Thursday, January 21, 2010

Human Target: Planes, Trains and Hot Chicks with Guns

Two episodes in and Human Target seems to have already developed the rather compelling formula of combining the charming cast with an attractive guest actress and a fast moving vehicle. In the pilot (or the "Preview Event," as Fox called it), the actress was Tricia Helfer and the vehicle was a high-speed train. In the second episode (or "The Premiere" as Fox called it), the actress was Courtney Ford and the vehicle was an airplane. Presumably, something's going to have to give with the fast-moving vehicle part of this equation,* but the attractive guest actresses of the week should be easier to sustain, and the combination of said actresses with Mark Valley, Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley should prove plenty sufficient.

In truth, there are a few other elements at work here, chief among them being a writing staff capable of churning out breezily entertaining one-off plots and amusing dialog, fast-paced direction, and some marvelous action set-pieces. But the best thing about the show is the way it makes all of that stuff seem as easy as casting an attractive actress and letting her interact with Valley while McBride and Haley argue with each other against the backdrop of an upside down airplane. None of it actually is easy, of course. It's a trick, a false identity, like whichever name and job Valley's Christopher Chance will decide to take on next week. And it's a big part of the reason the show works so well.

Human Target premiered (or "previewed," I guess) before the season premiere of 24. I wrote about how I laugh a lot at 24 here, but the show is not intentionally funny. It is, in fact, Deadly Serious. And no matter how many ridiculous things happen, it remains Deadly Serious.** I've laughed plenty while watching the first two episodes of Human Target, too. The difference, though, is that I was supposed to be laughing. Because it's the kind of show that doesn't take itself too seriously, that recognizes when it's doing ridiculous stuff, and that wants you to go along with all that ridiculous stuff just because it's so much fun. It's a light actiony entertainment, and the most important thing a show like this can do is feel easy without being lazy. Which means that all the hard stuff--the plots, the dialog, the pacing and the set-pieces--should go largely unnoticed by the audience so we can focus on how much fun all the more superficial stuff is.

And it does. Which probably means the show won't be winning any Emmys. But what do the Emmys know anyway?

Other notes:
  • I got through the entire pilot without realizing that the attractive guest actress of the week was Tricia Helfer. I often fail to recognize her when I see her. She is a chameleon.
  • I'm glad to see Fox promoting the show so heavily, since I think it should be a big hit, and I find their scheme somewhat fascinating. The theory behind it, I think, is to turn both the first and second episodes into can't miss premiere events. We've seen something similar with the whole midseason finale thing. I guess my only concern would be that if every episode gets promoted as a super-special event, won't that kind of detract from the usefulness of calling something a super-special event?
  • The most ridiculous thing in these first two episodes is probably the skeleton key to the Internet MacGuffin in "Rewind." As with all the other ridiculous stuff, I didn't mind it and in fact kind of liked it. I suppose some people might call it lazy, but I think the absurdity of it fits well with the feel of the show.
  • I should also probably mention the nonlinear structure of "Rewind," though I don't have a whole lot to say about other than that I liked it, it was well done and I hope they don't overuse it.
*An episode on a city bus? On a cruise ship? On Segways?***

This worked for 24 in its early seasons, and now it really doesn't, but it can't really shift tones at this point without becoming an entirely different show.

***Okay, on Segways might be pretty fucking awesome.

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