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Midnight Snack: 4/22/10

It’s TV for Nerds time! Below the fold, we check in on Brave and the Bold, Doctor Who, and the season finale of Human Target.

HUMAN TARGET DEPT: “Christopher Chance” Written by some guy

Human Target finale

Lo, it came to pass: the secret origin of Christopher Chance! Now, the question, more than ever, is… why the hell is this show called “Human Target”? How did the comic book end up adapted into a show that doesn’t have anything in common with it save the name? It can’t be name recognition, because precious few people with a television have heard of the comic, or remember the Rick Springfield TV series. Perhaps the show morphed into Human Target simply as a way to con the studio into producing it, but then, one would think there’d be something more to the proceedings, a story someone had a burning desire to tell.

Instead, while there is some room for the program to grow and branch out like the tree it could be, it seems more content to be a telephone pole, presenting itself as the most generic of generic actioners. Plots, scenes, dialogue, relationships, you name it, are strung together with cliches rather than solid writing– this episode in particular features the “mercenary on the case that changes his mind,” the “girl that inspires the hero but ends up in a refrigerator,” the “bad old boss/partner,” the “mentor figure who is totally only there to get killed,” a boring macguffin, and probably a couple more, as we also learn that “Christopher Chance” is merely an assumed name, passed down through a line of super-bodyguards. Every event or line of dialogue, however, is completely predictable. The creators seemed to be saving their ingenuity for fight scenes and set pieces, but now that Christopher Chance has found himself in a fistfight in every means of human conveyance you can think of, from bullet train to cable car, the ingenuity has begun to dry up. There is a decent chase through a giant-cargo-box-laden dock in this one, though.

So why do I stick with the show? Well, I like the cast; Mark Valley and Chi McBride, especially, have been incredibly likable in their other, David E. Kelley-led projects, and McBride earned my admiration forever with Pushing Daisies. This series lacks the smarts or whimsy that series enjoyed, relying entirely on the actors to plow their way through wooden scripts. In this episode, we’re greeted with a cast of television all-stars, including Amy Acker (admittedly, I’d give up my life of assassinating for Amy Acker in a heartbeat), Armand Assante (now less intelligible than Sly Stallone), Lee Majors (the motherbleepin’ Six Million Dollar Man), and Lassie from Psych– with an evil beard! They are try like hell, but this show stands ready to stamp down any verve or sense of originality. It’s a shame, because I had hoped that it would at least feel like a fun 80s TV throwback; sadly, the Knight Rider remake probably had more personality than this.

BRAVE AND THE BOLD DEPT:“Gorillas in Our Midst!” Written by Todd Casey

BnB Detective Chimp fu

The luxury these animated DC shows seem to have is that they can be fun (yes, fun is, sadly, a luxury these days with DC properties). The folks making this show aren’t ashamed to dig into DC’s more eclectic characters– this episode, for instance, features Detective Chimp, Vixen, and B’Wana Beast, who I think has gotten more attention on TV than he ever did in the comics. In this episode, B’Wana’s aware of his own D-List status; he’s not even at Stephen Baldwin levels of superhero fame (more like Daniel, I’d say). The point is, though, he tries, proving that any superhero can be great if he– and by extension, the writers– care enough. No character is a bad character, after all.

The major portion of this episode involves Gorilla Grodd teaming up with the Gorilla Boss of Gotham and Monsieur Mallah to overthrow the humans and put them in zoos so that Grodd can rule Apetopia, and, you know, that’s a good plot. Plus, Detective Chimp! Unfortunately, Chimp’s played for laughs and has some kind of bizarre half-English accent that comes off as the bad kind of silly, rather than the good, though I did enjoy his constant hitting on Vixen. Besides, how many times have you seen Detective Chimp in the last three decades, let alone on television? Exactly. I’m pleased to see the creators of this show dig deeper into the Silver Age and beyond. If the Green Team shows up, I’ll swoon. Also, the teaser features a full-on Jim Aparo version of the Spectre who turns a guy to cheese so that the rats he experimented on will eat him. That’s hardcore for what’s ostensibly a kids’ cartoon (but we all know it’s for the paunchier, balding kids among us).

Now for your Burgas-level moment of pedantry: Detective Chimp says “refract” when he totally means “reflect.” The Men in Black animated series taught me that one! Then again, his grasp of the English language is superb for a chimpanzee, so I guess I can forgive him.

DOCTOR WHO DEPT: “Victory of the Daleks” Written by Mark Gatiss

Who Dalek POV

(Too tired to screencap, so I just nicked the above image from Blogtor Who. I repay the chap(s) that run(s) it with a link, the currency of the interwebs!)

