TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 7

Day 7 of the TCA Press Tour technically began on Day 6: just as the ABC all-star party wrapped up, Fox hosted a cocktail party which doubled as an early check-in for their day of the tour…and, better yet, it was hosted by Will Arnett and Keri Russell, the stars of one of Fox’s upcoming new sitcoms, “Running Wilde.”

You’ll get more details about the show in due time, since there was a “Running Wilde” panel as well, but for now, I’ll just mention that two other individuals affiliated with the show made unexpected appearances at the early check-in: executive producer / co-creator Jim Vallely and co-star Peter Serafinowicz.

I didn’t really get a chance to chat with Russell (she was pretty well surrounded from the moment she arrived), but I did talk to Arnett for a few minutes. Thanks to my wife, though, I ended up having a relatively lengthy conversation with Serafinowicz and Vallely. I knew I’d recognized Serafinowicz, and he quickly reminded me why: he had his own series in the UK, one which many YouTube clips reveal to be extremely hilarious. Indeed, he’s the one who told me I should check them out, particularly his Beatles-related parodies, of which he’s quite proud. No wonder he was cast to play Paul in Robert Zemeckis’s “Yellow Submarine” remake.

In a strange “small world” moment, I also learned that Jim Vallely is the father of Tannis Vallely, the actress who played Janice, the glasses-wearing, cello-playing prodigy on “Head of the Class.” She’s now on the casting side of the business, having worked on such films as “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “Oceans’ Thirteen,” and “It’s Complicated.” Eventually, my wife and I grew tired and retreated for the evening, but it would only be a few hours until we were back in the thick of it again, this time for the real beginning of Day 7.

Breakfast was brought to us by the casts of “Human Target” and “The Good Guys,” shows which, back in the days when the networks weren’t too cheap to spread their series across a two-day period, would’ve earned their own panels. Instead, we had to settle for chatting with them over bacon and eggs, bagels or donuts, and that sort of thing. In truth, the only person I really had the chance to speak with was Jackie Earle Haley on “Human Target,” and that was mostly because I feel like I kinda sorta know him (he’s friends with Bullz-Eye’s own Ross Ruediger and, as a result, has come to recognize me on sight as “Ross’s friend”), but as you can see, everyone was in the house from both series.

Soon enough, the actors headed out to start their own days, and having finished our breakfast, we took our seats and prepared for the first panel of the morning to begin.

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Greetings to the New Season: Fox

The network upfronts roll on, this time with the fine folks at Fox trotting out their new fall schedule and revealing which new series have been selected to accompany those series which have survived. As of this writing, there are no clips to accompany the descriptions of the new shows, but I’m led to understand that we’ll be getting those in due course, so…oh, wait, scratch that: they just arrived!

Well, with that being the case, you can read the descriptions and check out the clips of what Fox has for us for the upcoming season. Just be sure to let us know what you think about what they’re offering up! Oh, and before you ask, we didn’t forget to include a clip for the last series. They didn’t offer a clip for the last series…but, hell, I don’t even think they’ve cast it yet, so at least they’ve got a good excuse.

MONDAY

8 – 9 PM: HOUSE

9 – 10 PM: LONESTAR: a provocative soap set against the backdrop of big Texas oil, from Chris Keyser and Amy Lippman, the creators of “Party of Five”; Marc Webb, the director of “(500) Days of Summer”; and creator Kyle Killen. Robert / Bob Allen (newcomer James Wolk) is a charismatic and brilliant schemer who has meticulously constructed two lives in two different parts of Texas. He’s juggling two identities and two women in two very different worlds – all under one mountain of lies. As “Bob,” he lives in Houston and is married to Cat (Adrianne Palicki, “Friday Night Lights”), the beautiful daughter of Clint (Jon Voight, 24, “Midnight Cowboy”), the patriarch of an ultra-wealthy Texas oil family. More than 400 miles away in the suburban west Texas town of Midland, he’s “Robert,” living a second life with his sweet, naïve girlfriend, Lindsay (Eloise Mumford, “Mercy,” “Law & Order: SVU”). In Midland, he plays the perfect boyfriend while secretly bilking local investors of their savings. In Houston, he’s a devoted husband, charming Cat and her family to cement his position in the rich family business he aims to clean out. Bob has lived both lives successfully for years without arousing any suspicions…so far.

