Loaded with action, not dynamism

By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / January 16, 2010

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If someone is out to destroy you, and Jack Bauer is busy rescuing Superman, Fox wants to provide you with another security option. His name is Christopher Chance, but you can call him Human Target, and he’s pretty shrewd, not to mention agile, charming, and good with a gun. Thing is, you’ll probably have to pay; unlike Jack Bauer, Chance is saving the world during a recession and his adorably craggy haircuts aren’t exactly free.

“Human Target,’’ which premieres tomorrow night at 8 on Channel 25, before the two-hour premiere of “24,’’ is perfectly adequate action fluff. It’s fast-paced, chock full of fight choreography, and filled with gimmicks including an out-of-control train and an upside-down airplane. The plots are completely inane; you won’t want to think very hard about the logic of the killers or of Chance. Better to just sit still and enjoy all the crazy movement.

The show, which reverts to its regular Wednesday time slot next week, is based on a lesser-known DC Comics hero who transforms into his clients to protect them and take the hits aimed at them. But for TV, the series creator Jonathan Steinberg (“Jericho’’) dispenses with the physical transformations, so that Chance looks like actor Mark Valley throughout the entire hour. His dimpled chin and small, piercing eyes are never far from sight.

Valley, who starred in the short-lived “Keen Eddie’’ and the first season of “Fringe,’’ makes a likable if unmemorable action hero here, disarming explosive situations with almost preternatural calm. But he was far more interesting on the London-set Fox show “Keen Eddie,’’ where the action was second to the sly atmosphere and the culture clash.

The cast of “Human Target’’ also includes Chi McBride as Chance’s business partner and Jackie Earle Haley as Chance’s mysterious fixer. But the actors, including Valley, are but cogs in the wheel of suspense. Someone needs to hold the guns and steer the barreling train.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at For more on TV, visit

HUMAN TARGET Starring: Mark Valley, Chi McBride, Jackie Earle Haley

On: Fox, Channel 25

Time: Tomorrow night, 8-9