Watch Leverage Season Premiere Free on iTunes

Right now (and I don’t know for how long), the Season 4 premiere of Leverage is available for free on iTunes. I haven’t watched this particular episode yet, but I’m planning to, because the show is great escapist summer watching. This time, they go mountain climbing!

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Leverage Season 2 DVD Out Today

Leverage Season 2< cover
Leverage Season 2
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Out today is the second season collection of one of my favorite summer series, Leverage. Season 2 of the caper show started last July, with nine episodes, followed by a mini-season of six episodes in January.

All 15 are available on this four-disc set. As with the first season, every episode has a commentary, plus these bonus features:

  • The Creators of Leverage Q&A
  • John Rogers Set Tour
  • Behind the Boom Featurette
  • “The Hand Job” Spoof Video
  • Andy Lange Music Featurette
  • Season 2 Wrap Party Gag Reel

Season 3 starts June 20 on TNT. This two-minute clip, from episode 6, “The Top Hat Job”, shows off the action, humor, and cast interaction I enjoy about the show:

While this one, from episode 13, “The Future Job”, features guest starts Jeri Ryan and Luke Perry:

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Leverage: The Bottle Job

Tonight airs a new episode of Leverage, the caper mystery series, on TNT at 10 PM Eastern/Pacific. It’s called “The Bottle Job”, in which Timothy Hutton’s character Nate returns to his old Boston neighborhood’s Irish pub on the occasion of the owner’s wake. Unfortunately, his daughter and sole heir has just been threatened by a local loan shark who demands $15,000 or ownership of the bar.

Turns out that Nate, a recovering alcoholic, lives over the pub and feels rather protective of both it and the daughter, who is “like a niece” to him. It’s a bit predictable — who didn’t expect an episode about the bar and its substitute family once the team started meeting clients there? — but the point of this show is how well they handle classic schemes and cons, especially once they toss in a twist or two. The bad guy is so irredeemably bad, propositioning the girl at her father’s memorial, that you’re rooting for his downfall as soon as you see him. At least he has a sense of humor about his job, so it’s not horrible to watch him.

Alan Smyth as a loan shark and Jeri Ryan as bait

I tend not to like Jeri Ryan’s character very much, preferring Gina Bellman’s softer grifter, but I loved her introductory scene this episode. Nate has called her down to the bar to find more information on the bad guy. He points him out to her as she takes off her coat and exchanges a couple of wisecracks. To prepare, she pulls up her short skirt, raising the hemline, tugs down her V-neck top, shakes out her hair, slugs a drink, and says, “I’m Trish, and I’m lonely.” It’s such an economic creation of a character, all the aspects she needs transformed in a few quick motions.

The main challenge for the team is that the shark is leaving that night and so they have an hour and a half to save the bar. First problem, find enough cash to start up the classic Wire con — that’s the one you saw in The Sting, about betting on sports based on knowing the outcomes ahead of time. (Only now, technology makes it much simpler.) The setup allows Parker (Beth Riesgraf), Hardison (Aldis Hodge), and Eliot (Christian Kane) to work together on the behind-the-scenes prep. I love seeing them interact; their characters play off each other well, and this episode is full of little moments among them that are quite entertaining.

Parker, Hardison, Nate, and Eliot

There’s also a bit of drama, as running a con in a bar is a bad idea for Nate, since it will be obvious if he’s not drinking. But it’s the comedy that keeps me coming back — Aldis Hodge in particular gets a great funny scene when he’s called upon to improvise a snow storm. When I first heard about it, I wasn’t as interested in this setup as I was in the previous episode, but it turned out to be even more entertaining, especially the final double-cross. Unexpected, but perfectly plausible.

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Leverage Returns Tonight on TNT

Leverage returns on TNT with a mini-season of six episodes starting tonight at 10 PM ET. (The first half of the season started last July, and the first season is available on DVD.)

In “The Runway Job”, the team aims to take down a sweatshop exploiter and his wannabe designer wife. This setting of course allows Jeri Ryan to model high fashion as well as providing comedy as Christian Kane (the muscle), Aldis Hodge (the hacker), and Beth Riesgraf (the thief) struggle to fit in a world that they know little about and don’t really care for. I wasn’t surprised to see Riesgraf undercover as a model, because she’s beautiful, although she carried it off with the typical wacky attitude of her character, making for some of the show’s best moments.

