Well now. That was an adventure.
At this point, Samantha and I are very close to agreeing on much about the show Human Target. We agree that season one was vastly superior to season two and that the show majorly veered off course with the attempt to make it more "woman friendly" by adding two new female cast members (one of whom is totally worthless story wise) and thus creating a forced romanced between our hero Christopher Chance and his unnecessary benefactor Isla Pucci has been a key component to the show's downgrade. But all that agreeing is boring, so here's some conflict to spice it up because we don't seem to agree on a key point.
In her latest post, Samantha wrote the following:
I don't believe the actors themselves need to have personal chemistry to make it work (in response to Kiersten's Mr. and Mrs. Smith note) — it's nice if they do, but to my mind, it's their job to sell the story, either way.Chemistry is essential to selling a romance. Do I believe it is an actor's job to sell a story, or in this case, a romance, no matter what may or may not inherently exist between him/her and his/her counterpart? Absolutely. It's their job to make us believe in something that isn't there. But good casting directors look for pairs that have chemistry together because it's something you simply can't fake. An Officer and a Gentleman is an iconic movie, a romance yardstick in many ways with richly drawn, deeply portrayed characters. But Richard Gere and Debra Winger who portrayed, respectively, the hero and heroine of the film, famously hated one another. I mean they loathed one another. They had extraordinary chemistry together, perhaps fueled by their mutual hatefest.
In Human Target, we don't even see that, and it shows. I don't believe it's a flaw of the actors (I could believe it's one of the director, but that's something else), because, as I said above, it's something you can't fake, it's there or it isn't, and a good casting director, a good showrunner, will pick a pair that have it. Human Target didn't.
I see it as a failure in the acting and the writing. It's their job to make the chemistry work. Romance is a natural offshoot of a show like this — you have a show full of sexy, magnetic guys, and it would be completely unbelievable that they don't at least hook up here and there.My point exactly. There were several great women guest stars peppering season one. Why bring in a totally new romantic interest rather than build upon what had already proved itself to work?
Case in point: White Collar. Marsha Thompson, late of LOST (sniff, miss you!), who played Agent Diana Barrigan in the pilot was not retained for season one. Though not a romantic foil, Thompson's chemistry with star hottie Mathew Bomer was great, but when the full season began, she was nowhere to be seen. Now I don't know what actually happened because the producers failed to consult me (more fool them). Maybe it was scheduling, maybe it was a specific choice, but she was gone. Instead, Natalie Morales was added to the cast as Agent Lauren Cruz and I cringed every time she came onscreen – she just didn't fit and had zilch in the chemistry department with Bomer. Come season two, who should return to the show but Marsha Thompson with Morales out. They didn't try to force a different woman into the slot; they went back with what had worked the first time. Take note Human Target.
Season one was solid, with all kinds of good bits to build on. But the pacing was all off as they grappled with how to do it, and I don't feel I know any of these characters any better by the end of season two.Again, agree. Season one was solid. The show wasn't quite sure what it was, but it was certainly feeling its way out. This is not unusual for a new show. The comedy Cougartown started out as a sitcom about women over 40 looking for love with younger men. But when the producers saw the kooky chemistry that developed amongst the cul-de-sac crew and that the show was best when that group got to hang out together and drink lots of wine, a great show was born (though continually hampered by that off-putting title).
Human Target was beginning that chrysalis towards the end of season one. We heard about the old man all season, we'd even seen a showdown between Chance and his former comrade in assassinations, Baptiste. Then in the season one finale, we got more rich detail into Chance's back story and boy was it a doozy. Why should Winston and Guerrero be treated any differently?
Here is where, in the spirit of a show about a reformed killer for hire, I'd like to mention character assassination. Winston and Guerrero were characters with magnificent potential who were hamstringed by the ridiculous misdirection that was season two. Winston has gone from jaded former cop to whiny den mother who spends more time floundering around looking for a storyline than being the crucial clutch player of season one.
Meanwhile Guerrero has gone from bad ass mother*cker whose name alone makes the baddest of bad guys cringe in fear to some disgruntled babysitter of the hardly to be borne Ames. Why not, as Samantha suggests, delve deeper into the backgrounds of these two compelling men? Guerrero was affected by Chance's change of life direction; by choosing not to kill him, Chance proved he'd undergone a fundamental alteration to his core code. By his own code, Guerrero could no longer go up against him; instead, whenever Chance asked for helped, Guerrero would now drop everything and go. This relationship offered a number of comic moments, such as when, after speaking with Chance, Guerrero hanged up the phone, opened the trunk of his beloved Eldo (Eldorado), and said to the bound, gagged, and beaten man inside "it's your lucky day, dude." This is a complex character, essential a really bad dude with a wonky moral code who kills all too easily but whose loyalty to Chance is unquestioned. What rich stories might be gained from putting that loyalty to the test?
Samantha and I disagree in our enjoyment of the episode Imbroglio. I think I was so delighted to see some of the old show's fire again that I missed the overall picture. Upon review, I more than see her point about Guerrero looking less than completely accomplished as he's somewhat easily overpowered. This was further illuminated by the following episode, Cool Hand Guerrero, where a nascent if skilled thief like Ames easily broke through paranoid Guerrero's safe and in addition went on to break his pass code for the super secure briefcase. That he kept files on everyone wasn't surprising (only Chance could possibly be considered anything close to "friend"); that he'd made it so easy to find those files had me screaming at the screen. The Guerrero of season one would never, ever be that obvious.
Still, I maintain that the show is at its best when Chance, Winston, and Guerrero are left alone to do their thing – whether it's their action thing, their male bonding thing, or their shoot shit up thing. Above all else, these guys have fantastic chemistry together.
And that's essentially the heart of what Human Target lacked this season – chemistry. Chemistry in the stories, chemistry in the character interactions, and, above all, chemistry in its "romance". Human Target is a show that needs to snap, crackle, and pop on all cylinders. It needs to be tasty to our senses, to our minds, and most especially to our hearts. If it miraculously gets renewed for a third season, I won't be disappointed because I'm not done with these three amigos, but without a return to form, whether I'll be tuning in remains top secret.
Thanks to everyone who tuned in to mine and Samantha's pas de deux of blog posts on Human Target. We had so much fun doing it that we're currently brainstorming new shows to dissect in our next discussion. Human Target Season One is available on DVD and it is definitely worth checking out. Season Two – well, enough's been said on that. For now.
Disclaimer: I did not receive any enticements, bribes, or assundry for watching this show or for beating it into the ground, merely the kind request of a fellow writer to blog about television we loved – or loved once. Please, don't send Guerrero after me.