Leverage: The Nigerian Job (series premiere)
by Jason Hughes, posted Dec 8th 2008 12:08PM
(S01E01) Now that's what good television is all about. This slickly produced show managed to keep things light and fun in the world of high-stakes criminal espionage. It makes sense since executive producer Dean Devlin directed the pilot and slick and fancy is what he's all about. Certainly Independence Day got by on its look and feel rather than any great plotlines or dialogue. Devlin's production company has also been behind the very successful The Librarian series of films for TNT which are also very high on style.
If this pilot is anything to go by, it looks like Devlin and TNT will have reason to be pleased again. The pilot, presented with no commercial breaks, kept the momentum going from the opening sequence to the end. Timothy Hutton was effective in the lead role, but it's not like we slowed down long enough to get inside his head or anything. The closest we came was a twelve second heart-to-heart between him and Eliot leading into a flashback where we saw him watching through a door as his son died.
But it really doesn't matter, though, as that's not what the show is about. Sure it would be great to get to know these people a little bit more than we do at this point, but the fun of the show is in the execution of their plans and the outsmarting of their rich fat-cat enemies. I love the premise that it will be them taking on the rich and corrupt to help the little man who so often gets swept under the rug.
It's also fantastic how this team is a group of criminals and loners, save for Nate (Hutton). Okay, he's a criminal now but only after the corporate machine swept his son's life under the carpet. I like that as a motivation, and I really enjoyed the banter between the various members of the team. With Devlin having only directed this pilot, I'm curious and a little worried to see how the tone and presentation might shift in forthcoming installments.
There's potential for this premise to go years without getting stale. Hell, it could even handle cast changes and keep going. The strength of tonight's episode was in watching how they pulled off the original heist and then how they took down the fat cat who left them to die. And tonight they were flawless. While it would add an element of suspense if their plans didn't always go off nearly perfect, it's almost just as much fun to see how clever they are.
This is one of the better premieres I've seen in the last several years. My mind keeps going back to FX's short-lived 2006 series Thief with Andre Braugher. I enjoyed that show as well, but it seemed so much more somber and intense than Leverage. Maybe it's the era we're living in, but escapist fare seems a good fit these days, and Leverage seems to offer it in spades.