Last week, I said one of the main themes of Doctor Who was “choice,” and this week, we see that again. I maintain the other two prominent themes are “war” and “death,” two things that go hand-in-hand. “Victory” drops us into a war, the Second World War, during the London blitz, bringing the Doctor face-to-face with Winston Churchill and his new ally– the Daleks, the Doctor’s archnemeses. Ian McNeice portrays Churchill as a bit too “kids’ telly,” a man made entirely of bluster, a larger-than-life, nostalgiac Churchill. It fits for the world of Doctor Who– perhaps every modern Dalek story relies on rosy nostalgia– but some moments come off as if McNeice is playing to the cheap seats. When he says he’d team up with the devil himself if it meant stopping Hitler, though, I believe him– ever the pragmatist, Churchill lets some of his bastard show.

So, the Daleks. Having not grown up with the show or spent any time in the United Kingdom, I don’t have that inherent reverence for the Daleks like everybody working on this show seems to have. Like any archenemy, be it Dr. Doom, the Joker, or the Republican party, overuse turns an enemy into a tired old thing, one best kept in the closet for some much-needed recharging, before diminishing returns kills the energy. True, we haven’t seen a Dalek story since 2008, but their menace continues to decrease, for me, with each passing adventure. The new, redesigned, more colorful fleet of Daleks we get in this episode clearly calls back to the Peter Cushing movies, but most of their screentime is spent sitting about and shouting rather than, you know, exterminating. The spitfire-vs.-UFO dogfight in space is a gorgeous bit of spectacle, but there’s nary a pepperpot in sight, there. Kids like the Daleks, though, so Daleks they shall have. Admittedly, they fit in perfectly with the theme of World War Two; if the Daleks are a metaphor for anything, they represent the Nazis, especially having been created less than twenty years after the close of the war. This episode makes the comparison explicit with talk of a “master race,” as the Daleks again threaten humanity.

Ahh, humanity– the secret fourth theme, at least in the Davies-birthed Who revival. The Daleks do not account for humanity, and can’t even tell when they’ve accidentally created it. The Doctor doesn’t quite have a grasp on humanity like he thinks he does, either. Despite closing in on a millennium of time and space travel, and having saved the Earth hundreds of times, he’s still coming to those “indomitable” humans from an alien point of view. Amy Pond, however, can see what the Doctor and the Daleks can’t– and that’s how she saves the day, again. Last week, she recognized the soul of a space whale, and in this, she cuts to the true heart of Professor Bracewell, the pivotal character. I haven’t spoken much of Karen Gillan in the role of Amy Pond– she plays the character as the elegant gazelle to Matt Smith’s “drunken giraffe.” Those lovely wide eyes soak up the environs around her, even as she plays it cooler than many of her predecessors. While the Doctor believes humanity’s core lies in suffering and the overcoming thereof, Amy finds humanity in lost loves, wistful remembrances, and unexpected kindness. She’s got things figured out.

This episode could have used three more minutes– and so could The Beast Below from last week. I’ve noticed the runtime has shrunk by a few minutes or so– must be that budget cutback in action! I guess it saves a day’s filming, after all. Those three minutes, however, would give just enough time for some breathing space and necessary explication or characterization. The pacing feels just a tiny bit off recently, but maybe it’s all in my head. After all, I’m only human.

17 Comments

I freaking love Brave and Bold!

They even had Enemy Ace!!!

I never understood the appeal of the Daleks, either. The Doctor has faced lots of enemies more interesting than them.

B and B is pure win, especially when they can slow burn a Starro story effectively and make me want to see more. And where else can we get a Kamandi episode? No where…

Having a slightly hard time getting adjusted to Matt Smith as the Doctor. Only been able to see the 11th Hour so far, and while I loved the story and think Gillan is solid, I wish Smith would tone it down just slightly. I enjoyed it, and I think the new cast has a lot of promise…I guess its a fine line between playing up the Doctor’s eccentricies and going overboard with it for the sake of cheap humor (just felt some bits were taken a hair too far, but it is early).

I’ve never read The Human Target and that show is still the most disappointing piece of crap I’ve ever seen. I was so excited because the week before it premiered I reached the place on my Boston Legal DVDs where Mark Valley left the show, but then the first episode was so mediocre, despite such a wonderful cast.

I watch THE BRAVE & THE BOLD with my young son. The Spectre moment was a bot over-the-line, but not terrible. I just hope that it isn’t a trend.

I stuck out Human Target for six episodes, which is four or five longer than it would have gotten if it hadn’t been named HT. The Milligan comic was just so good that my brain kept trying to convince me that I was watching something much better, despite ample evidence to the contrary. Sad, really.

Tom Fitzpatrick

April 23, 2010 at 5:24 am

EXTERMINATE!!!!
EXTERMINATE!!!!
EXTERMINATE!!!!

