I found the opening season of the TNT original series Leverage — the Ocean’s 11-style TV show about a group of semi-reformed thieves working for justice — very enjoyable. If you haven’t been watching, you should check out this first season collection for some entertaining escapism as grifters take on powerful people when they’ve done wrong and no one else can set things right.
Timothy Hutton stars as Nathan Ford, a former insurance investigator whose son died due to his employer’s heartlessness and their desire to save on (irony!) health insurance costs. When he’s asked to help recover stolen aerospace designs by Saul Rubinek (currently starring on Warehouse 13), he recruits these criminals: Aldis Hodge as Alec Hardison, genius hacker and tech geek; Christian Kane (Angel) as Eliot Spencer, tough combat expert; Beth Riesgraf as Parker, crazy girl thief; and Gina Bellman (Coupling) as Sophie Devereaux, a con artist who really wants to be on the legitimate stage. The British actress gets to do a number of accents, some lesser known, throughout the show.
The team works well together, although all were formerly loners. Many are damaged in various ways and have never been able to share their true selves with others. The character interplay is a large part of the appeal for me, as the different personalities in various combinations raise different moods.
There’s a nice blend of adventure, teamwork, and development, lightened with a comedic tone. It gives me what I want from a good superhero comic: an unusual fight for justice, picking right over wrong and helping innocent victims, without taking itself too seriously and presented in a creative way. It’s a great caper show, with a high tech, mini-movie feel, and as I said before, “seeing underdogs get the better of corrupt corporate big-wigs is immensely appealing these days.”
These are presented in filming order, not the order in which the network aired them.
1. The Nigerian Job — The extended-length pilot is a very strong opening, establishing all the characters and showing some nice double-crosses.
2. The Homecoming Job — A solider was injured in Iraq by government contractors. A cover-up prevents them having to take responsibility, so the team takes down a corrupt Congressman to get the soldier the medical rehab he needs.
3. The Wedding Job — A more light-hearted take, where the gang pretend to be wedding planners to steal money from a mobster during his daughter’s wedding. Guest stars Nicole Sullivan.
4. The Snow Job — A family of contractors are running a scam to take people’s homes after foreclosure. The team decides to take their company in return in a con involving a ski resort. Guest stars Sam Anderson (Angel) and Danny Strong (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
5. The Mile High Job — A “locked room”-style episode, with most of the team on a plane along with Sara Rue (Popular, The Big Bang Theory). They’re trying to find the document that proves an evil company knew their pesticide killed a little girl, while Hardison infiltrates the company back on the ground in outrageous fashion. A lot of character work in a small space, and then the plane starts to crash.
6. The Miracle Job — Nate’s old friend (D.B. Sweeney) is a priest whose church is going to be demolished by a real estate developer, requiring a miracle (provided by the team) to save it.
7. The Two-Horse Job — Background on Eliot, as the team helps a Kentucky horse trainer who’s the father of his old girlfriend. A rich owner had his stable burned down to kill off racehorses that didn’t do well. This episode introduces Jim Sterling (Mark Sheppard), the man who replaced Nate as investigator at his old insurance company, as a nemesis for the team.
8. The Bank Shot Job — Another limited-setting show: Nate, Sophie, and their mark are taken hostage in a bank robbery, and the team has to help the robbers, whose loved one is being held hostage elsewhere, in order to get out safely.
9. The Stork Job — A couple is trying to adopt a Serbian baby from a corrupt orphanage that only wants their money, so the team fakes a low-budget movie production to catch the orphanage’s manager.
10. The Juror #6 Job — Parker gets a spotlight, as one of her aliases is called for jury duty in a wrongful death case involving a supplement pill. Guest stars include Brent Spiner, Armin Shimmerman, and Lauren Holly.
11. The 12-Step Job — Another focus on Nate and his alcoholism. A broker bilks a charity and goes to rehab. Nate and Parker go in as well, but for Nate, it may no longer be acting.
12. The First David Job and The Second David Job — The two-part finale. Sterling and Nate’s old boss come after his firm, complicated by the presence of his ex-wife.
These are pretty forgettable, not the kind of in-depth information I was hoping for, with a few exceptions: Every episode has commentary from the executive producers (who also wrote and/or directed several of the episodes) and any other writers and directors for that episode (including Jonathan Frakes, who directed “Wedding Job” and “Juror #6 Job”). No actors participate, unfortunately, but the result is lots of discussion about structure and pacing and other informative information about how TV shows are made. Many episodes also have deleted scenes, one of which shows up twice with different framing. In addition, there’s:
Behind the Scenes (12 min.): Typical promo reel, with people like Executive Producers Dean Devlin, John Rogers, and Chris Downey and some of the stars talking about the premise; how the show came about; and character profiles. I found the most important part to be seeing their technical advisor on theft and scams, Apollo Robbins, and how the others react to him. (He’s also sometimes a hand double during card stunts.)
Anatomy of a Stunt Fight (3 min.): Christian Kane works out a fight sequence in an airplane hanger with a guest star.
The Cameras of Leverage (2 min.): Tech porn. Wordless footage of the cameras used to film the show.
Leverage Gets Renewed (3 min.): A fake interview setup, where they assembled the cast through video-conferencing to tell them that they were getting a second season of the show.
Beth Riesgraf’s Crazy Actress Spoof (5 min.): The woman who plays Parker takes on the writers.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the studio.)