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Welcome to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' potential offerings for the 2009-2010 season. Over the next couple weeks we'll walk you through some of the scripts being shot as pilots with an eye towards a series commitment next season. With that in mind, it's important to remember that a lot can change from the drafts we've seen - rewriting, recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
HUMAN TARGET (FOX)
(written by Jon E. Steinberg; 60 pages)
The network's description: No official description has been released.
What did they leave out: Rick Springfield toplined a short-lived take on the very same property for ABC in 1992. FOX's effort - as you'll see shortly - is significantly different from that version as well as its various DC Comics incarnations. Also: Chance's Rottweiler is named Carmine, presumably in honor of co-creator Carmine Infantino.
The plot in a nutshell: When Hollis, a disgruntled man wearing a vest full of explosives takes his former employer hostage, the cops manage to get him to release everyone but a bound-and-hooded Ken Lydecker - the very person who fired him. Unfortunately for Hollis, he doesn't have Lydecker at all, but rather superstar bodyguard/private investigator Christopher Chance (Mark Valley). It seems during the commotion, Chance - having been hired to watch over him - cut the real Lydecker loose and put himself in the hood and restraints. And payback's a..., well, you get the picture. Just another day in the life of Christopher Chance.
You see Chance, along with his worrisome partner Winston (Chi McBride, written here with a British accent), runs a protection/investigation firm for high-end clients. And despite Winston's insistence that Chance take some much needed time off to heal up (let's just say the aforementioned bomb doesn't exactly get diffused in the traditional sense), they quickly find themselves with a new client - Stephanie Dobbs, an engineer working on a multi-billion dollar bullet train project for McNamara Engineering. You see, after taking her car to the shop for a dead battery, Stephanie's mechanic found eight ounces of Primasheet 2000 strapped to the bottom. Someone wants her dead and she has no idea who or why, leaving Chance and Winston as her only hope. Making matters worse - the maiden voyage of her train is around the corner, giving whomever is behind this the perfect close-quarters opportunity to follow through. And so while Winston - along with their regular cohort Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley), a slightly reformed criminal with a knack for gathering intel - look into possible suspects, Chance will have to go undercover to stay close to her - making him a target as well.
What works: Mark Valley seems like a great fit for Christopher Chance - the character is written with the same kind of rough-and-tumble charisma he brought to "Keen Eddie." (Chance: "What's the tab for all this?" Stephanie: "In all? About 80 billion." Chance: "Do I event want to know how much of that came from my taxes?" Stephanie: "About 80 billion." Chance: "Even I want to kill you a little bit right now.") It also helps that he's imbibed with a cavalier swagger ("I see the rifle, but I don't see a guy who's gonna use it," he tells Hollis before making a move) that's slowly becoming more and more dangerous. Situations are getting more out of control because he lets them, making each mission one step closer to suicide. After all, now that his wife is dead, there's really not much to fight for is there? Luckily for Stephanie, she reminds Chance a little of her.
What doesn't: Setting aside the obvious gripes (which we'll get to in a second), Chance is superhumanly overmatched for his opponents. Not only does he speak fluent Japanese, know how to use a thermostat to sweat out a killer and can use his hugs to lower people's blood pressure, he can also spot poison ice cubes in a client's drink, build a makeshift parachute out of a tarp and shoot flames from eyes (okay, maybe that one's made up). The bad guys simply don't stand a - for lack of a better word - chance, no matter how reckless he is. It's one thing to slyly acknowledge that the title character can't die, it's another to make him seem (cuts and scrapes aside) invincible in the face of paper tigers.
Even worse is its inherently predictable plot (I wonder if there's going to be a big fight on the train where the loser falls off and/or a scene involving trying to stop the train because the brakes are out?), not to mention more than a few leaps in logic, my favorite being that these are the leading suspects out to kill Stephanie: David McNamara, Stephanie's boss, who it seems cut corners with the train's breaking mechanism and now wants to cover up Stephanie's objection to it... by having someone kill her on a train he's on that could potentially not stop; and James Dobbs, Stephanie's husband, who for reasons too convoluted to repeat here, wants revenge... by having someone kill her on a train that he's on and also knows could potentially not stop. And that's of course setting aside the fact Stephanie herself gets on the train in the first place. The cardinal sin however is that this isn't really "Human Target" at all - in the comics (and the ABC version), Chance literally becomes the people he's trying to protect via surgery (and/or other technologies) and battles the psychological effects of being somebody else. Here it's just a rather straightforward bodyguard story - so why both license the DC Comics property at all?
The bottom line: I like Valley and I can see the fun in what the script is trying to do but boy if the script doesn't trip over itself trying to get there.