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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TCA Tour: A Chat with Chi McBride of “Human Target”

You know when Chi McBride is at one of Fox’s TCA parties because you can smell him. Not him personally, but, rather, his omnipresent cigars. When he was at the tour in the summer of 2009 to preview the network’s then-upcoming series, “Human Target,” I ran into him smoking a stogie with Ron Perlman of “Sons of Anarchy.” The scent stuck with me, so when I stepped into the Fox party at the winter tour and caught a whiff of cigar smoke, I immediately followed it to its source and soon sat down for…

Chi McBride: How are you?

Bullz-Eye: I’m good. I hope you saved one of those for Ron Perlman. I remember last time around…

CM: Yeah, you know what, I’ve got a couple with me, so… (Trails off) Is Perl here?

BE: He’s supposed to be.

CM: When he gets here, I’ll make sure he gets one. (Grins and puts his cigar case back in his pocket)

BE: Well, last tour, I talked to Darryl Bell.

CM: Did you?

BE: Yep. We were talking about “Homeboys in Outer Space,” and he said you had a chat with him after you had gone through “The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer.” He said you just told him, “Look, everyone who is criticizing what you’re doing would take your job from you in two seconds. This is one blip on both of our careers, and we are moving on.”

CM: That’s the way I looked at it, you know what I mean? I knew what I was doing, and I knew what I wasn’t doing, you know? People had to say whatever they had to say about it. You know, everybody thought my career was over but me. I said something that my old, wise aunt always told me: “Boy, this, too, shall pass.”

BE: So how did “Human Target” come on to your radar? Was it pitched to you?

CM: Well, what happened was… (Hesitates) You know, what’s funny about it is, it was the first thing I read during pilot season. But, you know, it was the first thing that I read, and what happened was, there wasn’t anything in it for me. Winston was this British character, and the guy was kind of a nervous Nelly kind of guy. So I told my agent, I said, “Listen, there is nothing in this for me, but if somebody does it right, this could be a good show for somebody. Good luck to them.” And, you know, as time progresses during the pilot season, people’s names get bandied about on all different kinds of projects. And I started hearing that people wanted to talk to me about a variety of things. So one of the meetings that I took was with Jon Steinberg and Peter Johnson, the producer and creator of “Human Target.” So we met and we talked about it, and I said, “Well, I’ve got to tell you: there doesn’t really seem like there is going to be a lot to do for me in this, so I don’t know that I’m that interested. And as far as the British accent…I mean, I can do it, but it just seems to be that for the sake of it.” And he agreed. And I told him, “You know, the way I would want to approach it is that I was a guy who was ex-law enforcement, you know, and there is something about my past on the force that I got into this business.” But I didn’t want to, as an actor, be stuck behind a desk. But I wanted the character to feel like this was his chance to be stuck behind a desk with a nice cushy job, getting plenty of money…and that’s good. And that he would end up going out in the field in a sort of “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” kind of thing. And that’s the attitude that Winston has toward going out in the field, but he goes out there and he definitely shows his skill set. You know, the thing about Winston that you’re going to learn is that his temperament is not what it seems. He’s a guy who doesn’t have an off switch. And that’s one of the other reasons why he wanted to get out of the chasing-guys-down business. So it’s going to be really interesting. And we agreed on all of these things, and they decided that they wanted us to work together. And you know, I’ve got a wonderful relationship with Warner Brothers Television, so they signed off on it, and here I am.

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My Most Memorable Interviews of 2008

I recently went back and counted up how many interviews I’ve done for Bullz-Eye since I first came aboard the site, and I was astounded to find that – counting both one-on-one conversations as well as teleconferences – the number tops 200. Wow. Anyone who thinks that I don’t work hard for my money, I say to you that the figures speak for themselves. Looking back at the list of folks with whom I’ve chatted during the course of the past year, I find myself thinking the same thing I think every day of every year: it might’ve sucked to do all of that unpaid freelance writing for all those years, but it was totally fucking worth it. And with that bold statement, allow me to present a list of the interviews from 2008 that still remain fresh in my mind…for a variety of reasons.

* Best-received interview of the year:

Tom Smothers. I’m used to hearing from my friends when I do an interview that they enjoy, but I heard from several complete strangers that really loved the conversation Tom and I had about everything from the censorship of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” to the night John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were thrown out of the Brothers’ show at the Troubadour.

“Harry comes in with John Lennon. Well, he told John Lennon, ‘Tom likes hecklers. It helps him. It gets him through his show.’ And every time there was a silence, they were hollering out things like, ‘God fucks pigs!’ I mean, it was really filthy! Blows were thrown, and it just got wild. The next day, I got flowers and all kinds of apologies from Lennon and from Harry Nilsson.”

* Most politically-incorrect interview of the year:

Tony Clifton, the former alter ego of Andy Kaufman that’s now being performed by Bob Zmuda. To say that Clifton works a little blue is the understatement of the century, but it’s more than just dirty jokes; his whole act is one where he unabashedly says things that he knows will piss people off…and if you don’t know it’s an act, then it’s really gonna piss you off.

“Some people say that, with the repertoire I’ve got and with the rapport between the band and me, a few people have quoted it as being like Buddy Rich. I call ‘em like I see ‘em, just like Buddy. But Buddy was coked up most of the time, and I don’t do that. I prefer the Jack Daniel’s. I’m fucked up most of the time during the show. I have fun with the band. I call ‘em niggers. And I got a few Japs in there, I call ‘em Nips. I got everything mixed up in that band, like I say. I call ‘em the way I see ‘em. Listen, lemme tell ya this: you know why I get away with it? ‘Cause I got black people in my family. Yeah. And I’ve got the rope to prove it. Look, the blackies are good. They’re good for the sports and for the music. See, the Jews are good at making the money…or at taking the money from you.”

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