Ryan is still standing in for Gina Bellman (Sophie), although Sophie is having webcam conversations with the team from Paris and other global locations. I’m glad, because she’s not as brusque as Ryan’s character. I think we’re not supposed to like Ryan much, just as the team feels a bit off about their lack of history with her. Mixing up the interactions shows us more about the characters, as well as allowing the writers to tweak the viewers, since we don’t have a good sense yet of where her loyalties really are.

I enjoyed watching this episode, like all the others, for its blend of action, humor, and caper. Next week, “The Bottle Job” (January 20) has the team attempting to save a neighborhood bar, in an episode directed by Jonathan Frakes. Future episodes include one where they have to break Nate’s ex-wife out of a Ukrainian jail; another guest-starring Luke Perry as a fake psychic (is there any other kind?); and a two-parter written by series co-creator John Rogers involving baseball and a corrupt mayor.

Here’s a clip from the premiere with Ryan and Kane. Also, a show soundtrack is now available.

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Leverage Season 2 Premiere: The Beantown Bailout Job

The second season of Leverage starts tonight at 9 PM Eastern.

Leverage promo

It’s pretty astounding. Timothy Hutton, after interviewing with an insurance company to get back the kind of corporate job he once loved, almost gets hit by a flying car (in a breathtaking movie-level stunt). He rescues the driver and his daughter only to discover that the car had been tampered with and the banker’s briefcase stolen.

After splitting up at the end of last season, the team reunites by accident at one of Sophie’s performances. They’ve been bored over the past six months; helping people was more fun than they realized. In a cute twist, the “bad guys” are now the ones trying to talk Nate into reforming their team to figure out what caused the accident. Watch the clip.

Turns out the con involves federal bank bailouts and mobsters who actually pay their taxes. Because that’s always how they get caught. Great dialogue exchange:

Nate: How do you catch a mobster?
Sophie: Two glasses of Chianti and a story about my grandmother in Sicily.
Nate: How does the government catch a mobster?

About the only thing that made me grumble was how the show has become a little too fond of its one-word descriptors for the team: hitter, hacker, grifter, thief, mastermind. I liked the use in the credits, to bring new viewers up to speed, but having someone actually speak those terms was over the top. And “hitter”? Better than “killer”, I guess.

Here, the team planned carefully to target a particular person, only to discover that they had the wrong leader identified. This isn’t the first time that they’ve had to improvise, thinking on their feet, and those are the best, most creative interactions.

It’s always a pleasure to see Hardison and Parker together, what with their unspoken interest. That they’re dressed as priest and nun is kinky fun. I’d missed all of these characters, and putting them in unusual positions relative to each other — Hardison playing tough guy while Eliot worries about danger, Sophie taking care of Nate while hiding a secret — gives them fresh spark.

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Leverage: The First Season

Leverage: The First Season cover
Leverage: The First Season
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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.”

The Episodes

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.

Special Features

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.)

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Catching Up on Leverage

The problem, for me, with good stuff is that I put it off until I have time to enjoy it. (Mediocre stuff, that’s easy to buzz through without having to pay full attention.) Soon, I’m several weeks/issues/episodes behind. On the plus side, that means I can give myself a mini-marathon. That’s how I found myself watching four episodes of Leverage and looking forward to more.

The Stork Job

A couple is trying to adopt a baby in Serbia, only to be fleeced. I thought this ran the risk of being sappy, especially when it started triggering crazy thief Parker (Beth Riesgraf)’s orphanage memories, but it soon got terrific, with a con involving an overseas low-budget movie production. Hardison (Aldis Hodge) does a great job of balancing out Parker’s crazy by providing balance and sympathy to her sometimes one-note character.

Leverage Stork Job

That setup allowed the crew to take on ridiculous personalities, with Nate (Timothy Hutton) as the overbearing director, Eliot (Christian Kane) as the bankrolling cowboy, and Sophie (Gina Bellman) as actress, of course. It’s the throwaway dialogue bits that I enjoy most. When discussing tracking someone who was a former French fashion model, several of the group turn out to be nostalgic Emmanuelle fans. It’s familiar hearing phrases like “that’s when they rebooted the franchise”, although I wonder when that becamse common enough language to use on a TV show.

