Starring Mark Valley, Chi McBride and Jackie Earl Haley
Directed by Simon West
When the ads came out for Fox’s new Human Target show, I was concerned that the network would water down the darker aspects of the character’s last comic incarnation from DC / Vertigo (which was featured in a recent Hidden Gems column), and judging from the pilot episode, Fox didn’t disappoint. What they’ve given us is an annoyingly generic “caper of the week” show that resembles the comic in name only and that I predict will be cancelled by mid-March.
The biggest change made from the book is that Christopher Chance, played ably by Mark Valley, is not so much a master of disguise as he is a freelance secret service agent. Instead of assuming the identity of his clients, he goes undercover alongside them in order to draw out the people threatening them. This means that the title now makes no sense, because Chance is now more of a human shield than a human target. He is aided in his assignments by his straight-arrow, long-suffering sidekick Winston (played by Chi McBride) and his morally gray intel guy Guerrero (played by Watchmen‘s Jackie Earl Haley in a ridiculous wig and mustache). The bickering between the two sidekicks adds at least a little bit of interest to an otherwise dull plot.
The pilot episode has Chance boarding an experimental supertrain in order to protect the train’s designer (played by Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica fame), whose life has been threatened. As Chance gets closer to the truth, he and his client find themselves trapped on the train as it hurtles toward a tunnel with no brakes. Their escape from the train is kind of cool, if not a little too “Macguyver”ish, but the big reveal of who put the hit out on the client is trite and mind-numbingly cliched.
If the entire series is to be judged from the pilot, Fox has taken an original concept from the comic and turned it into a cookie-cutter action show. The fact that Chance is no longer a master of disguise doesn’t bother me, as that may not translate convincingly to TV, but they’ve completely neutered the character into an amalgam of the most basic elements of James Bond, Jack Bauer, and the aforementioned Macguyver. Even the title sequence is derivitive of the Bond movies. The episode tries in vain to give Chance an edge by suggesting that he takes all these dangerous missions because he has a death wish, the reason of which will likely be revealed in a future episode, if the show lasts long enough. Overall, the pilot episode of Human Target resembles Christopher Chance’s mission…it doesn’t stand out at all amongst the vast crowd of TV thrillers out there. Unlike Chance, however, I doubt the show will do anything to step out of the background and attract any attention. 2 out of 5 Makeshift Parachutes.