'Human Target' hits a bull's-eye

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Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) is the human target, Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) is the human target, a unique private contractor hired to protect his clients from dangerous and imminent threats in the new action thriller "Human Target" on Fox. Photo Credit: David Gray/FOX/WBTV

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REVIEW

REASON TO WATCH: Good action-adventure with excellent cast. Second season begins tonight.

WHEN/WHERE: Tonight at 8 on Fox/5

Three San Francisco "security experts" put themselves in harm's way to protect their clients - ex-assassin Christopher Chance (Mark Valley) and his partner, former cop Laverne Winston (Chi McBride), along with their sociopathological hit man/colleague Guerrero (Jackie Earle Haley). At the end of last season, Winston had been captured by an evildoer.

 No reason to give too much away, but let's just say that an endlessly percussive professional life has finally forced Chance to step back, take stock (and possibly regain his hearing). He leaves for an ashram in Tibet, and immerses himself in three days of unbroken meditation - unbroken until the moment a willowy billionaire arrives at his mountain aerie to demand his protection.

Ilsa Pucci (English actress Indira Varma and maybe best known to U.S. audiences from HBO's "Rome") suspects that the bad guys who killed her husband want her dead, too. Chance wants out of the human target racket - he becomes a target as a way of exposing the bad guys - but she drags him back in. Get used to Pucci, by the way: Varma's the newest cast member, along with Ames (Janet Montgomery, Eric's secretary on "Entourage"), a grifter and Guerrero foil.

MY SAY "Human Target" launched in January with enough special effects to actually set off a small earthquake along the San Andreas Fault. It's true: Check the clips. But this season begins on a quieter note, if only for reasons of public safety. There are (to be sure) some terrific special effects tonight, but the lesson apparently learned from the initial run is this: more babes. The show needs more babes. More babes arrive, and they're a welcome addition. Varma and Montgomery add - as we say in the ol' critical trade - sex appeal. They also add character layers to Guerrero, Winston and Chance. The show dynamics will change, but based on this episode, they change for the better.

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BOTTOM LINE Still smart, still good, still fun, "Human Target" remains one of TV's best comic books.

GRADE A-

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