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Under The Radar 05: Leverage

When I was a kid all the best TV shows were on the “Big 3” of CBS, NBC and ABC. As I grew up, soon the best shows were on FOX and sometimes even the WB. Today that has all changed as many award winning TV programs can be found on cable and premium channels like HBO and Showtime. In the past few years, TNT has been one of the channels to step up its original programming and one of the products they’ve brought out has been the action/comedy/drama show Leverage. Get ready to get even with a team of thieves who are modern day Robin Hoods.

Starting in 2008, Leverage has become a hit for TNT as it drew nearly 4 million viewers in its’ first season and 4.5 million in its’ second and third seasons. The Pilot episode itself does a great job of setting the mood for the entire series. Timothy Hutton plays Nathan “Nate” Ford, a former insurance investigator who after the death of his son puts together a team to help victims get revenge on those who’ve wronged them. The Leverage team consists of Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman) who is the team grifter, an actress who gains their targets confidence by any means necessary. Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) is the team Hacker and all around geek, able to get into any computer system and take over and usually the one to make pop culture references. Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane) is the Hitter, who is exactly what it sounds like. Eliot hates guns, but is all for head-butts! The final team member is Parker (Beth Riesgraf) who is the team thief. Parker is an orphan whose step father would take her toys away and lock them up, telling her to either stop “or become a better thief.” So she did.

Whether they’re taking on a corrupt judge, loan sharks, the mob, or a crooked housing developer, Leverage is always packed with action, drama and a surprising amount of comedy. I had caught the show by accident one day and soon was caught up in what I would find out to be season 3 of the show. If you’re like me you may feel awkward about tuning into a show if you haven’t watched from the start, but Leverage is easy to get into no matter where you’re starting off at. Though it does occasionally have story arcs that carry over through the season, the majority of the episodes are self-contained, allowing new viewers to jump in at any point. Still not comfortable jumping in? Season 1 and 2 are currently available on DVD and TNT.com offers episodes for free to view online. Season 3 will be released on DVD on June 7, 2011 and season 4 will premiere on June 26th! Now is the perfect time to get caught up and see why some of the best TV, isn’t on network television anymore!

TNT Tease The Rest Of ‘Leverage’ Season Two

The hit TNT series Leverage resumes its acclaimed second season on January 13th and the network has released some teases of things to come. Below are episode descriptions for the remainder of the season as well as images for the next four episodes. Notably, Mark Sheppard returns as James Sterling as does Kari Matchett as Nate’s ex-wife Maggie Collins. Be sure to tune in to TNT Tuesday, January 13th at 10:00 PM for six straight weeks of brand-new Leverage episodes and remember, things are just getting started as the show will return in the summer for a third season! Leverage is executive-produced by Dean Devlin (Independence Day, TNT’s The Librarian) and creators John Rogers (Transformers) and Chris Downey (The King of Queens). The show is produced for TNT by Devlin’s Electric Entertainment.

“The Runway Job” – Premieres Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 10:00 PM
In order to take down an oppressive sweatshop owner, the LEVERAGE team infiltrates the fashion world.
Directed by Marc Roskin
Written by Albert Kim

“The Bottle Job” – Premieres Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 10:00 PM
The LEVERAGE team runs a high-tech version of a classic con on a predatory loan shark in order to save McRory’s bar.
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Written by Christine Boylan

“The Zanzibar Marketplace Job” – Premieres Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 10:00 PM
The team is forced to work with their old enemy Sterling in order to free Nate’s ex-wife, Maggie (guest star Kari Matchett) from a Ukrainian jail and clear her name.
Directed by Jeremiah Chechik
Written by Melissa Glenn & Jessica Rieder

“The Future Job” – Premieres Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 10:00 PM
The team goes after a con man masquerading as a psychic medium (guest star Luke Perry) in order to drain the life savings of his bereaved clients.
Directed by Marc Roskin
Written by Amy Berg & Chris Downey

