I’ll Review Anything: Leverage (TNT Television Series)

Let me tell you a story…

Around a decade ago, I was bored and just channel surfing around all of the cable TV channels we had. I looked at the movie channels and I didn’t find anything interesting. I looked at the nature channels and got bored watching some hippos wallowing in the water. I browsed through the cooking channels and they were showing reruns. So I finally went to the variety channels and a show caught my eye. More specifically, it was one scene as there were a couple of actors in there that I was familiar with. It had Brent Spiner (AKA Data from Star Trek) and Lauren Holly (AKA Officer Maxine Walters from Picket Fences) talking to each other. As I really liked both actors, I decided to stick around and watch the episode.

This just so happened to be The Juror #6 Job, which is the 11th episode of the 1st season of Leverage. This was my first introduction to the show and, after watching the entire episode, I took note of the time and date as I just had to see the next episode of Leverage when it came on next week. When I recently discovered the entire series was on the United States side of Tubi TV, I decided to re-watch the entire series once again and see if it still holds up even after all these years.

Leverage is a crime drama series that aired on TNT from 2008 to 2012. It lasted a good five whole seasons and focuses on a bunch of former criminals. The group is led by a former insurance investigator who has managed to foil their schemes when they were criminals. Under his guidance, they now use their thieving, grifting, hacking and mercenary skills to take on corrupt and unscrupulous people who use their power to take advantage of loopholes in the law.

Each episode focuses on a team devising elaborate con jobs to play on the rich and powerful people who preyed on a good-natured individual. The concept is basically your Robin Hood gimmick with the “criminals” fighting for the little guy.┬áThe plans are laid out by Nathan Ford, the “mastermind” of the group. Each member of the Leverage team generally has a set of specific skills that is always going to be utilized in order for the con or heist to work. Hardison is the hacker of the group and manages the team’s gear. He also probably does the most work as he’s the one who creates all the tech specifically required for the job. Elliot is the “hitter” of the group and usually goes in when more violent means are necessary. Parker is the designated thief who can disarm practically any safe and security system. She is also the most agile of the team, which does come in handy whenever a more stealthy approach is required. Sophie Devereaux is the main grifter who is able to copy any accent and completely fool almost everyone with her acting skills… except when she’s actually on stage as an actor.

The cons and heists the Leverage crew do pull off each and every episode are always quite creative but the plans generally revolve around exploiting the bad guy’s greed. When you think about it, it does make sense as most con games and scams do rely on a person trying to get something by virtually doing nothing. It’s more of the set up and the execution of the cons that work. But it does show some basic social engineering tricks con men (and women) employ to get what they want. They may seem rather outlandish, especially with the lengths they go through to fool the target. Things also lean towards the impossible as everyone is able to pull off extraordinary feats, like Hardison actually creating a very realistic flight simulator inside the Spurce Goose to fool a target that he’s flying the legendary plane or Eliot effortlessly beating a platoon of well-trained soldiers. But you allow your suspension of disbelief ride on because it’s just that kind of show where you allow these impossible feats to be possible for our heores.

However, it’s actually not the cons that the Leverage team pulls that drew me to the show. Rather, it was the incredibly likable characters that made me a fan of Leverage! Each member is excellent in their field but it does lend them to have developed quirky and distinct behaviors and mannerisms. Hardison is one of the best hackers in the world and, because of this, is very cocksure of his abilities and is pretty much a man-child who loves geek culture. Parker may be an excellent thief but, since she did not work with groups before, is not used to social norms. Sophie has been a grifter for so long that, early in the series, she kind of forgot what her “real” personality was as she’s been playing role after role. As a former mercenary, Elliot has seen a multitude of combat situations and has become very versed in the different military groups around the world. So much so that he can even identify a gun based on it’s sound or what government agency an enemy works for based on their haircut.

Oddly enough, the character that is the least likable is Nathan Ford. Now, the character is interesting as he’s basically a functioning alcoholic for most of the series and he’s just getting his life back together after his son’s death. And Timothy Hutton is a good actor and does imbue with a downplayed arrogance because of how smart he is. However, he just seems like the odd man out as his particular quirks don’t lead to fun interactions with the rest of the Leverage team.

This leads me to another thing that made like Leverage: the chemistry between the actors. It’s very hard to describe what good chemistry between actors have in a review because it’s generally something you have to see for yourself. But, from what I’ve seen, it’s easy to tell that all the actors in Leverage have crazy chemistry between them. The way they bounce their lines between them and how they react to one another is still in character but there’s just this little bit of extra magic that elevates it from something that’s good to something great.

Another thing that doesn’t really get all that much credit about the show is the music. The show pretty much uses the same batch of songs for each episode but, thanks to a very jazzy riff to each of them, it does really fit with the entire con game/smart criminal atmosphere of the show. This does make the music in Leverage feel so much different from the other kinds of shows that came out during its time as well as today. By itself, the music isn’t anything special. But in Leverage, it does feel distinct.

As much as I loved the series, I can see why Leverage was eventually cancelled all those years ago. The first two seasons of Leverage were really fun. There was a perky feel to the episodes and the cons they were pulling. The downturn started with the third season. While not terrible, it did kind of feel like the writing dipped a bit in quality. The same thing can be said for the fourth season. By the fifth season, it just felt like they were running out of ideas for some reason. It’s just like they lost a lot of steam by the fifth season. The stories were still creative but the overall quality of the later seasons just could not hurdle over the high bar the first two put up.┬áThat’s not to say you should not watch them nor should you not watch Leverage. As I said, I watched the entire thing on Tubi TV recently and I still enjoyed each episode, even the last couple of seasons. In fact, I do love the series finale as it ends on a definite note while still leaving the door open for future adventures for the Leverage crew.

Speaking of which, the show will be essentially getting a reboot of sorts as most of the cast is returning for a new season of Leverage! That just makes me happy but also very cautious at the same time. Leverage was a very good show and akin to lighting in a bottle. I do hope the chemistry is still there between the actors and the writing is up to par with the earlier seasons. Still, I do recommend watching the old Leverage if you can. It’s a fun little show if you like shows about smart criminals and funny crime dramas.

Have you seen the original Leverage when it aired on TNT? What did you think of the show? Let me know in the comments section below!

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