Check Out Human Target
"Sit down relax and cancel all other engagements;
It's never too late to enjoy dumb entertainment"
The Undertones, More Songs About Chocolate and Girls
Admittedly, my column tends to be a little...well, pretentious at times. But this month is a special treat - it's a look at a series that's currently on the air, that needs viewer support, and more importantly, is simply nothing better than good, old-fashioned, slightly over-the-top entertainment. The kind of show that is good turn-off-your-brain entertainment, that allows you to relax, chill out, and enjoy a few vicarious experiences. The kind of thing that, "back in the day", was a mainstay of mainstream entertainment.
Of course, there's only one show that I can be talking about...and that's Human Target on Fox.
The show is based on what was initially a DC Comics backup series started by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino focusing on Christopher Chance, a man with a past who often put himself "in harm's way" by impersonating his clients. Rick Springfield would portray the character in an early 1990s version , where Chance donated part of his earnings to worthy causes...while putting himself "in harm's way" by impersonating his clients. Peter Milligan would later give the character the Vertigo treatment in comics, often having Christopher Chance risk his own identity - and his sanity....while putting himself "in harm's way" by impersonating his clients. (And although his history is relatively recent, the character goes back to 1958...or, if you follow the pulps, is a modernized revamp of Richard Benson, The Avenger .
Fox's latest Human Target is none of those - in fact, it's good, solid, popcorn-munching action...which is probably why opinions are split over it. People who enjoy the show (like me) are able to suspend disbelief and just sit back and enjoy the ride; others see it as over-the-top, rather cheesy, and really just a waste of time. But scratch beneath the surface, and what you will find is a show that wears its comic influences on its sleeve, and where the producers and cast bring a great energy to what essentially is a retread of 1980s television. (And I'm not knocking 1980's action shows....although maybe it's a little more at the forefront on my mind since I'm helping plan our high school reunion). If Bruce Campbell had the lead, I doubt there would be any complaint - in fact, I think it would be praised. as a 21st century Brisco County, Jr . Of course, it's not as overtly comedic as that show, but the tone helps make Human Target seem more amiable, more viewer friendly, than any other action-oriented show.
(Think of it this way - Human Target is a lot like 24 , only it does not take itself so seriously. There. I said it. Out loud.)
One of the more obviously likable aspects of this show is that, in many ways, it wears its influences on its sleeve - a recent episode featured a lost religious relic (a la The DaVinci Code), and involved a key scene with Sam Worthington (aka Jimmy Olsen from Superman Returns) explaining the resurrection using Barry Allen's sacrifice in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Far from being a totally "realistic" take on a comic book, this has a slightly more comic book-ish take on a comic book. It also helps that Jonathan E. Steinberg (who also played a similar role on the late, lamented Jericho) and McG (yes, the Charlie's Angels/Terminator Salvation/booted-off-Superman Returns) serve on the production side of the show. Overall, even this early into the "season", Human Target is opening up some potential story arcs, yet all within the context of a nicely self-contained episodes. Some interesting plot lines are beginning to arise within these first few episodes: what led Chance to seek redemption in such an unusual way (and why does he seem to have such a death wish?); a potential romantic love interest who may or may not find out what ; and, of course, that wacky Guerrerro....
Another, more critical factor in why the show works is the quality of the lead acting, which leavens the high intensity action with just the appropriate amount of humor - not enough to be campy, but just enough to be slightly Whedon-esque in its approach. Both Mark Valley and Chi McBride are veterans of David E. Kelley -produced series - Valley from Boston Legal (before it became The James Spader/William Shatner Social Demagoguery Hour) and McBride from Boston Public . Since Kelley's productions often straddled the line between humor and drama, both men are able to provide a slightly knowing tone to the proceedings - they don't threaten to send up the material, but give it a nice, proper boost. ( McBride's time on The John Laroquette Show also provided him with an ability to sell darker material, such as his unique delivery of the line "Did a hooker just punch you in the face?") Even Jackie Earl Haley as Guerrerro, the obligatory "guy-who-you-don't-know-who's-side-he's-on", works on all cylinders - and in fact, even admitted that not knowing where the character is going helps with his performance.
That's the secret to why I think Human Target ultimately works as simple, fun entertainment - for a show that could easily avoid cliche, it spins situations on their heads, and provides some definitely non-cliche moments. All three actors play the situations realistically, but with a leavening sense of humor that is neither tongue-in-cheek nor campy. The show provides stock perilous situations, but then finds ways to avoid and subvert those cliches. The writing and production team are clever enough to lay clues, but sometimes so subtly that you forget you are watching a "dramatic arc". Part of why I started the column with the above Undertones quote is that finding solid, unpretentious entertainment is becoming increasingly rare...but in Human Target, there is a show that could easily appeal to both a mainstream and "geek" crowd without breaking a sweat on either side.
However, this comes at the cost, as reports indicate that the show is performing OK, if not terribly well , and is on the "bubble" to be canceled . So, here's an unofficial Comic Related/TV Party challenge - catch up by watching past episodes on Hulu (at the very least, before they begin charging to use their service ). If you like it as much as I do, tune in Wednesday nights on Fox. Trust me, it's probably the best Hump Day present you can give yourself.
Even if all you get out of it is an hour's worth of relief from your worries and cares.
But please don't take my word for it - feel free to comment on the TV Party forums . Or for more of my writing, check out my blog , or follow me on Twitter .
Thanks, and keep watching!
Read More! For more of Gordon's writings, insights, and
general information, please visit his blog at blogthispal.blogspot.com.
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