There hasn’t been a show quite like Human Target on television. There are certainly action shows, and there have been many shows that have taken on the “private” bodyguard or dedicated do-gooder. But I haven’t seen a series yet that managed to capture the kind of action that you only find in big-budget feature films on the smaller scale and more limited budget of television. That is, until I saw the 12 episodes of the first season of Human Target. I remember seeing a huge advertisement blitz around the time of the Super Bowl, but I’ve seen a ton of these dramatic previews that only seemed to lose the sizzle over the course of a season, or even a single episode.
Christopher Chance (Valley) has a mysterious past. We get the idea he was a paid assassin for some sinister organization. He, at some point, has had a change of heart. It’s an incident that is only hinted at until the final episode of the season. He now works with former San Francisco detective Winston (McBride). They provide protection services for people who find themselves in danger or in need of being rescued. They function outside of the normal boundaries of the law. Winston has some pretty impressive connections that allow them to have access to sensitive information. These connections also come in handy during a pinch. Many of these people are folks that they had already protected at some point in the past. The team is often assisted by Guerrero (Haley). He is another former bad guy from Chance’s old organization. Their old boss is trying to track down Chance. We don’t completely understand the relationship Chance had with his boss, but we know that they were close and the Boss considered it a personal betrayal when he left the company. We know that the falling out involved a woman named Katherine, and she’s a source of great guilt for Chance. Of course, much of this will be revealed in the last episode of the season.
I have to admit that I found Mark Valley a rather odd choice for such an action role. I was most familiar with him from his days at Boston Legal. There he was a yuppie smart-aleck type and not the kind of character you would find intimidating or likely to resort to action. I was completely taken over by him within the first five minutes of the pilot. He makes the part work in a variety of ways. While he ends up in some high-adrenaline action moments, he would much rather think his way out of a situation. He has a lot of MacGyver qualities about him. He’s resourceful and has that ability to charm himself out of a bad spot. There’s also a bit of Indiana Jones to be found here. It isn’t uncommon to find Chance hanging from a moving vehicle or trying to stop a plane from taking off. The score tends to support the Indiana Jones aspect of the film with music that will absolutely remind you of those films.
I’ve always loved Chi McBride. From Pushing Daisies to Boston Public, he has a solid list of endearing characters behind him. He’s very much the same in all of them. He’s easily frustrated and can reveal a ton of that in his facial expressions or just a “uh-huh”.
Jackie Earle Haley is another bit of a surprise. After playing the tough as nails Rorschach in The Watchmen and the latest version of Freddy in the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street, this kind of television role is the last place I expected to find him. It’s not that he doesn’t do a great job. I just expected he’d be hard to get. I have to believe that the character sold him more than anything else. He’s the comic relief, but not in the obvious funny way. He’s a deadly-serious character who is just loaded with nuance and contradictions. There are times you won’t even be sure what side he’s on.
And that more than all of the stunts and action sequences is what makes this such a compelling drama. There are a lot of characters here, and they share extremely unusual chemistry. This doesn’t ever feel like a new show. If you were to watch an episode of this first season, you might suspect these characters had been together for years. Take away all of the trappings of the action, and that’s the glue that makes this a pretty solid series in every way. Production values are as good as a film. The stories don’t take the obvious pathways. There’s a pretty bright future, if they can keep up the frantic pace.
The final episode answers a ton of questions and shows us how the three got together. Amy Acker stars as the central figure Katherine. The last episode also features roles by Lee Majors and Armand Assante as Chance’s old boss.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The high-definition image is brought to you by a VC-1 codec. There are some very impressive production values here. That means that the high-definition detail gives you a lot of stuff to take in. The action shots are smooth. Colors are bright and pop from time to time. Black levels run from average to rather impressive. There are 6 episodes on a disc and I would rather there be no more than 5. The 6 allow for some slight digital artifact from time to time. Chances are you won’t even notice it if you’re not looking for it.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 is about as aggressive as you’re ever going to hear on television. Warner does not offer uncompressed audio on their television releases and that’s a real shame. Here you can tell there are some dynamic things going on. The score is sometimes quite resounding. The action sequences offer plenty of surround use, which the sound design department has made quite good use of. It sounds very sweet in this format. I can only imagine what you’d get with a master audio track. Subs are alive and well when it counts.
Everything is in high definition
Deleted Scenes On Select Episodes
Confidential Information: (15:45) Cast and crew talk about the major show concept. The actors profile their characters. The comic origins are also explored here.
Full Contact Television: (15:32) This time cast and crew talk about the action element of the show. Go behind the scenes for stunts.
The series is based on a graphic novel by Len Wein and Carmine Infantino. There’s a dog that Chance cares for named Carmine as an obvious homage to the talented comic artist. I haven’t ever read the books, so I cannot talk about how the character has changed from comic to television screen. From the extras, I get the sense there has been a lot of tweaking. I guess that can upset the purists who read the books. In a way, I’m glad I haven’t been burdened with that in my enjoyment of the show. I can watch this show and appreciate it as its own thing. I strongly urge the comic fans to try to approach the show the same way. As comic adaptations go I would be willing to bet that it’s “Better than some. Not as good as others”.