“Human Target” — adapted from a DC Comics property — was among the pleasant surprises of last season, featuring terrific action sequences and breezy, good-humored chemistry among the central trio of Mark Valley, Chi McBride and Jackie Earle Haley.
The show was a close call to win renewal, but the new episodes (I’ve seen three) feel like a textbook case of producers being forced to retool in response to network notes — and nearly ruining what made the show appealing to those who were watching it.
Clearly, somebody wanted “Target” — which stars Valley as a bodyguard known as Christopher Chance — to have more female appeal, and the fallback solution was to add a couple of women characters to its Spartan environs. Enter Indira Varma (“Rome,” “Luther”) as the new financier of Chance’s enterprise, and Janet Montgomery as a skilled thief drawn into his orbit.
None of this happens organically. Indeed, you can almost see the execs’ hands sketching the “Make it more attractive to women” notes into the margins. The result is to water down the premise and bog down the stories.
For all that, there are still some good moments in these early hours, and the stuntwork remains impressive. In addition, the series caught a bit of a break: Originally scheduled for Fridays (a tough night for such a show to flourish), while it sat on the shelf the rapid cancellation of “Lone Star” prompted Fox to reshuffle its lineup. So “Target” returns on Wednesdays beginning Nov. 17 — a better night, heading into the low-expectations holiday season.
Still, it’s disappointing those in charge didn’t trust this Warner Bros. drama to stand or fall on its own, instead of trying to “fix” something that wasn’t creatively broken. (This is no slight on the actresses, by the way, who are saddled with thinly drawn roles that feel like they were hatched by a focus group. They also changed the opening theme, which I really liked, for no apparent reason.)
“Human Target” probably would have failed anyway, and I suppose it looks better to go down swinging. But if the network and studio had enough faith to pick it up, they should have at least given Chance and company a fighting chance.