This past few years of TV seasons have brought about some incredibly well done and original TV shows to not only grace the network stations but also cable broadcasters as well. Whether it’s the wealth of funny shows from USA or drama from FX, there are few stations not in the game of original material (even AMC jumped in with Mad Men). TNT is no stranger to original material either, although rarely has it ever jumped to the caliber of other networks that garner Emmy nominations and the like. Fortunately unless you require such things of your shows, shows don’t need Emmy nominations to be enjoyable and TNT’s Leverage, now within its second season, is a prime example of a pretty light and airy show that manages to be relentlessly entertaining.
LEVERAGE is a slick and crafty drama following a team of expert thieves that take down corrupt corporations in elaborate high-tech schemes. Insurance investigator Nate Ford (Academy Award-winner Timothy Hutton) exposed scams and recovered stolen items worth millions. But his life hit the skids when his insurance company allowed his ailing 8-year-old son to die. Years later, Nate gets even as the leader of a specialized team of thieves, computer experts and con artists that right corporate and governmental injustices against honest citizens. To expose corruption, Nate will do wrong for all the right reasons –– he will provide Leverage.
The show starts out almost a little too abruptly—we’re thrown in the middle of a mission and we kind of back-pedal out of it to get to know our cast. Only two of our cast members are given any kind of real background to work with and one of those is the star of the show (Oscar winner Hutton), so that’s to be expected. But the other four cast members fill a specific role (grafter, hacker, hitter, and thief) that they rarely deviate from. They all haves personalities to be sure, but it’s hard to even imagine these people doing something illegal, considering how they act throughout the season when it comes to doing things “right.” Sure, there are jokes about stealing or ripping people off, but never are they acted upon and particularly in the case of “hitter” Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane of Angel), you never believe that he was capable of doing evil. Of course he kind of acts just like a rogue marine or something at times, so who knows what he was actually doing before—again, we’re never told except for “thief” Parker (Beth Riesgraf) who you could actually believe would steal something, but given the little of her past we see, it’s not quite so implausible.
So the characters rarely receive back story and the plots themselves are so light and airy that you get more sustenance from a microwave dinner. How is this show entertaining, exactly? Well, in the same way that Burn Notice is—its good guys triumphing (often) incredible evil. It’s Robin Hood on a grander scale and the shows simplicity is where the enjoyment stems from. It can get a bit full of itself and it likes to over utilize the “You didn’t see that coming…at all!” type of storytelling. By that I mean it does something without explaining it to the viewer in the least so you have no idea where the idea and whatnot came from. This is eventually explained by a semi-flashback to where they concocted it, but it just happens so often it can get kind of annoying. But they wrap it all up in a music style similar to something from a Pink Panther cartoon (or some kind of ambient/lounge music…it’s hard to describe, but it’s definitely distinctive), so it’s played off in a childish fashion.
And that’s really what Leverage is about—making you think it’s a very clever and original show when it really just borrows from a whole slew of past TV shows and movies and creates a big amalgam of them all. One thing that Leverage does do that feels original is the fact they take down evil companies or dirty banks (as the premiere of the second season did), which can feel incredibly satisfying in the current economic climate. Perhaps it does this a little too well, but regardless the show is just a very light and entertaining series to watch.
Plus, it’s one of few shows on during the summer and good shows are hard to come by this time of year. Recommended.
Paramount packages up the thirteen episodes that comprise the first season in a four disc package stuffed inside a viva-multi-pak case that’s the size of a standard amaray case. A slipcover is included as well, but it merely mimics the art beneath it so it’s something that can be easily chucked. Video is what you’d expect from a modern show and will look better than what the show was originally broadcast in (at least for me—I don’t get TNT in HD, so it may actually look worse to you, depending on if you saw the first season on air or not). Audio is a DD5.1 mix and it sounds good for what it is; some of the LFE and surround output is more impressive than you would think a TNT show would have, but mainly just for the episodes with explosives or gun fights.
Extras…well, I gotta say, the extras on this set really impressed me. I figured for a first season of a relatively low-profile series we wouldn’t get much, but…nope! We get commentary on every episode of the set and while none of the actors participate, directors, producers and writers all jump in on the episodes to discuss it (we even hear from Jonathan Frakes of Star Trek fame talking over two of his episodes from this season). Also included is a fair amount of Deleted Scenes, although the majority of them are extended sequences, as there’s a lot of overlap from what made it into the broadcast version. Sadly there’s no dedicated outtake reel, although there is an occasional one that makes it into the deleted scenes, for some reason.
The remaining extras include:
• Leverage: Behind the Scenes (12:40)
• Anatomy of a Stunt Fight (3:22)
• The Cameras of Leverage (2:14)
• Leverage Gets Renewed (2:50)
• Beth Riesgraf Crazy Actress Spoof Video (5:02)
These are pretty straightforward featurettes, ranging from interesting (Behind the Scenes and Stunt) to rather excessive (Cameras). The Renewed one is actually pretty good though, as it offers up some candid reaction shots of the cast and crew. It’s obvious from these extras that the show is a lot of fun to make, so it’s not hard to see why the reaction was so positive. The Spoof video was apparently something produced for a magazine and is tongue-in-cheek with Riesgraf making some weird pitch to the writers about some half-shark version of Parker. Strange (but amusing, at least), but…that’s Parker.
Overall a very solid set all around and one that’s definitely Recommended.
Leverage – The 1st Season is now available on DVD.