When a group of thieves and conmen are betrayed on a job, they team up to get revenge on the man who set them up. They realize how good they are at this as a team and decide they are going to only steal from the rich to give back to the poor.
When new television shows debut on TV, they are always a crap shoot. You can have a star involved and the show can still flail in the ratings and get cancelled after one season. Christian Slater’s recent attempt with My Own Worst Enemy and The Forgotten are two great examples of that. Leverage was able to promote itself on the strength of its leading man being a former Oscar winner bit, as a supporting role for Ordinary People almost thirty years ago, that is kind of stretching it. Luckily, Timothy Hutton is a good enough actor to carry this role and his supporting cast is exemplary enough to make this show one of the best on TV today.
Hutton is Nathan Ford, a former insurance man whose job was to investigate various cases to determine if his firm needed to pay the claims. Along the way, he met various thieves and con-men and proved to be a formidable adversary for them. His career came crashing to the ground when his son was diagnosed with a disease and his own company refused to cover the exploratory techniques that might have saved his life. When his son died, he blamed the corporation he gave his life to and turned to the bottle to drown his tears.
This subplot is followed throughout the entire first season, although I have a problem with its implementation into various episodes. The alcoholism is used only when needed and a few episodes will pass without a mention. The entire character trait is used as a plot device and not as a realistic affliction until the final stretch of the season where it comes into play, interfering with the work of the team.
That team is full of fantastic actors turning in some of the best performances I have seen in a while. Christian Kane, a personal favorite, finally found a performance worthy to follow up his excellent Lindsey McDonald from Angel. His Eliot, the muscle of the group, is one of the most entertaining characters on the entire show. “The First David Job,” where Eliot is the only member not to get blindsided, shows why his character is the true strength. Equally as great is Beth Riesgraf as Parker, a girl who suffered through a very traumatic childhood, only hinted at in this first season. She is horrible at social interaction, which makes her the scenes incredibly fun when things get heated. Aldis Hodge is also great fun as computer hacker Alec, nothing like you would expect from the geek on the team. Gina Bellman is the weak link of the cast as Sophie. It is not that her character is not interesting – she is an actress who is horrible when on stage but brilliant during a heist – but her performance comes across as flat and uninteresting.
The heists, while nowhere near as brilliant as the characters, make this show a lightweight romp that is always entertaining. The music score by Joseph LoDuca, is excellent and makes every episode seem like we are watching a classic conman movie. The heists themselves range from complicated to simplistic, but more than half of them had me guessing at the end. The first episode, “The Nigerian Job” starts the season off with a bang and remains one of the strongest debuts for a show I have seen in awhile. Other highlights throughout the season include “The Wedding Job,” “The Show Job,” “The Stork Job,” “The Juror #6 Job,” and the two-part season finale. That is more than half the episodes and the rest are still above average for network television with “The Mile High Job” and “The Two-Horse Job” the lesser of the group.
The plot line follows the team as they learn to work together and trust each other. They start off in a luxury styled office suite but, after an Angel-like explosion, end up in an old renovated house by the end. The team builds the trust in each other and all the characters develop well throughout the season, with the exception of Eliot and Sophie. Eliot I can handle because he is a brutal military man with a closely guarded past. Sophie I can’t and her removal from the team dynamic in Season 2 was much needed in my opinion. The past lives of the members were also left open for development throughout later seasons, a solid move by the creative team.
By the end of the season I was more than impressed. I flew through the entire season in two sittings and, at close to nine hours, that says a lot for someone with my ease of distractions. The acting was superb and the stories were cool and gave me exactly what I wanted from a conman series. It’s one of the best shows on network television and I can’t recommend it enough.
The original episode is the full version (56 minutes) instead of the edited 43-minute television version.
There are Commentary Tracks on every episode. The people who deliver the commentary includes Chris Downey (exec Producer), John Rogers (exec producer), Dean Devlin (exec producer, director), Jonathan Frakes (director), Albert Kim (writer), Tony Bill (director), Amy Berg (writer), Rob Minkoff (director), Christine Boylan (writer), Arvin Brown (director), Melissa Glenn (writer), Jessica Rieder (writer), Craig R. Baxlet (director), Marc Roskin (director), Rebecca Kirsch (writer) and Rod Hardy (director). I would have liked to have heard from some of the actors but the people involved are all energetic and full of info. There are also a number of deleted scenes spread across all four discs.
Leverage: Behind the Scenes (12:39) – This is a VERY light weight look at the basis of the show. The one thing that makes me most happy about the feature is when my comparisons of Leverage to The A-Team were backed up by both writer John Rogers and actor Christian Kane. It is also interesting when technical advisor Apollo Robbins talks about his expertise with cons and how he helped the show come up with these ideas. The feature gives me the one thing I missed about the commentary, a discussion with the actors.
Anatomy of a Stunt Fight (3:22) showcases a big fight with Christian Kane’s Eliot that takes place in an airport hangar. Kane takes us through the steps of the fight, comparing it to a dance, and shows how they choreograph it.
The Cameras of Leverage (2:14) is nothing more than a musical montage of the various cameras and rigs used to make the show.
Leverage Gets Renewed (2:51) is a really cool feature. The cast and crew were brought in for a meeting under false pretenses (some by teleconferencing) so they could all be together when the news they were renewed was announced. Very cool stuff.
Beth Riesgraf’s Crazy Actress Spoof (5:02) is a ridiculous short with Beth (Parker) where she comes in and gives her ideas for her character for the show. The best part might be when she punches a “Make a Wish” kid in the gut.