Quick: Name the best three action shows on TV. What's that? You couldn't even name two? Me either.
Problem No. 1: There aren't enough pure action shows on the air today. The action shows that do make it to TV are almost always tinged with other genres: sci-fi in Fringe, drama in Sons of Anarchy, some of both in Lost, comedy in Chuck.
Problem No. 2: Contemporary television shows are episodic. Successive installments rely largely on viewers knowing what's already transpired. Miss a week and you might as well wait for the show to come out on DVD.
Finally, Fox has realized enough is enough, and that's where Human Target comes in.
Originally a DC offshoot comic book, this show once lived a short life in 1992 on ABC in a version starring Rick Springfield. Brought back to life on Fox, Human Target follows Christopher Chance, a military-operative-turned-private-investigator-and-bodyguard-for-hire. The original storyline depicted Chance impersonating his clients. The new show, which debuted on Jan. 17, instead sees him pose as a client associate in order to flush out murderous conspirators.
Fox's interpretation of Human Target is all about minimalism. The plotlines are relatively simple, and the regular cast roster consists of only three men. Chance is played by hunky 46-year-old Mark Valley, who at first glance seems the poor man's Thomas Jane (Hung, The Punisher), but who is actually more charming and charismatic than anyone else who could've been chosen. Years of performing in TV dramas, including a three-year stint on Days of Our Lives, helped him develop his spark. Chi McBride (Pushing Daisies, Boston Public) plays Chance's partner, Winston, who brokers all the protection deals. And former child star Jackie Earle Haley, who brilliantly reinvented himself as Rorschach in 2009's Watchmen, plays dubious sometimes-collaborator Guerrero.
Bolstering the show's credibility is one of its executive producers, McG, who directed last year's big-budget blockbuster Terminator Salvation, wrote 2002 buddy-cop action show Fastlane, and has produced gobs of other television programs.
Human Target is not the answer to those craving mind-altering adventures in television. But it is a 100 percent fulfilling solution to the aforementioned problems: it provides unfettered action, and even though a bit of back story is woven in, each episode needs very little to no prior understanding. The leads are all quite likeable, and the hand-to-hand combat scenes are frenetic and deftly filmed.
Pure action shows don't often last long (ABC's version lasted only seven episodes), but given a chance to thrive, Fox's Human Target may create a decent following.