January 18, 2010

TV: Human Target (Fox, Wed 9)

Pleasant escapist action, helped greatly by good casting.

Our hero is Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), who hires himself out as a combination of private eye and bodyguard. If your life is in peril, Chance will go undercover as part of your entourage, figure out who's up to what, and save you from them. (In the comic book on which the series is loosely based, Chance is a master of disguise who actually becomes his clients; in TV terms, that would either require the biggest makeup budget in history, or a different leading actor each week, neither of which is practical.)

Chance has two sidekicks. Chi McBride's Winston is something of a less comic version of his Pushing Daisies role; he's the guy who sets up the clients and grumbles that Chance is too reckless. Jackie Earle Haley plays Guerrero, the super hacker with connections in the criminal underground. No one does fussy annoyance like McBride, and Haley plays his character much more quietly and with less obvious menace than you'd expect (though there is no doubt that he is not a man to be messed with.

Mark Valley is a solid actor who's been knocking around TV for several years now, never quite breaking through to stardom. Fox gave him a chance a few years back with the short-lived Fast Eddie, and he spent a few years on Boston Legal. His weakness, I think, is that while he's attractive and talented, there's an amiable blandness about him that keeps him from standing out in a crowd. He's the kind of actor who you know you've seen somewhere, but can't quite put your finger on it. But that may make him the perfect choice for this role. Chance is supposed to be the guy who can blend into any situation, someone who can be added to a crowd without drawing your attention.

The first episode took place primarily on a moving train; judging from the preview, the next episode is set on an airplane. I suppose it's a money-saver to put the bulk of the story on a single set, but I hope that's not going to be the pattern for the whole series. ("This week, Chance and his client take the Love Boat to Mazatlan! Next week, Chance gets trapped in the VW Van of death!")

There's nothing groundbreaking about Human Target, but it's an entertaining hour of wildly implausible action with a likable trio of actors to carry you along.

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