore Varela returns as Maria and Tony Hale plays an unsuccessful private investigator friend of Chance's (there's a photo of Hale and Haley above).

• In the tenth episode of the season, Guerrero will be in jail in Alabama. There's the small problem of a dead body in the trunk of his Caddy.

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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What happened to their dog?As a chick I do like the the new cast but first season was really good when it was just the 3 guys and the dog.

March 12 2011 at 3:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What was so good about the first season was the rawness of the eps. Chance was helping folks while hiding out from some mysterous murderous Father mentor. They end the first season with this crazy cliffhanger to be cleaned up in less than 10 minutes in the second season. Then two women out of nowhere are thrust into the cast, the crew gets a boat load of money and Chance is no longer on the run. I guess I'll continue to watch until something better comes along or FOX cancels it.

November 19 2010 at 12:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John F.C. Taylor

It's title is Human Target, not Human Targets. That's why the other two didn't get as much air time. The things you found to be less than entertaining didn't bother me at all. It was one of the few shows that I could watch all the way through. What you want is another formula action show. I hope you don't get your wish. Then it'll turn into something that I might watch when there's nothing better to do.

November 18 2010 at 8:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

With all due respect, everything you have described pretty much convinces me that they have ruined one of my favorite shows.

November 17 2010 at 5:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You are aware that the first season was shown completely out of the intended order, hence the apparent lack of character development?

It was like pilot, 4, 2, 5, 1, 6, 7, 8, 9, 3, 10, 11.

November 17 2010 at 4:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mo, I listened to the beginning of the podcast and Miller started talking about "taste."

What a complete tool. I'm supposed to trust a guy who likes terrible pop music and the cheesy scoring of Tim Jones over the incredible work Bear McCreary did?

Tim Jones's music is routinely the worst part about Chuck, often taking you out of the moment and the excitement because of how bad it is.

A matter of taste? How about BAD taste?

Matt Miller sounds like the Deets's. You know, that the family in Beetlejuice who moves into the lovely house and turns it into a hideously ugly architecture nightmare?

Pass on Matt Miller's Human Target.

November 16 2010 at 6:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to BugKiller's comment

My thoughts exactly. Human Target was probably my favourite new show of last season, and I'm honestly not even sure if I want to watch it anymore.

November 17 2010 at 11:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Craig Ranapia

I'm loving Indira Varma joining the cast after her brief but spectacular tenure in 'Torchwood' and pretty much being wasted in 'Rome'. (I don't think I'm spoiling much by saying her character in 'Luther' won't be having any happy endings either.)

November 16 2010 at 4:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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