Review: ‘Leverage’ Season One on DVD
There are only so many hours one can devote to television watching so a show has to garner some excellent buzz in order to get sampled in my household. I was initially tempted by TNT’s Leverage last winter but something or other kept us from trying it but as it aired, people started chiming in about how cool it was. Thanks to Paramount Home Video, the first season was released last week and my wife and I blitzed through the 13 episodes to see what the buzz was all about.
There’s little original about the premise since it’s been heavily compared with the [[[Oceans]]] movie or television’s [[[A-Team]]]. The latter is more apt as is a comparison with [[[Mission: Impossible]]] without the federal angle. In fact, in watching Timothy Hutton’s Nate Ford, he really is a modern day George Peppard, blending his insurance investigator [[[Banacek]]] with his A-Team Hannibal Smith. Looking a little shaggier than Peppard, Hutton is a deeply flawed man and makes for an interesting series lead. He is struggling with his alcoholism at the same time as he copes with the grief of losing his son, denied insurance coverage for treatment by the firm he worked for. As a result, he comes to form a team of thieves who will now do good and pick up where the law leaves off.
The pilot episode cleverly introduces the quintet of characters while giving us the briefest of glimpses of why they were criminals and what drove them. Across the 13-episode first season, you watch them grow and bond with one another in unusual ways as each gains a family for the first time and they come to realize being good guys isn’t all that bad. Their cases are nicely varied and while the cons are a tad too slick and without true complications to be threatening, the show is engaging.
A series like this lives and dies by its cast and the ensemble put together shows a terrific eye from the production team led by co-creator (and former [[[Blue Beetle]]] writer) John Rogers and producer/director Dean Devlin. While Hutton is the most recognizable face, genre fans will welcome Gina Bellman ([[[Jekyll]]]) and Christian Kane ([[[Angel]]]) along with newer faces Beth Riesgraf ([[[Alvin and the Chipmunks]]]) and Aldis Hodge ([[[Friday Night Lights]]]). Across the episodes we learn interesting things about their characters, delighting in Hodge’s tech geek who uses [[[Doctor Who]]] actors as aliases and is One of Us. Kane’s brawler turns out to be an excellent chef and Bellman’s Sophie is a would-be actress but truly horrible on the stage.
The show has a slick look and in the hands of Devlin and fellow director Jonathan Frakes (who handled two shows) there’s a relaxed feel among the cast as they go up against crooked bankers, mobsters, senators and the like. Many of the stories have that ripped from the headlines feel, which keeps things feeling modern.
Guest stars enliven most episodes especially with the always welcome Mark A. Sheppard’s insurance company rival, who appeared in four shows and Kari Matchett ([[[Studio 60]]]) as Hutton’s ex-wife. Many other familiar faces turn up and are welcome.
The four disc set contains copious commentary throughout and a tremendous number of deleted scenes, many showcasing Hodge’s improvisational skills. Other featurettes include [[[Leverage]]]: Behind the Scenes, a nice look at the cast and crew; Anatomy of a Stunt Fight, a pretty standard feature with Kane; The Cameras of Leverage, a bizarre visual valentine; Leverage Gets Renewed, a fun peek as the cast learns the news; and, Beth Riesgraf’s Crazy Actress Spoof, which is amusing for the first half.
The series debuted its second season this past Wednesday and I have to say, it’s off to a strong start. There will be two sections, seven episodes now and another eight in the winter.