When FOX began hyping Human Target in early 2010, I had low expectations. The promos exhibited some pretty sweet action sequences, but the campy title of the show caused me to write it off as skippable, mid-season cancel fodder. Hearing the news that the series was based on a DC Comics character, however, evoked the fanboy in me and I immediately set the DVR to give it a shot. I was surprised to discover a weekly treat that was one of the best new series to debut on network television last year.
Christopher Chance (Mark Valley, Boston Legal), is a bodyguard for hire. His clients come to him as a last resort because their lives are in serious danger and they have no other alternatives. Chance's mysterious past is only partially revealed as the season progresses--much of it in the season finale. What is known about him is that he's probably a genius, he can hold his own in a fight, he's a super-thief, he's a crackshot with a gun, and the ladies love him.
In each episode, Chance typically assumes a cover stay close and protect the client. He uses the client as bait to uncover the killer's identity. In these episodes, Chance assumes a multitude of identities ranging from a prize fighter to a monk. Beyond Batman-like fighting skills, Chance's best tools are his intelligence and charismatic personality; he holds his own in a conversation on any topic and masterfully fits in with any group of people. Joining Chance are Winston (Chi McBride, Boston Public, Pushing Daisies), his straight-laced handler, and Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley, Watchmen), a computer hacker with questionable methods, but indisputable loyalty.
The Human Target is a throwback to the action series of the 80's. While an intriguing backstory develops across the entire show, each episode is self-contained and follows a specific case from beginning to end. Viewers can practically jump in on any episode and not miss a beat. This is due in part to the swashbuckling, tongue-in-cheek script that never takes itself too seriously. It is also partly due to the brilliant performances by the main actors, Mark Valley, Chi McBride, and Jackie Earle Haley. The three play off each other extremely well. You can't help but watch this show with a smile on your face as straight-man and former detective, Winston cringes at yet another action by Christopher Chance or Guerrero that gets the job accomplished, but is probably not entirely legal. Guerrero, especially, has morally ambiguous moments that cause those around him to be hysterically uncomfortable. When he makes his appearance on-screen, you know that hilarity and awesomeness are about to ensue. It's similar to the height of Kramer's heyday in Seinfeld where the studio audience would erupt when he appeared and he'd completely steal the scene. Laughs are guaranteed with Guerrero and his antics are accentuated into priceless gems by Winston's reactions.
The over-the-top action in each episode is wonderfully shot and rivals the quality of some Hollywood films. The outlandishness of the action is offset by the fact that the actors revel in the absurdity and take all the events in stride. No matter how desperate the situation, Christopher Chance always flashes a wry grin that says, "eh, I've gotten out of worse." His antics and expressions are reminiscent of Harrison Ford's performances as Han Solo or Indiana Jones. The action is intense, but Christopher Chance can handle it and make you laugh while he does.
Another testament to the excellent writing is that not a single episode is wasted. Obviously, some episodes are better than others, but all are highly watchable and re-watchable, action-packed, mysteries. Even the product placements are great and fit in with the spirit of the show. In the Tanarak episode, one of the most blatant product placements of all time occurs with a Camaro. It's done with such blithe satire, instead of feeling the need to bathe after watching more advertisers nauseatingly snake their way into television, you just laugh at the silliness.
In every episode, without requiring any background information, you are brought into the characters' circle and get an immediate feel for their relationships. However, more information could have been provided earlier about Christopher Chance and his cohorts' origins. Some of the information that was dumped in the final episode of this set could have been dispersed throughout the previous episodes. Instead you are left to fill in massive blanks with assumptions about the characters' pasts. This is not a huge misstep by the writers because the characters' mysterious origins are a large part of what makes the show so accessible. Fans are just as confused as newbies and watch the show in an episodic bubble that requires little, if any, knowledge of what happened previously.
Human Target: The Complete First Season, contains the all 12 episodes from its initial Winter 2010 run. This show is just pure fun to watch unfold and will appeal to practically anyone. Pop a bag of microwave popcorn, kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride.
Audio: This 5.1 Dolby Digital mix features enough boom to keep up with the on-screen action. The episodes are like Hollywood action flicks and the sound here is no slouch. Expect a lot of deep explosions and surround effects.
Video: This series was filmed and aired in high definition, but the DVD is a good, standard definition approximation of the source material. The image is presented in sharp and vivid, 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. The picture was clean and free of any noticeable artifacts.
Extras: There is a respectable package of extras spread across the first and third discs of this set.
Final Thoughts: Human Target was one of the best new series to debut on television last year. With the mix of action, mystery, and comedy, it has enough variety to appeal to a broad audience. There is potential for a vast amount of back-story, but viewers can jump right in on any episode and grasp the essence of the show. Each episode is like a short blockbuster film and feature an abundance of exciting, over-the-top action. I was a huge fan of Human Target as it aired and am pleased to say that this show just never gets old. Highly Recommended.