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October 10, 2015

TV Squad Ten: Reasons Leverage is the best new show this season

by Debra McDuffee, posted Jan 30th 2009 11:02AM
the cast of TNT's Leverage
Have you seen TNT's new show, Leverage yet? It's been called a new age A-Team, but I see it more as a lighthearted combination of Ocean's 11, Alias, Burn Notice and even How I Met Your Mother.

In fact, I'm willing to go out on a limb and state in no uncertain terms that Leverage is the best new show to premiere this season. I would have given the title to The Mentalist previous to Leverage's premiere, but since then, it has continued to steal my heart a little more each week.

What makes Leverage the best new show this season? In no particular order ...

1. The premise -- who the team was and how they came together
Take a group of notorious thieves and an ex-insurance fraud investigator and con them. That won't go over well, I can assure you. Well, it brings together this motley bunch when they con their conner right back. The con makes them all independently wealthy for the rest of their lives. They had so much fun doing the job together that none can resist doing it one more time, this time to help people instead of stealing, until they grow together as a true team.

I find the premise to be unique, the team members to be well-rounded and it was done in such a way that it is clear they were doing it for the high of the con until the realized how god it felt to help people in the process.

2. The flashbacks
The Leverage creators and writers chose a clever way for us to get to know the characters, without breaking up the story of each episode. We are given flashbacks, clever little snippets of insight as to why the characters are the way they are. We know Parker's a little bit off when we see her blow up her family's house; Eliot is a badass and proves it when he escapes a coffee house full of enemies and still has time for that one last sip.

The flashbacks are quick, effective and funny, and seem to be in the spirit of How I Met Your Mother's flashbacks. I'm really thinking they are inspired by Bays and Thomas to some degree.

3. The sleight of hand
The cool cons are fun, but the clever pickpockets the team pulls off are a step above. I can only describe them as multi-step pickpockets. So while Nate distracts the mark by showing him where his car engine needs fixing, he snatches his cell phone and tosses it through Sophie's open sunroof as she drives by at the precise time. Clever stuff.

4. The chemistry / banter amongst the characters
You know how on some shows it seems to take the cast a while to feel comfortable with one another? not so with Leverage. They hit their stride in the pilot and just kept going. They tease, they poke and prod, but it's all in good fun and just shows that they respect each other. The easy banter and perfect timing of the cast's interactions with one another is just another thing that puts Leverage at the top of my show list this season.

5. The con reveals at the end
The con jobs are intricate and clever, so much so that sometimes we don't know exactly what is going on or how the team pulled it off. And that's exactly what the writers want us to feel. When the con is finally completed, we get mini-reveals showing how it was done. For instance, we didn't knwo the whole container switcheroo was what happened in "The Homecoming Job," but when they showed us, it was amazing.

Chstian Kane as Eliot Spencer on Leverage6. Christian Kane / Eliot Spencer
A little guy with crazy hair, yet he's so in control that he's scary. he's got a heart, but makes no excuses that he used to hurt people for a living. But he's afraid of computers and can't type, and he's also an accomplished chef. The nuances of Eliot just keep revealing themselves, and I love that he's not your typical, or two-dimensional, muscle man.

7. Beth Riesgraf / Parker
She's beyond quirky, bringing a truly social-ineptness to Parker. An accomplished thief, she's willing to take almost any risk and always pulls it off. Riesgraf has taken this damaged character to new heights and given her a heart and a sense of humor. And I love that she doesn't have the little filter that keeps her from saying what's on her mind.

8. Aldis Hodge / Alec Hardison
The resident computer geek has recently proven that he's accomplished out in the field as well as behind his laptop screen. Hardison supplies the fast and furious laughs, and the pleasant surprises at just what he can pull off. Running a meeting at a company when he's not even an employee? And getting a birthday party out of the deal too? Nice.

9. Gina Bellman / Sophie Devereau
An actress who can't act unless it's within a con job? That's Sophie. She's abysmal whenever she's on stage or auditioning for a role, but when she's taken on a fake persona for a con, she's better than the finest Emmy-winning actress.

Timothy Hutton as Nate Ford in Leverage10. Timothy Hutton / Nate Ford

Nate's the one with the dark side who holds the team together. We know that something happened in the past, as his son is dead and his wife is his ex, but we don't know how that connects to his present and to his former job as an insurance fraud investigator. He's the saddest of the characters, but manages to bring a sense of excitement and humor just the same.

Have I convinced you to watch Leverage yet? With a list of unique story devices and characters like this, you'd be Parker-like crazy not to tune in.

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The best new show in a long time. Love everything about it and was so happy to hear it's been picked up for another season!

February 17 2009 at 6:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Saw the pre-air of the pilot last summer, and really enjoyed it, reminded me a lot of the Ocean's movies. As the series has gone on it's got better, and even my wife watches it with me (and she doesn't normally like my taste in shows). Loved it a few weeks ago when they gave a shout out to Dr Who by naming 3 of the doctors when looking at fake id's

February 02 2009 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Started watching it on Hulu. Gave up at the halfway point.


February 02 2009 at 8:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hustle is not in the past, its smack in the middle of season 4 and as good as ever. The pilot of leverage was good, many episodes since then have been weak. I like it, but it's very weak compared to the style and sophistication of Hustle, which is a class above.

All the plot devices they use have been used for years in hustle, especially the con reveal at the end with special music with nods and winks from the actors along the way.

February 01 2009 at 2:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You're kidding about 3 right? Pickpockets are a little more covert. Every time they hand off someone's wallet just so the blonde chick can go through it IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM the show loses it a bit--don't get me started on the stewardess' luggage swap from last weeks episode. I'll agree with your other points, but the pickpocket routines are comical at best.

January 31 2009 at 11:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

and i can't believe the writer of this blog didn't know that.

January 31 2009 at 10:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

'hustle' should sue...this is just a very weak copy.

January 31 2009 at 10:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i would watch TNT for other things, and kept seeing the commercial for the premiere of Leverage over and over again...so i said FINE TNT I Watch! And i liked the show alot. All the actors are great in it.

January 31 2009 at 4:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Actually, this show reminds me more of "Hustle" than anything else. If you haven't seen it, I believe you can rent the DVDs. It was a show that was produced by both AMC and a British network - I think the BBC. Down to the music, the show is similar. Conning the bad guys and a great diverse cast with really great writing.

January 31 2009 at 10:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Considering that Gina Bellman is involved, I'd think that the producers were more influenced by Coupling than HIMYM (though I love both). Of course, HIMYM is really an American version of Coupling anyway (compare "Ted Mosby: Architect" w/ any Coupling episode).

Either way, Leverage is a blast. Do the episodes follow a pattern? Sure, but so do House and any other number of shows. It's the characters, the pacing, and the subtleties that make Leverage fantastic.

January 30 2009 at 8:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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