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Is 'The Player' the spiritual successor to 'Human Target'?

NBC’s The Player has a lot of things going for it. The Las Vegas–set drama is well written, it’s unbelievably well cast, and it’s already teasing action sequences that are worthy of applause. There’s no doubt that it’s going to make a splash in September. But here’s something else that’s really cool about it: In its cocktail of brains and brawn, it’s the spiritual successor to a great show gone by called Human Target.

Five years ago, FOX adapted the DC Comics title into a fresh and fun series that never ceased to put a smile on people’s faces. Now, while doing its own separate thing, The Player is keeping that same vibe and unique blend alive on TV.

Don’t believe me? Check out these four strengths that the two shows have in common.

1. They’ve got a truly badass main character, portrayed by someone who is actually badass

TV heroes don’t come cooler than The Player‘s Alex Kane, a former FBI operative who spent his years overseas hunting down terrorists and is now the best security expert Vegas can buy. Not only is Alex tough—crashing motorcycles through abandoned malls—but he’s also very smart and uses his head as much as his fists. He’s played by Philip Winchester, who in real life is someone you’d want to be standing next to if something went down. He’s doing the majority of his own stunts, and he’s one of the smartest guys in the room. A lot of what you’re about to see in September is all him.

Human Target had Christopher Chance, a former assassin turned the best bodyguard in San Francisco. Chance’s whole career was about being tough enough to protect his client, whether it was fighting somebody on a speeding bullet train or getting slugged as a boxer in a Belgian tournament. He was portrayed by Mark Valley, who in real life graduated from West Point before serving in the United States Army. It was well known that he did a lot of his own stunts, too. Both of these actors are just as cool as their characters (and coincidentally, both were also on Fringe).

2. The main character has an equally interesting BFF to keep him in line

If Alex has any hope of staying alive on The Player, he’s going to have to rely on his best friend, Detective Cal Brown. Cal is a straight-shooting LVPD cop, wonderfully portrayed by Damon Gupton, who makes it clear that the wheels are already spinning in Cal’s head early on. Gupton and Winchester create a genuine bond between the two characters that goes beyond sidekick fare; because of that, there’s a whole other intrigue about these two guys and what’s going to happen with their friendship.

Chance’s best buddy was former San Francisco inspector Laverne Winston, played by Chi McBride. Winston never took any nonsense from Chance, and didn’t always know what was going on with his old friend. McBride and Valley were more often played off each other for comic relief, but you could still sense that Winston and Chance cared about one another. While The Player looks to dig deeper into that dynamic than Human Target ever got to, each show has somebody for its hero to lean on.

3. There’s the other guy whom no one quite feels comfortable with

The secret weapon for Human Target was Jackie Earle Haley, who stole countless scenes as Guerrero, the third member of Team Chance who got up to who knows what else in his downtime and always had a one-liner at hand. Haley was generally awesome in the role, creating a guy whom you loved to watch and were also more than a little bit concerned about, because Guerrero had even more bite than Chance and more willingness to go there. Remember his first scene?

The Player brings us Wesley Snipes, making his return to television as the enigmatic Mr. Johnson. It’d be a stretch to call Johnson part of Alex Kane’s team, but he definitely fills the role of that guy who is both undeniably great to watch and also really kind of uncomfortable. Johnson already has a half-dozen good one-liners in The Player‘s trailer alone, and you can’t argue with the coolness of Wesley Snipes. But like Guerrero, you do not want to turn your back on Mr. Johnson.

4. The show is just honest, unbelievable fun

Make no mistake about it, we’re in a Golden Age of television, with some of the most complex and brilliant series you could possibly ask for being produced today. But there’s something to be said about a show that you can just watch and have a mind-blowingly great time with. Both of these are series that, while being no less quality programs, are tremendously fun. They’re packed full of things you could only dream of doing. They’re really funny. They’re full of characters you want to spend time with.

Most important, they’re both shows that have a really good heart. Underneath the big bangs and the ongoing mysteries and the client or crime of the week, these are series that aren’t trying to make a statement or reinvent the wheel. They’re just shows where the people making them are having a tremendous amount of fun doing it, and they want you to have just as much fun watching it.

While The Player and Human Target are their own separate shows with plenty of differences, they’re similar in some great ways too. The fact that The Player is bringing back that same feeling of truly epic and yet truly fun television is worth getting excited about. There’s something special about a series that can take us on a true adventure; Human Target did that, and The Player is going to do that in spades. Christopher Chance would certainly approve of Alex Kane.

The Player premieres on Thursday, September 24, at 10 p.m.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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