Twenty years ago, this claim would have been met with uproarious laughter. Yet, today, it’s downright obvious: The quality of today’s television regularly surpasses the quality of today’s movies.
Early seasons of 24 were more legitimately suspenseful than a Die Hard clone; a given episode of Community is funnier than Golden Globe-winning comedy The Hangover; The Shield beats Training Day; and Friday Night Lights with Kyle Chandler blows away Friday Night Lights with Billy Bob Thornton.
Twenty-two hours, after all, is more time to develop your plots and characters than two and a half.
But there’s one thing movies have that TV doesn’t: a budget. TV could never create Avatar. It’s why you get the shows like Heroes, where all the superheroes with amazing powers only truly fought super-villains behind closed doors.
Buffy, Angel, Alias, Chuck and Burn Notice have all used action scenes, but TV before never had choreography of the quality you’d see in a popcorn-popping summer blockbuster.
Until now. Human Target has a very A-Team premise. Christopher Chase (Mark Valley) is a bodyguard-for-hire. Innocents targeted for elimination hire him to draw out the threat, get into a frenetic stylized action sequence aboard a moving train/plane/motorcycle/automobile/gondola, and eliminate the assassin.
Bam! Chase sends a baddie flying out the window of an out-of-control bullet train. Thwack-ack-crack! He delivers three body blows to an assassin aboard an upside-down jetliner. Vwipkk! From the backseat of a speeding car, Chase strangles a dirty cop with the seatbelt.
“Awesome.” That’s about the extent of TV criticism necessary for a show like Human Target. Like most action movies, Human Target is formulaic. And like most action movies, we don’t really care. It’s formula, yes, but it’s never phoned-in formula. And the way they tell the same-old story changes each week. One week a voiceover narrates the proceedings; the next, the story segments are told out of order, Pulp Fiction-style.
The cast has the sort of quippy, easy-going chemistry and good action that ensembles require. Chi McBride (Pushing Daisies) plays Chase’s ally Winston, the requisite retired too-old-for-this-shit police officer. Even better is Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen) as the seedy and ruthless Guerrero, the mercenary Chase will call again and again for help, though not without feeling dirty afterward.
Most of all, Human Target delivers on its promise of action. Chuck or 24 does the occasional dude-did-you-see-that fight scene. Human Target does it every week.
The Winter Olympics Admit it. The Olympics aren’t what they used to be. Without an Evil Empire — its dark unholy power fueled by communism and steroids — for the forces of good and America and apple pie to vanquish, there just isn’t the narrative arc to root for. It’s a problem that NBC, the network losing $200 million on the Olympics, knows all too well. (NBC, visit nbcolympics.com for times)
How To Make It In America Let’s talk pros and cons. Pros: This new half-hour comedy, about young fashion dudes trying to hustle a living in New York, is on HBO, a network known for its brutal dramas and relaxed people-hanging-out sitcoms. Cons: features Mark Wahlberg, “From the people who brought you Entourage.” (HBO, Sundays, 10 pm)
’Til Death Some shows TV critics love to love (Lost). Others, they love to hate (Heroes). Others they — wait, there’s still a show called ’Til Death? With that guy from Everybody Loves Raymond? A simple marriage sitcom? Why? Why does this still exist? (Fox, Sundays, 7 pm)