Leverage: The First Season
Release Date: July 14, 2009
Own it on DVD.
Created by: Chris Downey, John Rogers
Stars: Timothy Hutton, Christian Kane, Aldis Hodge, Gina Bellman, Beth Riesgraf
MPAA Rating: Unrated
At times, Leverage feels like the love child of Ocean’s 11 and Robin Hood.
Leverage is the story of Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton), a former insurance fraud investigator for IYS Insurance, who left the company after they refused to pay for an experimental treatment that could have saved his eight-year-old son’s life. In the pilot episode, Ford is approached by a businessman who offers him an opportunity to stick it to his former employers by stealing back aeronautical plans the man claims were stolen from him.
Ford assembles a team of thieves to help him on this mission. The team consists of conwoman/art thief Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), computer expert Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), cat burgular/explosives expert Parker (Beth Riesgraf) and the muscle, Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane). They all agree to work together on one mission before going their separate ways, but when they are double-crossed by the client, they team up again to seek revenge.
Even though they are all used to working alone, somewhere along the way they discover that they make a good team and decide to join forces. Ford agrees to lead the team, but only if they are willing to use their powers for good. All of their clients must be honest people who have been screwed over by insurance companies or corporations and have no one else to turn to.
One of the nice things about the show is the depth of the main characters. Ford is an intriguing mix of a noble leader looking to help the little guy, a jaded alcoholic seeking revenge on those he blames for the death of his son and a once-honest man who is a little too comfortable breaking the law. Devereaux is a brilliant conwoman who seamlessly picks up dialects and mannerisms to create characters to fool her marks, yet she is also a failed actress who can’t seem to transfer those skills to the screen or stage. Hardison is a refreshing change of pace from the normal hackers seen on TV – instead of being a doughy pale white guy with thick glasses, he is a charming, wisecracking African American. Parker and Spencer are a bit more generic characters, but she has a quirky charm and he is quite bad ass, which makes them both likable.
Most of the season’s 13 episodes are self-contained stories that wrap up nicely in an hour, but there is a bit of an overarching plot to the whole season. For one thing, the team must contend with James Sterling (Mark A. Sheppard), Ford’s former business partner who pops up from time to time trying to shut their operation down. Also, as season one unfolds, we learn more about the death of Ford’s son and are introduced to the CEO of Ford’s former insurance company, Ian Blackpoole (Kevin Tighe), and Ford’s ex-wife, Maggie Collins (Kari Matchett). For those of you who enjoy love stories, there is also a bit of sexual tension between Ford and Devereaux and Hardison has an endearing crush on Parker.
Overall, I found Leverage: The First Season to be a delightful surprise. It’s a charming show that excels at devising clever endings that zag when you expect them to zig. For anyone who is a fan of heist shows and con jobs, it’s a lot of fun to watch. The show is intentionally a bit campy and fun; a bit of a throwback to the shows of the 70s and 80s.
The season one box set also several bonus features, including deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette and a breakdown of one of the show’s fight scenes. There are two bizarre bonus features as well – “The Cameras of Leverage,” which is literally a two-minute montage of the various cameras used to film the show and “Beth Riesgraf’s Crazy Actress Spoof,” which has Riesgraf acting like a diva as she pitches ideas to the writing staff (it’s a clever idea and it has a few funny moments, but overall it’s just strange).
I would definitely recommend watching “Leverage: Behind the Scenes” because it introduces you to Apollo Robbins, who is a technical adviser on the show. Robbins is a reformed criminal and expert pickpocket who is tasked with ensuring that the cons and criminal techniques used by Ford’s team are as realistic as possible. He is so intriguing that I actually wished they had done an entire featurette on him.
“Anatomy of a Stunt Fight” is also worth checking out, although Christian Kane’s insistence on comparing fight choreography to dancing does chip away at his tough guy persona just a little bit. I also really enjoyed watching “Leverage Gets Renewed,” which shows the moment the cast found out they would be returning for a second season.
If you are looking for a fun summer show to check out, I highly recommend picking up Leverage: The First Season. Season Two starts tonight at 9 p.m. on TNT, so it’s the perfect time to start watching.
Written by Joel Murphy. Leverage: The First Season is available now on DVD.