Scott D. Pierce: 'Human Target' is 'escapist entertainment'

Published: Saturday, Jan. 16 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

PASADENA, Calif. — If you tune in to "Human Target" looking to grow some new brain cells, you're going to be sadly disappointed.

This new Fox series, which debuts Sunday at 7 p.m. on Fox/Ch. 13, is quite a bit of fun to watch. It's a slam-bang action adventure with comedy and a little bit of personal drama. And it doesn't aspire to be anything more than that.

"What we're doing is just entertainment — escapist entertainment," said Chi McBride, who co-stars as Winston.

Based on the DC Comics graphic novel, "Human Target" is about Christopher Chance (Mark Valley), who hires himself out as a "human target" — he protects people who are in mortal danger.

In Sunday's premiere, that's a woman (Tricia Helfer) on a bullet train.

He's not your typical bodyguard, however. He integrates himself into his clients' lives. He's on board as his train-designer client's aide — until he has to save her from the Bad Guys.

And there's all sorts of action, adventures and danger along the way.

That and no small degree of humor. Chance is pretty funny, and the interplay between him; his partner, Winston; and Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley), a tough guy/computer whiz.

"We all want to pretend what would we do if we were Chance," said executive producer McG. "We get to live vicariously through this guy who thinks on the fly and comes up with the answers. In a great many ways, the bad guys take it in the shorts. So it's wish fulfillment in that respect."

More than anything else, "Human Target" is sort of a throwback to action films of the '70s and '80s, which didn't take themselves too seriously.

"I think in the last 10 years, action movies have become very severe," said executive producer Jonathan E. Steinberg. "They've become very dour, in a way. … We're just trying to have fun. I think action movies were there for fun when I was a kid, and they've kind of stopped being that. That's what we're trying to do, is just to kind of find that tone again and find the soul of those movies and bring them back."

"Human Target" manages to put people in mortal danger without making it seem all that serious, in a way.

"This show isn't '24' — '24' is a great show, but this show is not that," Steinberg said. "And I think that's sort of where we come from every week is just trying to figure out a great, fun, action movie that we can put together and be able to put on screen."

"We all want to pretend what would we do if we were Chance," said McG. "We get to live vicariously through this guy who thinks on the fly and comes up with the answers. In a great many ways, the bad guys take it in the shorts. So it's wish fulfillment in that respect."

So, no, "Human Target" isn't going to make you smart. But if you sort of disengage your brain and don't worry too much about the plausibility of what you're watching, it can be sort of a fun roller coaster ride.

CALM DOWN, CRITICS: McBride has starred in a couple of shows in recent years that got a lot of good reviews but not so many viewers. And "The Nine" and "Pushing Daisies" were both pretty quickly canceled.

"Well, I have been on a couple of critical darlings that have lasted all of 10 or 12 minutes," he said. "So I would like to say to all of you today, 'Do me a favor. Like us. Don't love us.' "

Done.

NOT THE COMIC BOOK: "Human Target" the TV show isn't "Human Target" the comic book in many respects. Perhaps the biggest difference is that, on TV, the main character doesn't actually assume the form and identity of the person being protected — which would have made a show without much for the star to do.

"We kind of decided that we would look at it as a bit of a clean slate. That there were pieces of it we wanted to preserve, but that we would just take what it was and turn it into the best story and the best TV show we could make," Steinberg said. "Len Wein, who created the character originally, came into our office and said he just fell in love with the pilot. So we must be doing something right."

ODD COUPLE: The characters played by McBride and Haley have a great deal of fun needling each other. As do, apparently, the actors themselves.

"I think that I enjoy playing characters who are often annoyed," McBride said. "And Jackie loves that because he takes great pleasure as Guerrero in just needling Winston. … There's jabs, but deep down they both have a healthy respect for each other, and that's what makes us all a family. It's a dysfunctional family, but we all put the fun in dysfunctional."

"And we have a blast, or I know I do. … It's a lot of fun," Haley said.

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com

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