Maybe it’s the inner geek within me, buried deep in the closet of my soul, but if you’re going to give me an hour-long show, I need a mythology, goddamnit. I need a running storyline. I need callbacks, series-long arcs, some messy convoluted red herrings, and a payoff that I can look forward to, even if it is ultimately unsatisfying. Maybe it’s an old-school nature, but I’m not really down with self-contained dramas, which is part of why I don’t find most procedurals compelling (I do like “Castle” to a degree, but at least there’s the murder of Beckett’s Mom to contend with). I want a show that lures me in and strings me along — I don’t want a lousy drama I can watch one week and skip the next, knowing there’s nothing I’m going to miss. What’s the point in that? I want to see character growth, the death of a few major characters over the course of a series, some puzzle pieces that shift, or mysteries that at least bookend a season.
That’s the major reason I probably won’t continue watching Mark Valley’s “Human Target” for much longer. For what it is, I suppose, it’s not a bad show, if what you’re looking for is a completely empty, explosion-heavy, frivolous action mystery that’s propped up by a three solid, if not excellent, actors. I’ve always liked Mark Valley, who has been bouncing around on the small screen for well over a decade now, cursing shows to their deaths. He doesn’t really strike me as the action-hero kind of guy — he’s better as a sleazy and/or repugnant government type — but he pulls off the role of the slick and bad-ass Christopher Chance fairly well in the pilot episode of “Human Target,” fitting that Simon Baker mold for a Simon West/McG vehicle (who both produce). In “Human Target,” which is based — in title, mostly — on a comic book, Valley plays a contractor-slash-bodyguard who is hired to ingratiate himself into the lives of his clients and replace them as the target of their enemies. The premise leaves a lot of wiggle room, which a show like “Human Target” needs, as the conceit mostly provides a foundation for set pieces, which can be blown up near or around Christopher Chance, who can come out all gleaming whites and completely unscathed.
The solid, infinitely likable Chi McBride plays his business manager — he handles the client meetings and the finances, which involves a lot of bartering. Meanwhile, Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Little Children) — who is way too big a presence for the small screen — plays the sleazy, ethically-challenged and possibly psychotic tech guy, who follows the computer trail to the bad guy who — at least in the pilot episode — was fairly evident from the outset. I suspect similar too-easy-to-follow plotlines in the future. Moreover, that looks like the extent of the regular cast, which means there’s not even a regular love interest, which almost makes it a waste to cast Tricia Helfner (“Battlestar Galactica”) in the pilot.
“Human Target” is a lightweight, fast-paced, and sometimes explosive action show, the polar opposite of “24” in terms of tone. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, which I can appreciate. The action sequences are stellar for the small screen — I just wish there was more to the show than those sequences. Future episodes may bear that out — the pilot does suggest that Christopher Chance has a death wish, borne perhaps out of a decent back story, which could surface in later episodes and offer us something to cling to over the course of the series. For now, it’s definitely worth a few more episodes, just to see where it’s going. It is an energetic show; it’s just not that compelling. Yet.