Human Target -- TV Review

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The latest character to leap from the pages of comic books to the plasma of television is the Human Target, starring Mark Valley as Christopher Chance, a role that capitalizes on his good looks instead of ridiculing him for them. Although this Valley is too deep at times, there are enough elements to provide a fun, action-packed experience.

Two quick notes. The first is that Fox's "Human Target" marks the second attempt to hit the bull's-eye with this character. The first series, with Rick Springfield in the title role, lasted all of seven episodes on ABC in summer 1992.

The second point, which is probably only slightly more relevant, is that a more accurate description of the character, at least as it has been drawn for TV, would be Human Shield, not Human Target.

In the comic book, Chance takes the place of the intended victim. In the two episodes supplied by Fox, Chance is a bodyguard for hire. He assumes a new identity, but not that of the target.

Valley brings a cool confidence to the part and a willingness to throw himself into as many physical fights as the story requires. He has a quiet intensity that works well in many scenes, but one keeps hoping he will have the opportunity to lighten up at times. It doesn't happen in the first two outings (the Sunday pilot and the time-period premiere on Wednesday).

Fortunately for the show and its viewers, the two supporting roles are quirky characters played by two of the best in that department: Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley. McBride plays Chance's boss, Winston, who turns exasperation into an art form. Haley plays a shadowy operative, Guerrero, whose tough talk belies his modest stature.

In the opener Sunday, someone wants to do away with a woman executive connected with a new bullet train that links San Francisco to Los Angeles in three hours. Chance poses as her Japanese translator. (Conveniently, the major investors in the project are Japanese.)

In Wednesday's show, Winston and Chance hop aboard a flight to Seattle to protect a computer genius who figured out how to circumvent every security system ever devised, a definite boon to every digital con artist. Winston goes as a flight attendant; Chance pretends to be an insurance agent whose emergency-flying expertise makes Chesley Sullenberger look like a brush pilot.

In each episode, the story is weighed down by mechanical technicalities that are far-fetched enough to make an engineer's eyes glaze over. At the same time, writer/executive producer Jonathan E. Steinberg and executive producer/director Simon West compensate by injecting enough action and suspense to make watching a genuine thrill ride.

Airdate: 8-9 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17 (Fox)
Production: Wonderland Sound & Vision and DC Comics in association with Warner Bros. Television
Cast: Mark Valley, Chi McBride, Jackie Earle Haley, Tricia Helfer, Mark Moses, David Meunier
Executive producers: Jonathan E. Steinberg, Simon West, McG, Peter Johnson, Brad Kern
Co-executive producer: Jib Polhemus
Producer: Grace Gilroy
Director: Simon West
Writer/developed for television by: Jonahan E. Steinberg
Based on DC Comics characters created by: Len Wein, Carmine Infantino
Director of photography: Brian Pearson
Production designer: David Willson
Editor: John Duffy
Music: Bear McCreary
Set decorator: Ide Foyle
Casting: Patrick J. Rush, Sean Cossey, Stuart Aikins