Grrrrr…

Grrrrr…

Grrrrr…

That’s the collective growl of anger coming from Human Target’s fan base as they watched former Chuck writer Matt Miller turn their beloved show into a sappy Chuck-Lite, complete with – you guessed it – a will-they/won’t-they dynamic! After the jump, we’re going to look at what happens when a show goes horribly, horribly wrong.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Last season, Human Target was pure escapism. Popcorn entertainment, if you will. It was a show where people could fly planes upside-down to extinguish fires and jump off cliffs without getting injured. It was a fun, brainless show, and I enjoyed it for that reason.

I don’t know all the details about why John Steinberg stepped down as showrunner and Matt Miller took his place, but apparently, Warner Brothers had something to do with it. In any case, the details aren’t important. What matters is Miller’s vision for the show. He proposed a number of changes. Precisely two of them were good.

Firstly, he got rid of the in media res storytelling that plagued a lot of first season episodes and made them needlessly confusing. Secondly – and I realize that is a wildly unpopular opinion – he got rid of Bear McCreary’s score,1 which was overblown and often overpowered the dialogue and the sound effects.2

I have almost nothing charitable to say about the other changes. The show completely abandoned the Old-Man mythology, leaving a ton of loose ends from last season’s finale. It added a personal element to every case for one of the team’s members, and these elements often felt ham-fisted or contrived. It began using needle drops, and while I love “Semi-Automatic” by The Boxer Rebellion and “Wide Eyes” by Local Natives, having pop music playing in the background didn’t fit the show’s vibe. Finally, two female characters were added to the mix, Ames and Ilsa.

In principle, I have nothing wrong with a master thief and a mysterious benefactor joining the team. But Ames was largely useless, rarely contributing to the team and only serving as pathetic comic relief. Ilsa was often worse, being a wet blanket in almost every episode and calling into question the team’s methods. Ames and Ilsa interfered with the dynamics of the original team – Chance, Winston, and Guerrero – which annoyed me because the original team had such great chemistry together. Ilsa also became a love interest for Chance. Not only did they not have any romantic spark, I also saw no reason why the two of them would be attracted to one another.

Based on the changes made, and the fact that at least 4 people who worked on Chuck – Matt Miller, Zev Borow, Tom Spezialy, and Tim Jones – came to work on Human Target this season, I think it’s pretty obvious what Miller was trying to do. He was trying to transform Human Target into a Chuck clone.3 It didn’t work. They’re two different shows with completely different sensibilities. One can’t simply graft features from one show onto the other.

Some more subtle adjustments were made as well. Chance was written as a goofier character, often not displaying the smarts he used to have. Furthermore, the skill sets of the original team were shown to overlap a lot more, which made each of them seem less special.

Highlights
The season premiere, despite ignoring a lot of what happened in last season’s finale, was actually pretty good. It gave me hope that the show would work well with Miller’s changes. But in many ways, that was because it largely followed the client-hires-team format of the first season. The four double-header episodes – “A Problem Like Maria”, “Communication Breakdown”, “Imbroglio”, and “Cool Hand Guerrero” – were also a lot of fun.

Lowlights
I’m tempted to say “the rest of the season,” and in some sense, that’s true. But a few episodes were egregious offenders. “The Return of Baptiste” inexplicably turned the man who killed the love of Chance’s life into a frenemy. “Dead Head” was the worst episode of the series. It featured a tired amnesia storyline and gave Winston a heavy-handed emotional storyline as well. “The Other Side of the Mall” was a pathetic attempt at mocking suburban culture, and it fell flat. Finally, the season finale, “Marshall Pucci” was downright awful. It was full of plot holes, and it tried too hard to push the Ilsa/Chance romance.

Grade relative to past performance: D-

Grade relative to other television shows: C

Final Verdict
Overall, this was an utter waste of a season. On the off-chance that this show gets renewed, Miller needs to recalibrate it and bring back the fun escapism. If a hypothetical third season is just more of the same garbage, you can bet that I’ll be tuning out.

 

1 Bear McCreary is actually doing some great work on The Cape right now (as unwatchable as that show may be). I feel as if his style suits the superhero genre more than it suits the action-adventure genre.

2 Miller was wrong to get rid of the main title music, though. But he might have had no choice, since McCreary was being asked to leave.

3 I’m not going to insult or praise Chuck here. The point isn’t that Chuck is good or bad, just that Human Target shouldn’t try to be Chuck.

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