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09 December 2010

Human Target Season 2: Rest in Peace?

Does anyone remember the last time an action show successfully broadened their target demographic? I don't. The Human Target  I fell in love with, boys-will-be-boys action and all; is all over. The network is attempting to reel in the women viewers. Girls have been let into the tree house.  Sadly, the old and new sensibilities before and behind the camera have failed to produce a result equal to more than the sum of its parts.

Nobody loves changes to their favorite show but most of us can be bribed with good writing. Unfortunately something is not quite working under Human Target's new regime. Some of the first season's dialogue, while not Sorkinese, provided much of the humor. 

Winston in the third episode, Embassy Row:
Alright listen; I put a call into Galveston's office to give him a heads up but I ended up having to leave word. Hopefully he's not still  holding a grudge after what you did to his boat. And his house. Oh god and that poor horse--well, maybe the horse wasn't really your fault.
Apart from action and humor, characterization was Human Target's big strength. Occasionally we'd get a tantalizing glimpse of backstory (Guerrero has a brother somewhere??)and a lot of the funny or interesting was found in what someone did versus what they said. 

These days Chance (Mark Valley), Winston (Chi McBride) and Guerrero (Jack Earle Haley) are faded, pretty much riding their rep from last season. Ames (Janet Montgomery) and Ilsa (Indira Varma) are flat out...flat. Cardboard story devices.

The writers are struggling with ways to create engaging tension involving the Ilsa character. Rather than making the tension sexual; or turning Ilsa into 'Mom' and the rest of the team into chastened little boys who sneak around behind Mom's back; there have got to be more interesting options.

Right now Ilsa is used to spout exposition or to state the obvious (a particularly annoying and cynical habit of network shows); she shrieks away in the background the length of the episode, driving everyone, including the audience, crazy. As the guy on the ground, Winston is  stuck selling operational decisions to their new partner. 

Instead of flirting with a Moonlighting will-they-won't-they story for any members of the cast; let the high stakes struggle for control over Chance, Inc. influence Human Target's 'B' storylines. Chance and team were performing their high-wire personal protection act before Ilsa came along with her bags of money; they could do it now without them. Whether a negotiation or no holds barred cage match, let Winston and Ilsa go at it as equals.  And for pity's sake unless they're better written...stop, stop STOP with the Cosby Show moments at the end of the episodes.

While last night's return of both John Steinberg and Lennie James was welcome refreshment, it may not have been enough to keep this viewer interested.