You probably don’t recognize “Human Target” from its original comic book run. (That’s OK; it was an obscure back-up strip in ’70s-era DC stuff like The Brave and the Bold and Detective Comics). You may not remember “Human Target” from its brief, two-month stint in the summer of 1992 as an action drama starring Rick Springfield. (Trust me, it sounded like a good idea at the time.) But you might want to get familiar with it now that FOX has revived the concept as a splashy, explosion-filled weekly series.
Unashamedly overproduced by Hollywood hipster McG (director of big-screen junk like Charlie’s Angels and Terminator Salvation and executive producer of small screen not-so-junk like “Fastlane,” “Supernatural” and “Chuck”), “Human Target” plays like old-school ’80s prime time with a bigger budget. If you loved stuff like “The A-Team,” “The Fall Guy” and “MacGyver,” then pull up a couch cushion.
Mark Valley (“Fringe”) stars as our hero, Christopher Chance, a mysterious bodyguard who hires himself out to select, high-risk clients. Chance isn’t your ordinary bodyguard. He only works short-term assignments, placing himself directly in harm’s way to flush out assorted assassins, psycho killers, ninjas, whatever. Assisting him in this dangerous work are his business manager Winston (Chi McBride, “Pushing Daisies”) and his high-tech information man Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen).
Each episode, Chance meets another person in mortal danger. Maybe he’ll have to battle a hitman on a runaway train. Perhaps he’ll be fighting terrorists on a plummeting airplane. The details of why aren’t all that important, really. Just so long as he gets the opportunity to re-enact Die Hard on a smaller scale each week.
On paper, “Human Target” sounds a little silly. And it is. But it’s also breezy, unapologetic fun. Valley fits just fine as the good-looking cypher who can fly a plane, speak Japanese or do just about anything as long as the script calls for it. McBride is so far underused, but he’s always welcome on my TV screen. Maybe he’ll get to function as more than just a Human BlackBerry in the future. Haley, meanwhile, is perfect as the creepy computer geek with one foot in the criminal underworld. With memories of Rorschach fresh in our minds, it’s fun watching Haley’s quietly sinister character manipulate people with just a gaze. With any luck, future storylines will give him plenty to do.
As far as the show’s scripts go, it’s so far, so formulaic: stereotypical villains, close-quarters fisticuffs and several guest appearances by ex-“Battlestar Galactica” cast members. Hopefully, with a bit more of our hero’s secret-filled background revealed and the supporting players well-established, the writers will come up with a few more creative plots. But even if they don’t, “Human Target” works as low-brainpower, high-adrenaline viewing.