Thursday, October 14, 2010


Based on a comic book feature created by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino for Action Comics back in 1972, the Fox television series, HUMAN TARGET (2009-10), actually ignores much of what made the comics character unique, yet still manages to be one of the best action-adventure series to hit the tube in years.

In the comics, Christopher Chance was a master of disguise and trained bodyguard, who would actually assume the identity of people targeted for assassination - hence, he was a literal "human target." Once the assassin made his move, Chance would take the killer down. The disguise gimmick was included in the short-lived 1992 ABC television version (which starred Rick Springfield as Chance), but has been dropped from this latest incarnation of the property.

In the new series, Chance (square-jawed Mark Valley, FRINGE) simply assumes nondescript cover identities that keep him close to his client, rather than taking on the target's identity himself. The character has also been provided with an elaborate and mysterious backstory, and is assisted by a pair of operatives/partners played by Chi McBride (THE FRIGHTENERS), and Jackie Earl Haley (WATCHMEN).

Each episode is action-packed, with remarkable stuntwork and engaging, fast-paced plots. Guest stars include such familiar geek/genre favorites as Tricia Helfer (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), William B. Davis & Mitch Pileggi  (X-FILES), Lee Majors (THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN) and Amy Acker (ANGEL), among others. The writing is unusually strong for an adventure show, with exciting and original plots, strong characterizations and smart humor. Although the show doesn't have a regular female cast member in the first season, the "girl of the week" roles are almost always strong, smart characters, and not just damsels in distress. Special effects are generally very well-executed, and, as mentioned above, there's plenty of impressive action sequences and fight scenes.

Personally, I miss the "master of disguise" element - I think, especially with this writing team, that they could have really made it work; as it stands now, Chance is more of a "human shield" than "target." I can't deny, though, that producers Johnathan Steinberg and Peter Johnson have made a great TV show, and I enjoyed every minute of the first dozen episodes.

Warners' 3-disc DVD set includes all 12 episodes of the show's first season, with perfect, 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers and remixed, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio. Extra features include a featurette on the transition of the property from comics-to-screen and another focusing on the stunts and action. There are also "unaired" (deleted) from several of the episodes and a commentary track on the pilot by Mark Valley, Chi McBride, and Executive Producers Johnathan Steinberg and Peter Johnson.

Along with BURN NOTICE, HUMAN TARGET is one of the very few modern adventure series that really delivers the goods, with plenty of action, great characters/appealing cast, and intelligent stories. Recommended.

BUY: Human Target: The Complete First Season