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Fox's Human Target triggers another alpha male into action

Human Target's Chi McBride, Mark Valley, Jackie Earle Haley

Premiering: Sunday, Jan. 17th at 7 p.m. (central) on Fox
Starring: Mark Valley, Chi McBride, Jackie Earle Haley
Produced by: McG, Jonathan E. Steinberg, Brad Kern, Peter Johnson

Will he ever be a bonafide, big-time TV star? Fox's Human Target looks like Mark Valley's peak attempt after starring in the short-lived, under-appreciated Keen Eddie and then playing supporting roles in Boston Legal and Fringe.

Valley may have a career-defining role as the suitably quip-equipped Christopher Chance, a protector for hire who simultaneously coaxes threats into the open before eliminating them.

In Sunday's "special preview event" -- preceding 24's two-hour Season 8 launch -- he's aboard a spanking new San Francisco to L.A. "bullet train" in the company of its comely design team head, whose life is endangered. Then Wednesday's post-American Idol episode finds Chance piloting an endangered passenger jet, which he flies upside down in hopes of putting out an engine fire.

Although his life is constantly in the balance, Chance seems to be having lots more fun than the ever-taut Jack Bauer. Human Target bloodies him up, particularly after Sunday's prolonged kick/punch, semi-cartoonish fight with a would-be assassin. But Chance never grimaces for long. Life is too short for that.

Human Target's breaks in the action often are filled in by Chance's no-nonsense business partner, Winston (Chi McBride), and a non-conformist informant named Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley). They trade insults with one another while also supplying Chance with the information he needs to ferret out wrongdoers.

Fox's cancellations of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Dollhouse have made the network a virtually wall-to-wall man's world dominated by either headstrong alpha males or doofus cartoon ones. The lone exceptions are Bones and Fringe, where co-stars Emily Deschanel and Anna Torv occasionally get a say in some matters.

The broad, oft-preposterous action-adventure of Human Target turns out to be a nice, breezy break from the clench-jawed 24 motif or the perplexing, strung-out "mythologies" that drove both Terminator and Dollhouse.

Valley's Christopher Chance is hard to resist as a devil-may-care hero-for-hire who charms and disarms before moving on to another mission: improbable. Easy come, easy go, easily watched.