“Leverage” premieres Sunday, December 7 at 10/9c. The show then settles into its regular home on Tuesday, December 9 at 10/9c.
The best show of the season isn’t on the networks, it’s on TNT. Sure there aren’t as many new shows this season as usual but “Leverage” still would be in the top three in just about any other year. I enjoyed every second of the first two episodes and can’t wait for more.
I normally don’t watch TNT’s regular programming and when I do I think it’s just average. I’m not really a procedural fan so I’ve watched very few episodes of “The Closer” and “Saving Grace.” I watched the series premiere of “Raising the Bar” and thought it was okay but never found time to keep up with it and didn’t watch another episode. “Leverage” far surpasses all of them in my book. It’s entertaining, original, and even looks like a network show.
Story: For those who watched the British drama “Hustle” when AMC imported it, “Leverage” is very similar but mixed with a little bit of “Eli Stone” (one of my favorite shows from last season). If you didn’t watch “Hustle,” the Ocean’s movies are a pretty good comparison as well. The show is about thieves but it also has a “Robin Hood” aspect where the team targets the rich and unjust and gives to those less privileged. Like Eli Stone, they aim to make the world a better place. While there have been a few dramas about thieves in the last few years, something about “Leverage” just feels fresh. Plus, other than “Hustle” none of those shows were any good. “Leverage” most definitely is.
Characters/Acting: This area is definitely one of the highlights of the show. I loved all five main characters and because of that, it’s fairly obvious the cast is quite talented. I only knew two of the actors beforehand, Christian Kane because of his role on “Angel” and Timothy Hutton (“Kidnapped”). The other three were complete unknowns for me.
Nate Ford (played by Timothy Hutton): A former insurance investigator who worked to stop thieves until his employer denied his son’s insurance claims and allowed him to die. He now leads a team of four thieves that normally work alone. I like his back story but he is probably the least entertaining character of the five. Still, Hutton is very good in this role and much better than he was on the incredibly boring “Kidnapped.”
Alec Hardison (played by Aldis Hodge): He may not look like a nerd but he definitely is. Every thief show needs a gadget guy and he fills that role on “Leverage.” He specializes in Internet fraud and even finds time to earn the team millions in the stock market. As a nerd myself, Hardison is obviously my favorite character. Hodge plays him very well. He has great comedic timing and does a good job differentiating his character from the typical nerds on TV. Hardison is so fun that he may actually be my favorite new character of the season.
Eliot Spencer (played by Christian Kane): I loved Kane when he played Lindsey on “Angel” and he was definitely one of the biggest reasons I wanted to check this show out. Even though he’s playing a good guy for a change, he’s still great in his new role. Eliot Spencer is the muscle on the team. He doesn’t like guns and prefers taking out guards with his fist instead. In fact, he can knock out four armed guards with only his fist before a dropped bag hits the floor (need proof, check out the first video clip below). He’s also quite humorous and some of the interactions between him and Hardison are laugh-out-loud funny.
Parker (played by Beth Riesgraf): Parker is slightly crazy but definitely an expert thief. She does most of the acrobatics, safe-cracking, and a ton of other things. The good thing is she isn’t the stereotypical crazy women a lot of shows have (I’m not sure why women play all the “crazy” people on TV but for some reason they do). She just has an unhealthy love of money and a knack for taking huge risks. As for the woman portraying her, Beth Riesgraf is basically an unknown. She has had a few small roles on a few comedies (How I Met Your Mother!) and a three-episode stint on “Undressed” but not much else. I’m not sure why because judging by her performance in the first two episodes, she’s a very talented actress.
Sophie Deveraux (played by Gina Bellman): A grifter/actress who can’t act to save her life on stage but could win awards for her performance on scams. Her acting skills or lack thereof lead to some very funny scenes on both episodes. I had never heard of Gina Bellman before, probably because she mostly worked on British shows (“Coupling,” “Jekyll”). I wish I had because she is yet another fine actress that rounds out a phenomenal cast.
Production Quality: If I didn’t know better and someone told me this was a TNT show, I would think they were crazy. The show looks exactly like something that would air on FOX or CBS and it’s obviously working with a much smaller budget. If cable keeps coming out with great new shows like this, the networks might be in some serious trouble. Between TNT, USA, Showtime, and FX, I am starting to actually prefer cable over the networks. There is almost no drop-off in quality and the shows rarely get cancelled during or after their first season.
Conclusion: I can safely recommend “Leverage” for just about everyone. Unless you hate thief shows and movies (“Hustle,” the Ocean’s series), you will most likely love this. The show is well-written, superbly acted, and looks just like a network show. Highly recommended.
Episode 1 Synopsis:
“The Nigerian Job”
A desperate aerospace CEO asks Nate Ford – an insurance investigator who once specialized in recovering stolen goods worth millions – to lead a team of expert thieves to recover airplane designs from the rival company that took them. But there’s a twist: the designs were never the CEO’s to begin with. Now, the honest man he hired must convince the band of criminals to do the right thing…steal the plans back.
Episode 2 Synopsis:
“The Homecoming Job”
Leverage Consulting & Associates opens for business as the crew reunites to help a Reservist who’s been wounded in Iraq by private military contractors. In order to get the veteran the medical rehabilitation he needs but cannot afford, the team investigates why he was shot by friendly fire in the first place and uncovers the security firm has a secret worth killing for.
Episode 1 Clips (click the link to see the video):
Episode 1 Gallery (click the thumbnail for a larger version):
Episode 2 Gallery (click the thumbnail for a larger version):