Leverage: Season 3
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Leverage: Season 3

Crime shows have been a mainstay of television since that glowing tube first occupied the center of most American living rooms. In most cases these shows are gritty, depicting the dark underbelly of our society. It took awhile but a couple of years ago a fresh variation was introduced to the television listings; ‘Leverage’. This series provided a welcomed change of pace from the crime drama we have all come to blindly accept over the years. Instead of playing the show straight for dramatic content ‘Leverage’ expertly blends aspects of several genres, throws in a few elements of a selected number of proven TV hits. The result might sound like it would be a mess but fortunately for those interested in quality television this series delivers more entertainment than typical found channel surfing through the maze of current offerings. The reasons for why this show works as well as it does is a composite of several factors that begin with a foundation of a flexible premise then building on that with interesting characters consistently placed in a variety of situations. This approach readily avoids the perennial trap of reusing the same basic story over and over again with only the slightest variation possible. Some feature of the premise will feel extremely familiar; they have been employed on TV for many years, but like a chef who enters a kitchen and uses the standard rack of spices to create a novel dish the producers of this series have surrounded these elements with a different approach. The result is something that will pull you back week after week, or in the case of this third season DVD you will find yourself drawn in going through each disc. This series came about as part of a new trend; the summer series. Instead of re-running episodes of shows many networks, particularly on the basic cable tier, alternate their regular slat of shows with a batch shown in the summer months. Perhaps the original concept was to use these months as a minor league or trying ground but in case after case these summer series are outperforming the so called main stream ones. Back when the practice of summer re-runs began audiences were off on vacation or otherwise not sitting in front of their televisions. Now, with the popularity of video recorders and online content providers people can relax after a day on vacation and expect new television shows. ‘Leverage’ happens to be one of the success stories of this new network paradigm.

The creators of this series, John Rogers and Chris Downey received their experience in mid level action flicks and sit-coms. While nothing prior to this provided the background that you might think would lead to this sort of show but perhaps this is at least the source of some of the freshness exhibited here. The fundamental theme used here is the Robin Hood motif. In this incarnation the man with the plan is Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton). He was the top fraud and theft investigator for large, multinational an insurance company that is until they declined a procedure that could have prevented his son’s death. In the first season he girthed an eclectic group of former thieves. The group consisted of felons that Nat previously tracked down. Now that a twist of fate provided them each with sizable fortunes the help Nate get justice for the little guy against the rich and powerful; they give the downtrodden leverage. The tight knit group consists of; the Hacker, Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), the Hitter, Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), the Thief (Beth Riesgraf) and the Grifter, Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), who also fills the role of mother figure at large. In each case facet of their distinctive personalities and individual back stories. This creates a rich tapestry of quirky personalities that help propel the stories forward. Parker is one that stands out in odd category. She is one on the world’s most proficient second story burglars. Parker gets a rush out of stepping off a building held only by a harness of her own devising. She is also unable to relate to people finding orgasmic thrills in piles of cash. Sophie is a mystery especially to Nate, they have romantic chemistry but in this season she has revealed her true name to everybody but Nate. This season starts off with Nate in prison due to a caper gone wrong. The team has only a short time before he is lost forever extradited to Italy. This season breaks from the caper of the week format by extending it to tracking down an arch nemesis Damien Moreau (Goran Visnjic). This opens the playing field to encompass a season long major story arch punctuated by episode duration plots. There is also the ever popular tactics of the ticking time bomb and the sword of Damocles to flesh out the season. It also differentiates the series from similar series as ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘The A-Team’ that dealt almost exclusively with one off episodes. The ancillary benefit here the writers were able to probe deeper into the group dynamic and the often tumultuous circumstances created by a group of highly expert, completely individualistic people who never did play well with other children. The observation may be hackney but in a real sense the do form a somewhat functional family unit.

In each case the team dons disguises while they use every high tech toy at their disposal and years of expert thievery to work. The little guy may work in a coal mine or be victimized by a crooked auto dealership. This gives the audience a little something readily identifiable instead of always addressing corporate crime or political malfeasance. The do keep their hand in the bigger scams when the take on a crooked CEO of a pharmaceutical company or track down blood diamonds. While all this is going on each week brings them closer to their elusive, powerful prey. The third season comes out on disc just in time for the forth season to begin so try it out and become a fan.

Posted 06/08/11

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