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Friday, July 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 70.0° F  Overcast


Human Target laughs in the face of danger

'Come on, this will be fun.'
'Come on, this will be fun.'
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A charming rogue beats the bad guys while flirting with the ladies and dodging slow-motion explosions. Human Target (Sunday, 7 p.m. Fox) takes the same approach as countless TV series featuring wisecracking law-enforcement types, colorful sidekicks and nonstop action. The only difference: This one works.

Mark Valley plays Christopher Chance, a contractor who goes undercover in situations where normal police protection won't work. Valley is effortlessly appealing a refreshing change from all those would-be action heroes who try way too hard with little payoff. The series remains true to its graphic-novel roots, jumping from one peril to another. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but the scenes are so well staged that we still get caught up in the plot. In other words, the filmmakers have perfect control of their tone.

In the pilot, Chance is hired to protect a beautiful transportation executive...on a speeding train...whose brakes are about to blow. He rigs up a homemade parachute and urges the executive to jump off with him before the inevitable crash. "Come on," he says. "This will be fun."

He's right about that.

Golden Globe Awards
Sunday, 7 pm (NBC)

As an obscure awards show on cable TV, the Golden Globes were enjoyably tasteless. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association had a reputation for picking awful winners (remember Pia Zadora?), accepting lavish favors from nominees and putting on a cheesy production. The show cleaned up its act since moving to broadcast TV but has grown dull in the process.

Last year, presenter Ricky Gervais marred the proceedings with a couple of unpleasant Holocaust jokes. Rather than banning him from this year's ceremony, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has made him the host.

Are we witnessing a strategic return to tastelessness?

Sunday, 8 pm (Fox)

It appears that this season's 24 real-time hours will be uneventful. Agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is retired from the government's Counter Terrorism Unit and spending time with his adorable granddaughter. He makes the healthy decision to leave New York City to accompany his daughter to Los Angeles for a quiet life as a consultant. Meanwhile, the U.S. president has brokered a peace treaty with a key Arab leader. They need only sign it at the United Nations to secure a bright future for the Middle East.

So life is good, world peace is imminent and...wait a minute. An injured informant accosts Jack and reveals that assassins have targeted the treaty-signing ceremony at the U.N. So much for the adorable granddaughter. So much for world peace. It's time for exploding helicopters, back-alley shootouts and government agents shouting into their headsets.

Phew. For about 15 minutes there, 24's new season looked like a dud.

Big Love
Sunday, 8 pm (HBO)

The series about a polygamous Mormon family has lost none of its dramatic edge in season four. In this week's episode, Bill (Bill Paxton) weighs the choice of running for Utah state senate or replacing the murdered Roman Grant as his sect's "prophet." In the meantime, Bill's three wives (Chloe Sevigny as Nicki, Jeanne Tripplehorn as Barb and Ginnifer Goodwin as Margene) and one of his daughters (Amanda Seyfried as Sarah) struggle with their prescribed roles. Sarah plans to marry outside the church. Margene bristles at Bill's order to donate her hard-earned money into the collective pot. Nicki refuses to attend her father Roman's funeral, calling him a "false prophet."

Like many American women, these characters struggle against the patriarchy. It's just that their version makes our patriarchy look practically benign.

Life Unexpected
Monday, 8 pm (CW)

In this new series, a 15-year-old girl named Lux (Britt Robertson) seeks out the birth parents she's never met to sign a document releasing her from foster care. She tracks down her dad, Baze (Kristoffer Polaha), a slacker bar owner who didn't know she existed; then her mom, Cate (Shiri Appleby), a radio talk-show host who put her up for adoption after a one-night stand in high school. Everybody talks to each other in cutesy zingers until things get emotional, at which point sensitive indie rock rises on the soundtrack for a few seconds. Then it's back to the cutesy zingers.

It's unlikely that a 15-year-old bureaucratic slip-up would lead a judge to declare that Cate and Baze are suddenly Lux's legal parents, with joint custody. It's unlikely that Cate and Baze would take a quick break from insulting each other to have wild sex, especially since Cate had just gotten engaged that morning. It's unlikely that the beleaguered Lux would respond to all this with relentlessly ironic wisecracks worthy of a middle-aged TV screenwriter.

It's unlikely that I'll watch episode two of Life Unexpected.

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