Complete First Season
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Reviewed by Will Harris
he phrase “comic book adaptation” used to have specific connotations – namely, that of a man or woman fighting crime whilst decked out in spandex tights and/or a mask. In 1992, however, ABC tried their hand at adapting the adventures of Christopher Chance, a.k.a. the Human Target, a DC Comics character who didn’t wear a costume. He did, however, have a secret identity of sorts, given that he’d made a career out of impersonating other people. His schtick, you see, was that people whose lives were in danger would hire Chance to pretend to be them, at which point he would invariably catch the bad guys who were trying to kill his client. The series, which starred Rick Springfield as the aforementioned Mr. Chance, was short-lived (only seven episodes ever saw the light of day), but after the character received a creative kick in the pants through DC’s Vertigo line in 1999, the potential of “Human Target” as a viable television property was once again considered.
Now, I’m not suggesting that the reason it took a full decade for another “Human Target” series to come to fruition was that the original version was so bad (I remember it, but I don’t think I ever actually saw it), but at the very least, the length of time between the two incarnations seems to have done wonders. That, and the premise has been tweaked quite a bit. Instead of taking on the identities of his clients, this Christopher Chase – now played by Mark Valley, late of “Keen Eddie” – is more about infiltrating his clients’ lives. Plus, it’s no longer a one-man show: Chance is aided by Winston (Chi McBride), a former San Francisco policeman who helps Chance find clients, and Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley), an ex-assassin who comes across as a real prickly pear but still maintains a profound dedication to Chase.
When “Human Target” first kicked off, there was a great deal of focus on how the look and feel of the series made it feel like you were getting a brand new hour-long action movie every single week, and, granted, the instant gratification aspect of the series really is the perfect way to sell it to those viewers who hate to deal with all of that “ongoing storylines” bullshit. These brash aspects (which, by the way, tend to look really good in preview clips) were at the forefront through the first five episodes, but starting with “Lockdown,” the show began to gradually dole out bits and pieces about the lives and times of its trifecta of characters – an effect which served to expand their private universes as well as to reward the fans who were tuning in on a weekly basis. We received hints about Chance’s former employer at the end of “Lockdown” and met one of his former flames in “Salvage & Reclamation,” but it was “Baptiste,” which starred Lennie James as Chance’s former partner in assassination, that made viewers really start asking their friends, “Why aren’t you watching ‘Human Target’? It’s awesome!”
To wrap up the first season, “Human Target” finally decided to devote an entire episode to exploring Chance’s past, flashing back to reveal how he came to join forces with Winston and Guerrero. It’s an all-star affair, as James reprises his role as Baptiste alongside Armand Assante, who plays The Old Man, a.k.a Chance’s former boss, but the best part comes when we find out that the name “Christopher Chance” is one which has been used by many individuals over the years and get introduced to the last man to use the name, played by Lee Majors. Not only is it fun to have several of Chance’s blanks filled in, but it’s an action-packed installment from start to finish. I mean, you know it’s good when it takes you a minute to remember that an actress as cute as Amy Acker was also part of the guest cast.
Hopefully, you’ve gotten the picture by now: “Human Target” is a kick-ass action show, but it’s also an excellent character drama with a trio of actors who have great chemistry with each other. I feel like I should end with some target-related pun, but instead I’m just going to say that those of you who haven’t yet checked out the series should do so right away, so you’ll be just as excited to see the show return for Season Two on Nov. 17th as I am.
Special Features: There’s only one audio commentary on the set, but for those who get a kick out of such things, the stars and producers of “Human Target” – minus Haley – do sit down to discuss the pilot episode of the series. Beyond that, there are several deleted scenes as well as a pair of featurettes (“Confidential Informant: From Page to Screen with Cast and Creators” and “Full Contact Television: What It Takes to Unleash All That On-Screen Action”), both of which make for solid viewing.