Written by Caballero Oscuro
Human Target feels like a throwback to the late Stephen J. Cannell’s school of formulaic, action-heavy, standalone episodes that demand very little intellectual investment from its viewers but deliver significant weekly thrills. Sure, there’s a shadowy backstory floating around in there somewhere, but the producers mainly aim to catapult their audience directly into the weekly action rather than getting bogged down in character mythology. As such, it’s a surprisingly fun show that you can drop in and out of with little danger of missing out on important plot threads.
The show stars Mark Valley as a charming rogue named Christopher Chance, a talented private eye/bodyguard available for hire to the most deserving of clients. He’s joined by his back office support team of Laverne Winston (Chi McBride) and phenomenally skilled hacker and ex-assassin Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley). That’s it. No other regular stars, just a revolving door of guest actors apparently plucked from Vancouver’s Who’s Who acting directory, with many familiar faces from Battlestar Galactica and The X-Files in particular. I counted at least five BSG vets, and even the show’s music is by BSG composer Bear McCreary, although I didn’t notice any other causative link in the production and casting credits. As an aside, while I loved McCreary’s work on BSG, I was fairly disappointed with it here, so I’m happy to hear he’s moved on for Season Two.
Valley is perfectly cast in his role, although you almost feel sorry for him with the amount of action he’s put through each episode. Haley is fine in his role as well, but McBride serves no purpose and appears to just be going through the motions to collect a check. His character is of the Danny Glover “I’m getting way too old for this” variety of skeptical, everyman sidekicks generally doing little more than commenting on the superhuman heroics of Christopher Chance. Lose him and the show loses nothing.
The show is based on a DC comic book character created in the ’70s and recently relaunched in their Vertigo line. I read the Vertigo work and was curious how they would transition to TV considering some seemingly insurmountable technical obstacles. You see, in the comic book Chance doesn’t just work with his clients, he fully assumes their identities to become a…human target, completely adapting his physical appearance, mannerisms, and thought processes to perfectly impersonate his clients. That’s a pretty heady concept for a weekly show, so I wasn’t surprised to find that the TV Chance just protects his clients as himself without ever attempting to replace them. More fun trivia: there was a previous Human Target TV series in the early ’90s starring Rick Springfield as Chance!
The show’s writing veered from one of the most ridiculous and preposterous hours of TV I’ve ever seen, involving a hostage situation on a plane in episode two (although the pilot episode’s bullet train was fairly dopey too) to a very strong season finale, with special mention to a late season episode featuring the return appearances of two female characters who work well with the boys, an FBI agent and an apprentice hacker. That episode in particular felt like where the show finally came together and was firing on all cylinders, while the season finale built on its momentum with some payoff for the limited mythology, a bit of backstory, and even the welcome appearance of ex-Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors.
The show benefits from viewing on Blu-ray, with its crisp, precise hi-def images given a 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound letting viewers fully experience the bone-crunching action. Unfortunately, the Blu-ray bonus features are nothing special, with just a few deleted scenes and a couple of perfunctory behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Human Target – The Complete First Season is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download.