Checking in on Fox’s “Human Target”

As a longtime comic book geek, I’m not ashamed to admit that not only was I already familiar with the character of the Human Target from his adventures in the DC Comics universe, but I’m also one of those who actually watched when broadcast television first tried to make a television series out of the adventures of the man known as Christopher Chance. Few, however, would dare to suggest that ABC’s “Human Target” attempt – which aired in 1992, starred Rick Springfield, and lasted for a grand total of seven episodes – was a true classic of the comic-book TV genre…and that includes Chi McBride, who plays Winston, Chance’s partner, on the Fox series.

“Somebody asked me a crazy question today, like, ‘I heard that there was a rumor that Rick Springfield was supposed to be doing this one,'” said McBride, when I talked to him during the January TCA press tour. “I was, like, ‘What are you, goofy? The Human Target in a walker?’ I remember that old show…and that was pretty bad. We’re the 2.0 version of that, and it will make you forget about that thing.”

Based on the episodes I’ve seen, I’d have to agree with McBride…and so, it would seem, would our man John Paulsen, who described “Human Target” as “a fun ride.”

“Even though the series is heavy on action,” said Paulsen, “it has a lighthearted, fun feel to it — think Jack Bauer with a sense of humor — which is underlined by Chance’s charm (with his usually female clientele) and the dynamic between Winston and Guerrero, who do not particularly like each other.”

Guerrero, for those of you who haven’t yet checked out the series, is Chance’s technical expert, and he’s played by Jackie Earle Haley. Between this role and his memorable turn as the somewhat psychotic Rorschach in “Watchmen,” you’d think that he was paying off DC Comics for all the great gigs they’ve been providing him…and, indeed, in January, I asked him outright if this was the case.

“I should be, right?” he laughed. “Yeah, I’ve got them on the kickback plan.”

“I’d never been a huge comic book fan,” he said. “Growing up, I could never really get into them. When I was a kid, I was a super-slow reader, and when I’d open up a comic book, I couldn’t figure out what to look at first. The pictures? The words? Just the pacing of it kind of threw me off. Cut to years later, though, and I absolutely fell in love with ‘Watchmen.’ I mean, I became a ‘Watchmen’ fan, and since then, I’ve really begun to understand and appreciate comic books and graphic novels, especially the more grown-up ones, I guess you’d say. Right now, I’d almost have to say that my favorite comic book…and this will surprise you…is ‘V for Vendetta.’ It’s because it’s…it’s literature, man. It’s just an absolutely phenomenal, thought-provoking piece of work.”

Whether or not Haley feels the same way about the source material which inspired his current series remains unconfirmed, but when it comes to watching Fox’s “Human Target,” you’ll almost certainly enjoy it more without having read the original comic books. Why waste time nitpicking about continuity issues between the two mediums when you can enjoy each on their own merits? Having seen the next two episodes of “Human Target,” I can tell you that, while it has very little to do with anything that’s seen print in the past, it’s still a fun hour of adventure, humor, and even a bit of drama. Mr. Paulsen had observed that, as of when he composed his piece, “the show hasn’t done much in the way of a serialized plot, so new viewers could pick it up without missing much,” and while that still remains more or less true, the series is finally getting around to delving into the mysterious background of Christopher Chance, played by Mark Valley.

On March 10th, Chance reunites with a fiery former flame (played by Leonor Varela) when he is called to South America to rescue an archeologist (Kris Marshall) targeted by a South American army and a deadly bounty hunter, and although Chance’s past isn’t exactly what you’d call an open book by episode’s end, it does give you some insight into his romantic history. The episode on the 17th, however, is arguably the best installment of the series to date. Lennie James, late of “Jericho,” guest stars as Chance’s former partner, and although you arguably learn more about James’s character than you do Chance’s, it’s an episode that’s filled with both action and emotion. In addition to finding Chance getting caught up with the FBI, it’s also notable for expanding Guerrero’s storyline, which means that – woo-hoo! – Haley will hopefully be taking more of a spotlight in future episodes. Not that he and McBride aren’t consistently contributing to the overall success of the series, but any chance to get more Jackie Earle Haley is a chance we’re ready to take.

Haven’t checked out “Human Target” yet? Now’s the time, especially with upcoming episodes featuring guest appearances from Armand Assante and Lee Majors.

“Human Target” returns to Fox on Wednesday, March 10th, at 8 PM.

  

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