Leverage - Series premiere
Starring: Timothy Hutton, Aldis Hodge, Beth Riesgraf, Christian Kane, Gina Bellman
Created By: Dean Devlin
Premieres: Sunday, December 7, 2008 at 10:00 PM ET on TNT. Regular time begins Tuesday, December 9, 2008 at 10:00 PM ET on TNT.

TNT’s latest series Leverage showcases the cable network’s recent ability to put scripted shows back on top. In a time when reality shows seem to pervade my television it is refreshing to have such a fun and engaging program to look forward to. Timothy Hutton plays Nathan Ford, a former insurance recovery guy working on the legal side until his son gets deathly sick and his own company refuses to help pay the medical costs. As the show opens Ford is a drunken and broken wreck of a man mourning the death of his family. Not that he remains a mopey mess, as the show moves at a breakneck pace with Ford at the helm of a band of misfit thieves looking to Robin Hood big corporations into submission.

Leverage is very much like watching House in that the formula of each episode is almost exactly alike. You know that someone will do some shady dealings, Hutton and team will begin to bring them down only to be thrown a curveball. Then Ford will put on his Danny Ocean hat and come up with a caper that involves twists and turns that leave that week’s big bad dizzy with confusion. Nathan Ford could very well be televisions new Gregory House, and that is just fine by me.

The December 7th premiere has him taking on a major aviation company. When the show hits its regular Tuesday timeslot on December 9th the team takes on a private security firm that stole millions while in Iraq. It’s about the evils of big corporations, only without a preachiness that could get nauseating.

Where the show really works is in the storytelling through each week’s caper. In the third episode Mark Sheppard (Romo Lampkin from Battlestar Galactica and Tanaka from Dollhouse) guest stars as Jim Sterling a guy who Nathan knows as another shrewd insurance investigator and is just as intelligent as our hero. It’s a battle of wits as they try to outsmart each other, and it gives us a look into Ford’s past while keeping us on the ride. D.B. Sweeney’s turn as the priest who baptized Ford’s son in episode four continues this trend. You like the characters in Leverage because the show never takes a break to tell you a tangential tale. Take or leave the background information, at least it never gets in the way of the episode you’re watching.

Everything isn’t perfect on the show. With Timothy Hutton’s portrayal of Nathan Ford being so engaging he needs for his supporting team to be of equal value. With the exception of the female thief Parker(Beth Riesgraf), the rest of the team does a merely adequate job. Perhaps it’s just the character, but there isn’t a single scene with her that I enjoyed. Aldis Hodge as Alec, the tech guy of the team, is the highlight of the supporting cast, providing well timed comic relief and witticism that almost matches Hutton. Gina Bellman’s turn as Sophie, an actress/grifter, works because she’s pretty, and as a potential love interest for Ford she has the benefit of working directly with Hutton more often than the others. I really wanted to like Lindsey…I mean Christian Kane…in this show. Honestly Eliot, the muscle bound retrieval specialist, is played like Lindsey survived the gunshot by Lorne and went on to become a thief.

Leverage is executive produced by Dean Devlin, and it shows. The guy behind Independence Day, Godzilla and that Noah Wylie TV movie Librarian is evident in every moment of the series premiere. Devlin took the helm for the first time in directing the first two episodes, and the result is a sizzling narrative that is reminiscent of the Ocean’s films. Actually, the premiere of Leverage is many orders better than Ocean’s 12.

If you ever enjoyed a moment of the Ocean’s films you should give Leverage a try. The Leverage Consulting firm doesn’t mimic what Danny and his team did, more often than not they improve upon it.

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