Apr 18, 2018
Human Target “Pilot” (part 1 of 5)
FOX is airing a new action series called Human Target, based on an obscure DC comics character of the same name. So I’m sure you’ve heard this isn’t the first attempt to adapt the Human Target into a weekly primetime series. And if you haven’t, well, now you have. And who says this site is useless?
Back in 1992, ABC briefly aired its own The Human Target, starring pop singer and once-and-future General Hospital star Rick Springfield. For those too young to remember, Rick Springfield had five Billboard Top 10 singles back in the 1980s (the biggest being the #1 hit “Jessie’s Girl”), making him a bona fide pop star and a heartthrob to millions of teenage girls. If you don’t believe me, just ask my sisters, who saw Hard to Hold roughly 25 times in the theater because it contained a shot of Rick’s bare butt. Unfortunately, by the ‘90s, Rick Springfield’s career had cooled off considerably, as perfectly illustrated by his starring role on this show.
The pilot for ABC’s Human Target was originally filmed in 1990, but for unclear reasons, the show wasn’t actually picked up until the summer of 1992. ABC stuck it in the Saturday Night Death Slot, where it went up against the Olympics in Barcelona, no less. To nobody’s surprise, it lasted six episodes.
Using my google-fu, I was able to acquire a fuzzy copy of the very first episode. I’m currently on the lookout for other episodes, but judging by the pilot, the show was done on the cheap, with lackluster special effects and weak action sequences, even by 1992 TV standards. Frankly, I can’t tell you why ABC even bothered to pick up this series, because it’s boring. Very boring.
The Human Target was developed for TV by Paul De Meo and Danny Bilson, two writer-producers who worked together frequently. They also co-wrote the screenplay for The Rocketeer, and adapted The Flash for CBS. And Danny Bilson happens to have a daughter named Rachel who later gained some fame on The O.C., and yes, Rachel Bilson, age 9, does appear briefly in this episode, and actually gets to say a couple of lines.
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The Human Target character first appeared in Action Comics in the ‘70s, in backup features supporting Superman stories. He then moved on to titles like The Brave and the Bold where he filled up the pages following the Batman stories. In the comic, Christopher Chance is the Human Target, a combination detective/bodyguard who disguises himself as his clients in order to protect them.
The new FOX show has entirely ditched the disguise angle, instead having Chance (played by Mark Valley) occupy roles where he’s in close proximity to his clients. The ABC show, on the other hand, stayed true to that particular aspect of the comic book character. This was probably their biggest mistake, for reasons that shall soon become obvious.
The episode kicks off with the credits, which show Rick Springfield stumbling around in dangerous locations, looking around warily, under a superimposed bulls-eye pattern. You know, because he’s a target. Also, we see the Human Target logo, a ‘60s-style silhouette of a guy with a gun. And then there’s the Human Target theme song, which is a rather bland piano-and-slap-bass affair that tries and fails to sound moody.
Then a giant CGI mask of Rick Springfield rotates around to reveal a crappy looking aircraft reminiscent of both the Batwing and the B-2 stealth bomber.
Trucks explode, followed by shots of the rest of the cast, which includes a hacker character, I assume, judging by his earpiece and how he’s surrounded by computers. And then there’s the token black guy, who in one clip is actually wearing an African-style kofia hat, and thank you, Human Target, for giving me a reason to research hats and learn that this one is called a “kofia”.
Rounding out our cast is the token hot chick, and there are clips of her blending in perfectly at high society functions, for why else would a detective/bodyguard hire a hot chick?
Interestingly, in the original pilot shot back in 1990, different actors filled the roles of Token Hot Chick and Token Black Guy. They were: Frances Fisher, who was in Unforgiven around that same time, and Clarence Clemons, best known for playing sax in the E Street Band. And I’ll just let you figure out who played which character.
By the time the show was picked up all of two years later, Fisher and Clemons were otherwise occupied. So the roles were recast with lookalikes, and their scenes in the pilot were reshot, and poor Clarence Clemons’ acting career ended before it even began.
