One of the true gems of 2008 was TNT’s LEVERAGE. The premise is simple: A group of Thieves, Hackers, & Con Artists lead by an ex-insurance investigator right the wrongs done by major corporations and the government against the little guy. The show is produced by Dean Devlin (STARGATE the movie, INDEPENDENCE DAY, GODZILLA, PATRIOT) and many of the episodes even directed by him.
The cast help make this show even better. Timothy Hutton leads the cast as Nathan Ford an ex-insurance fraud investigator. Ford is a deep character, a drunk (driven to alcohol by the death of his son, whom was turned down for the treatment he needed by the same insurance company Ford did his work for), and brilliant criminal mastermind. He used his ability to plan crimes to catch criminals. In the pilot Ford is convinced to put together a team to steal plans by a corporate president that were supposedly stolen from his company. Ford puts together a team made up of Gina Bellman as Sophie a con artist/art thief, Christian Kane as Spencer a mysterious person whose history has yet to be fully revealed but is the “muscle,” of the group, Beth Reisgraf as Parker (just a last name a definite nod to Richard Stark’s Parker Thief) a cat burglar, and Aldis Hodge as Alec Hardison a world class hacker. The team steals the plans back only to find out they were set up. This leads to a revenge end game, the person who hired them is arrested by the FBI, and by short selling stock the entire team makes off with over $30M a piece.
After the pilot the team decides to get back together for “one more job.” The catch is that Ford gets to pick the jobs they do. Instead of pulling jobs to make them richer, he has the team pull jobs to help the people who can’t legally help themselves against corporations, governments, etc. As Ford puts it to a client at the end of the first episode “we provide… leverage.”
The jobs are political hot topics like injured vets, foreclosured homes, adoption scams, rigged juries, and helping a church just to name some of the topics the show covers. The show is heavily influenced by the writing of Donald Westlake (the real name of Richard Stark) as many episodes have titles that are shout outs to his books, and of course the Parker character sharing the name of his most famous literary creation (although the LEVERAGE version is no where near the cold blooded thief the literary Parker is), and the ways the group go about pulling a job are always creative (much in the same way as the Dortmunder heist novels by Westlake) as well as extremely humorous. However you can see nods to other writers like Lawrence Block and Elmore Leonard.
LEVERAGE is just extreme fun. You watch some great thieves and criminals pull off scams against people who actually deserve it. Great writing, great acting, well directed… what else could you ask for?
The good news is you can catch up on the show next month on DVD and catch Season 2 which debuts on July 15th, 2009 when the crew moves their operations from LA to Portland, Oregon. Me? I can’t wait.