While one brother-in-law, Drew (Bryce Johnson, “Popular,” “The Mentalist”), admires Bob, his other brother-in-law, Trammell (Mark Deklin, “Nip/Tuck,” “Desperate Housewives”), is suspicious of his motives. Bob begins to fear his secret lives may unravel. With the cons closing in on him, Bob is divided by his love for two women; his loyalty to his father and mentor, John (David Keith, “An Officer and a Gentleman,” “The Class”); and his respect for his father-in-law, Clint. Now as he tries to hold his two lives together, while fending off angry investors and the suspicions of those around him, Bob puts it all on the line hoping he can beat the odds, leave the schemes behind and keep two separate relationships afloat.

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Mark Valley chats about “Human Target”

You may have already read my preview of what we can expect from the next couple of episodes of “Human Target,” but in a conference call with Mark Valley – Christopher Chance himself – on Monday, I asked the actor to take a step back and consider how the show has developed since its original inception. After all, a lot of series spend their first season just throwing things against a wall to see what sticks. Basically, I was curious as to whether or not he felt as though the show had gotten into a groove…and, if so, when he felt like that had happened.

“I think they’ve been throwing me against a wall for 11 episodes,” joked Valley. “I think I’ve been throwing all of Vancouver’s stuntmen against the wall to see what sticks.”

After a pause, Valley laughed and asked, “Uh, what was the question again?”

Duly filled in, he then considered the question and answered it seriously.

“I think when it really clicked for me was probably the episode ‘Rewind,'” Valley said. “We didn’t have a lot of locations and didn’t have a lot of big set pieces going on. It all took place in an airplane, and you got an idea of, ‘Okay, very simply, this is something that has to get done in this plane.’ And it was broken down, and all our characters were…well, Chi and I were in the same location shooting as well, which is kind of cool.

“I think that episode ended the pace that we came up with and that we realized we could work at. I think it was the second or third episode we did. The pace that we came up with and the shorthand that we all developed with the crew and with the cameras and with the actors…it was pretty amazing the result that came out of that. And then we realized, ‘Oh, wow, this is what we can do. We can make a movie in eight days. Uh-oh, we have ten more to do.’ That was probably the one point where I realized, ‘Oh, wow, we’ve got something here.'”

Valley admitted, however, that he walked into “Human Target” with no real vision of what it would turn out to be.

“I’d been on shows before that have been new,” he said, “but with this one, not only is the show new, but Chi (McBride) is kind of new to the genre, I’m new to this genre, even the show runners are sort of new to this. So I went into it with an open mind thinking, ‘This is going to be exciting,’ as to how it’s going to come together. And it has been exciting. It’s sort of a collaboration in some ways, where everybody’s influence is kind of…if it’s not heard, then it’s felt and it’s reacted to, and the end product is something that everybody feels a part of.”

  

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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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“Human Target” is a fun ride

Based loosely on a comic book of the same name, Fox’s “Human Target” stars Jack Deveraux Mark Valley as Christopher Chance, a private bodyguard/security expert who is hired to protect his rich and/or important clients. The series also stars Chi McBride (“Boston Public,” “Pushing Daises”) and Jackie Earle Haley (who played Rorschach in “Watchmen”) as Chance’s colleague (Winston) and technical expert (Guerrero), respectively.

Even though the series is heavy on action, 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. To this point, the show hasn’t done much in the way of a serialized plot, so new viewers could pick it up without missing much. Chance’s background is a bit of a mystery, but the series hasn’t delved into it at all.

Thus far, ratings have been decent (~2.1 to 2.9 in recent weeks) even against the Olympics. It has been reasonably well-reviewed as well, garnering a 70 at Metacritic and a 7.0 (“good”) at TV.com.

  

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