The Wedding Job

Leverage Wedding Job 2

Leverage Wedding Job

A more humorous premise this time, as the gang sets themselves up as wedding planners for a mobster’s daughter’s ceremony in order to steal money the crook owes a patsy’s family. Parker and Hardison again set up as a pair of FBI agents, which works well, since they’re both capable of saying almost anything with a poker face, and they’re both the most honest and direct about their thefts, which makes for tasty contrast.

Hardison has become my favorite character. Later, he and tough-guy Eliot are talking about past heartbreak:

Eliot: “She married somebody else.”
Hardison: “Damn, what did you do?”
Eliot: “What did I do? I liberated Croatia.”
Hardison: “Well, see, now, me, I’d’ve just got fat and started up a comic book shop.”

This episode wasn’t as twisty as some of the others, unfortunately, and it succumbs to some obvious jokes — like a ridiculously atrocious bridesmaid dress — but still entertaining. Nicole Sullivan (MadTV) does a good job as the crazy mob wife.

The Mile-High Job

A little sanctimonious, which is the show’s biggest flaw. They’ve helped orphans and wounded war veterans and priests already, for goodness’ sake. Here, they have to find a “smoking gun” document to prove an evil company knew their pesticide caused a little girl’s death. It’s all just setup to get them onto a plane quickly for a locked-room-style episode in a limited setting. I don’t mind — I think constraints of that sort show the characters off well. “The Bank Shot Job” was similar, where Nate and Sophie were taken hostage in a bank robbery along with their mark.

Leverage Mile High Job

Then Sara Rue (Popular, The Big Bang Theory) showed up, as a nervous passenger. She’s a very talented comedian, but Hardison, left on the ground, once again steals the show as a BS-ing management consultant type. Favorite geek moment: Nate’s aliases are all actors who’ve played Doctor Who.

The Snow Job

It’s another timely economic villain: a greedy contractor taking advantage of a hard-working man whose house was foreclosed on. The contractor, played by Sam Anderson, previously worked with Christian Kane on Angel, by the way, while one of the sons is Danny Strong (Jonathan from Buffy). A few too many characters for a clever triple cross; instead, the con’s just about getting the marks to trust them until necessary.

Upcoming

Tuesday night has “The 12-Step Job”, about a swindled charity (timely!) and a broker in rehab. Then, the week after (February 10), comes a nerd-fest: guest stars include Star Trekkers Brent Spiner and Armin Shimmerman (as well as Lauren Holly), and the episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes (Commander Riker).

Leverage Juror Job

I’m kind of surprised I’m still enjoying this series, but for every bum episode, there’s a better one. I would gladly buy a DVD set with some juicy extras.

If I’m watching a bunch of TV vigilantes with amazing powers work outside the law to bring justice to those who can’t achieve it on their own, then no wonder I don’t feel like reading many superhero comics any more. This is more rewarding, and even if they don’t have costumes (only disguises), they’re still a great adventure team with interesting personalities and quirks.

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Leverage: The Miracle Job

Tonight, TNT airs the Leverage episode “The Miracle Job” at 10 PM Eastern. It’s not a Christmas episode as such — too early in the show’s run for that, although I’d love to see one — but it does deal with a case involving a church, St. Nicholas, and redemption.

Leverage - The Miracle Job

D.B. Sweeney plays a priest, an old friend of Nate’s (Timothy Hutton) whose sanctuary is about to be demolished by a developer building a mall. The team decides to try and find a miracle … or fake one if necessary … to save the church.

The capers aren’t quite as prominent — the scams they pull are penny-ante stuff; the complication comes when their first instinct gets everyone in worse trouble and they have to figure out a way to undo it — but it’s a nice episode for seeing more character interaction as the group reacts to another of Sophie’s (Gina Bellman) plays and what they find out about Nate’s background. I liked seeing the two rugged guys acting together (although I did find myself wondering when we’re going to reach a point where women of that age with that much character on their faces will feature on TV).

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