Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Human Target

There's a new series on FOX called The Human Target. I will tell you right out of the gate that I was prepared to hate this show for a number of reasons. First of all, as a kid, I was a fan of the original Human Target:

And I was quite sure that FOX was going to screw it up (the "Coming soon to ABC-TV!" banner on the above comic refers to a short-lived Human Target series on ABC back in 1992 starring Rick Springfield, which I actually kind of liked).

The original premise was that the mysterious Christopher Chance, a James Bond-type, would serve as a bodyguard, not in the conventional way, but using his disguise skills to actually take the place of the intended victim, drawing the assassin out. When I heard that Mark Valley's Human Target would instead use the intended victim as bait and put himself in harm's way, I was already skeptical.

I was also getting quite sick of this guy:

Mark Valley, who you will recognize most recently from the FOX X-Files knockoff Fringe. Don't get me wrong. I have no problem with Valley personally, or even with his acting. What I'm really tired of is the blond, square jawed, 40-something, slightly goofy sci-fi/comic book hero, who you can also see in Eureka in the form of Colin Ferugson:

and in The 4400 and V in the form of Joel Gretsch:

Am I supposed to identify with these guys?

Anyway, so I watched the premiere, all set to give a scathing review about trite reimaginings of great concepts.

Ladies and gentlemen, I LOVED it. First of all, as action-adventure pilots go, I did not find that the plot was particularly predictable or cliched, which was incredibly refreshing. Secondly, I thought Mark Valley did a fine job, and his decision to be close to his target rather than actually become the target actually made sense. Next, and perhaps more importantly, it co-starred this guy:

Whom people my age will remember as the brash Kelly Leak from the original Bad News Bears, and more recent readers will remember from his absolutely brilliant turn as Rorscach in the movie Watchmen. The character Guerrero that Jackie Earle Haley plays in the Human Target is somewhere in between, a guy who doesn't look like much, but you just know could kill you if he wanted to. You're afraid of him and you don't quite know why. This type of character is possibly my favorite in all of fiction, and Haley is perfect for him.

Finally, and equally important, is Mark Valley's Christopher Chance. To my surprise, he was neither a douchebag nor an intolerable goofball. I'm all for a good anti-hero: I love seeing House put it to his hapless team and patients every week. But it was about time for a protagonist who has his shit together (relatively speaking) and is just a good guy. That's who Christopher Chance is. Chance is a callback to old school action heroes like the A-Team's Hannibal Smith and Mission Impossible's Jim Phelps. He's cool without being an asshole, and I dig it.

Anyway, watch The Human Target. If the episodes that follow are anything like the pilot (and you like this sort of thing), it'll definitely be worth your while.


James said...

Wow--I didn't see the reversal coming...I thought you were going to hate it! Good write-up.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, man. That last time you recommended a show, it was that incredibly lame show with an amateur trying to beat 3 pros at poker for $1 million. That sht was hard to watch. This one had better be better than that!

Craig Berger said...

Yeah, but in this show, no Ali Nejad.

Anonymous said...

In that case, I'll definitely watch it. By the way, I saw that The Watchmen was on HBO at 3am the other day, and I never in a million years would have considered seeing that if you hadn't mentioned it, but because you'd talked about it a couple times I decided to give it a chance, so I DVR'd it, and it was really good! The ending was disappointing, but the characters were really interesting, and it was so surprisingly dark. I loved the scene with Rohrshack in the jail and telling the inmates "I'm not stuck here with you, you're stuck here with me!" Thanks for the recommendation! That makes up for the hour I wasted watching that lame poker show.

Craig Berger said...

If you haven't read the graphic novel Watchmen, you really should, as it will probably change the way you think about graphic novels/comic books.I can lend it to you if you want. That scene with Rorschach is in there, and it's just as powerful in the book. Also, the ending is better, although now that you know the big reveal it might lose its impact.