More stuff blows up, and then we see Rick Springfield sitting in a machine, while two halves of a face mold are lowered down in front of him. The two halves come together and cover Rick’s face, and Rick looks sorta pained right before this happens. Maybe he’s not actually acting here.
Finally, there’s a montage of the Human Target ripping off all of his many masks. So, I’ll venture a guess and say that this show will feature masks, a knockoff of the Batwing, and plenty of random actors you’ve never heard of.
The episode starts in what looks like a standard Mexican village right out of a Spaghetti western. Funky slap bass and bongos take us to a little church, where a priest in a wheelchair addresses his congregation. The priest is an old guy, but you can tell he’s not really an old guy, if you follow me.
He talks, and right away we can tell this is Rick Springfield doing a bad Mexican accent, as well as a bad “old guy” raspy voice. So, it would only follow that it’s also Rick under all the old age makeup.
He tells his parishioners, “One year ago today, I was shot down by a soldier of the drug dealer Hector Varaga!” So… this is something he actually commemorates? What do you get someone on their first anniversary of being shot down by a soldier of a drug dealer?
He says Varaga only wanted to get rid of the “troublesome old priest” who tells his flock “not to grow the coca leaves”, along with various other clichés about life in Latin America. But he won’t be silenced that easily, oh no.
Several armed men burst in, dressed in paramilitary outfits, with plenty of army green tank tops and camo vests to go around. Enter a man dressed like Indiana Jones, who I presume is the Hector Varaga of legend. He’s here to finish the job, so he pulls out a pistol and shoots the priest down. Again. Wow, what are the odds of a guy getting shot down exactly one year to the day he was shot down the last time?
The priest tumbles back in his wheelchair. Varaga’s men shoot their assault rifles in the air, which clears out the church pretty fast, and then Varaga tells his men to throw the priest’s body in the river. Two of them go to where the body should be, only to find an empty wheelchair.
Suddenly, the priest appears in the corner, speaking in an American accent. He says, “What’samatter, amigos? Don’t believe in resurrection?”
And with that, the old priest starts kicking ass and taking names. He quickly knocks out both of the goons, and you can never really go wrong with an ass-kicking priest.
Varaga and his other goon start shooting at the priest, but obviously neither one of them could hit the broad side of a barn, because the priest is able to swing on a candle chandelier over their heads. He drops down behind the pews, and topples them over, causing a domino effect that takes out the one remaining goon.
Varaga is the last man standing, and he’s out of bullets. See, that’s what happens when you don’t actually aim at what you’re trying to hit. Varaga runs out of the church, but the priest chases him outside and takes him down. Varaga whips out a hunting knife and tries to slash the priest’s face, but instead, his skin starts to actually tear away.
The priest eventually rips off his mask to reveal the face of Rick Springfield. And if you’re a Colombian drug dealer, getting your ass beat by a pop singer has got to be embarrassing. As he binds up Varaga’s wrists, Rick reveals that his name is really Christopher Chance.
Cut to Chance’s Batwing, which has landed in an open field somewhere near the village. For shots on the ground, the Batwing is represented by one wing shot in forced perspective, and a ladder leading up to nowhere. Chance climbs the ladder, then comes up a spiral staircase to meet with his crew of no-name actors.
He talks to the hacker guy, who I guess is really the Disguise Guy, telling him about how easily the mask was ripped away. Chance asks, “Can you toughen up the polymer?” Before he has time to reply, enter Token Hot Chick to ask what their next case will be.
The token black guy, who’s actually the Batwing pilot, wants to stay for the “big fiesta in the village tonight”, but Chance wants to get right on the next case. Token Chick says they have a few to choose from, and Pilot Guy asks where Chance wants to head to next. Chance says, “I don’t care, just get me up in the clouds where I can think!” Because in the clouds, you can remember your name.