YOU SILLY BLOODY WANKERS!!!!! ;-)

Watched most of Human Target (some of its ok, some not) it’s basically a hit or miss, but does anyone really believe that Amy Acker’s characters is dead (never saw the body)?

Perfer the Milligan book.

Doctor Who’s cool.

I love Human Target and care not one whit if it’s not like the comics. I think it’s a mini-action movie every week and it’s dumb, breezy fun. And Mark Valley is awesome.

Victory of the Daleks had a lovely emotional note at the end with Bracewell, but the story felt like Doctor Who The Adventure Game: The Prequel rather than a proper story in its own right. I would have loved a story like the first 5 minutes promised, where the Doctor has to convince Churchill and Amy that the Daleks are an actual menace, instead of the marketing promo with improbable (even by Doctor Who standards) aerial dogfight in space. Which is a shame as I like Mark Gatiss as a writer.

Amy Acker makes everything better.

Human Target is a refreshing change of pace …come on the spirit de corps between Valley,Haley, and McBride make the show work. And how can you hate on the Sci-Fi related guest stars? Lennie James? Armand Assante? Lee Majors? It a fantasy geek out for me every week

It was silly for some to think it would be EXACTLY like the comic…even with current tech, it impossible to pull Chance’s taking on the role of the potential victim every week….

As far as the new Doctor, it growing on me…but Pond is annoying….even more so than blondie was…(lol I put that in just to tweak the Rose lovers)

Still bums me out that Torchwood’s 3rd season is rumored to be D.O.A. along with Primeval’s

Bill, I feel like the creators of Brave and the Bold in reimagining Gorilla Boss read this old post from you:

http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2007/04/06/365-reasons-to-love-comics-96/

I’d forgotten about that.

Maybe they did.

@Dean: I think the Spectre in Brave and the Bold is going to be an underlying subplot for a while. In Chill of the Night he’s responsible for Chill’s death, and then he came back for Milo and did the rat thing. This show is really using modern television writing techniques with multiple story lines going on in the background and running with them to conclusion later, which is unusual in a “kid’s” cartoon (see Starro and Equinox as well as the number of character origins/subplots that are developed over time like Gentleman Ghost). I suspect the Spectre storyline of him offing secondary villains in the name of vengeance will come to a head at some point (and that could be a big throw down if done right, particularly since he seems intent on converting Batman to his way of thinking).

For a show that is as goofy and unconventional as it is at times, the writing on B and B is usually top-notch in the techniques used to layer the plots.

I’ve seen only a couple episodes of Human Target and it’s far from must-watch tv, but I like that it’s an action show on tv. That’s basically the one genre that’s severely under-represented right now, especially if you don’t want to see sci-fi or fantasy tropes on Space/Syfy. (Nothing against sci-fi or fantasy, I quite like the speculative fiction in most cases.)

Human Target could stand to be more fun, more exciting, more engaging, more surprising, and a lot less procedural. The mini action movie of the week idea isn’t a terrible one, but the show comes off, at best, as a poor man’s Burn Notice. The legacy aspect of “Christopher Chance” could do a lot to separate the series from the competition, but the ratings are so lackluster, especially for a show paired with American Idol, that the series is probably dead in the water, even if Amy Acker’s character clearly isn’t (big blast but no body). Of course, Fox brought back Dollhouse after its first season performed a whole lot worse. Human Target on Friday nights next fall? Could happen.

Also: It’s a damn shame that B’wana Beast is dead in the DCU. That guy’s fantastic.

I have to disagree about the Human Target. I really enjoy this show, especially the interactions between Winston and Guerrmo. The cases are spry and relatively unique, the dialog is witty and snarky, and the backstory/secondary story is intriguing.

I am just loving Brave and Bold. Superb TV, animated or not.

We love Human Target the TV show here as well. People who are crabbing about what it isn’t — it’s not the comic, it’s not Milligan, etc. — are missing the point. Mark Valley was very clear in interviews that the show is designed to be a modern take on classic adventure television shows like MacGyver and The Six Million Dollar Man and so on. (Hence the stunt casting of Lee Majors.) For those of us who grew up on that stuff, the show is a delight. For those that didn’t, well, yeah, it’s probably not going to do much for you. It’s very much a comfort-food kind of thing. Burn Notice does it better, yeah, but that’s not to say that Human Target isn’t doing it well.

As for why the TV people chose to license the title from DC when they’ve discarded virtually everything about the concept, I don’t even have a guess. But I think it’s nice that Len Wein gets some money and a new comics gig out of it. The current tie-in comic is entertaining in that same comfort-food way and I enjoy it for what it is. Again, those who are looking for Vertigo-style Milligan stuff will be sorely disappointed, but those folks that want to see well-done straight adventure stories will probably find something to like there.

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