“The Three Strikes Job” – Premieres Wednesday, Feb. 10, at 10:00 PM
While trying to take down a corrupt local mayor exploiting his love of baseball, the LEVERAGE team runs into an unexpected complication.
Directed by Dean Devlin
Written by John Rogers

“The Maltese Falcon Job” – Premieres Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 10:00 PM
Surrounded by FBI, the team decides to hide in plain sight, while continuing to take down the corrupt mayor and his gunrunning partner. Little do they suspect that Nate has a different endgame in mind for them all.
Directed by Dean Devlin
Written by John Rogers

Review: ‘Leverage’ – “The Homecoming Job”

Much like the premiere episode of Leverage did a great job of introducing us to the main characters, the second episode handles setting up the basic setting of the series. Essentially, Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton) has used most of his cut from the pilot to establish Leverage Consulting & Associates, complete with fake history dating back several decades and state of the art offices. This gives the team the cover of a consulting business and a base of operations from which to plan and hatch their latest caper. First case: take on the U. S. Government. Well, sort of.

Ford decides to reunite the team to help a Reservist wounded by what is being called friendly-fire from a private military contractors in Iraq. This incident also claimed the life of his buddy. Utilizing thier own unique talents, Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), Parker (Beth Riesgraf), Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) and Ford slowly begin to uncover a conspiracy of greed.

This second episode, written by John Rogers and Chris Downey and directed by Dean Devlin, is a strong outing and effectively builds upon the premiere. The team’s raison d’être is convincingly established. The fact that they gelled very well in the pilot and genuinely seem to like and work well with each other makes there coming back together as a team not forced at all. The dialogue is very snappy and the pacing and plotting are tight. I applaud the production team for tackling a headline-ripping, timely subject with grace and dignity. They don’t weigh in on the Iraq itself, merely show the dangerous mixture of greed and guns in an already intense environment. All of this creates an entertaining hour of television that provides a great stand-alone story that leaves you wanting more. Leverage has been added to my weekly must-watch list.


Review: ‘Leverage’ Series Premiere

In the opening moments of Leverage we are introduced to Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton), a man close to the end of a downward spiral. He has suffered a horrible tragedy indirectly due to the insurance company he used to work for. When a desperate man (guest star Saul Rubinek) seeks Ford’s help in stealing back some documents he only agrees when he is told that it will also cause harm to his former employer. Knowing he can’t do this job alone, he assembles a team of criminals, each with a particular skill. There’s Parker (Beth Riesgraf), who scales skyscrapers as calmly as she repels off of them. She may also be clinically insane. Cool and confident Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane) can incapacitate a group of tough guys frighteningly quick. For the computer hacking needs of the operation there is Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge). And lastly, but certainly not least, there is professional grifter Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman) who also is an aspiring actress…a bad one. Once together these loners have to figure out how to work as a team or if they even want to. Then the double-cross starts.

leverage_the-nigerian-job-18-timothy-hutton-gina-bellmanLeverage is a prime example of what TNT excels at, great characters and what they do in dramatic situations. What the premiere episode doesn’t do is start off with the normal situation and setting of the show. That doesn’t happen until the second episode. What it does do, and it does this very well, is introduce us to the characters. As the episode, and eventual caper, progresses we see each character’s strengths play out as well as their personalities. This happens organically in tandem with the plot and not gratuitously rushed, which is not always easy to accomplish in a first episode. It’s also refreshing that the story is self-contained. Who the characters are, what made them who they are and what evil-doer they take on next is what will compel you to tune in for each subsequent episode in this thirteen episode run.

A few things stand out after the episode is done. The script by John Rogers and Chris Downey is well paced with some great dialogue. Aldis Hodge nearly steals the show almost upstaging the rest of the cast, including Hutton. Dean Devlin makes his directorial debut look like the work of a veteran director. This pilot episode does it’s job and does it well. The “Modern Day Robin Hood and His Merry Men” conceit that’s at the core of the show doesn’t feel worn out at all. In fact, with these characters and script it feels new again. This is a fun show and well worth checking out. Do the quality and premise hold up through to the second episode? We’ll answer that on Tuesday.