Over the last year or two, the more engaging dramatic series have been popping up on TNT, USA and even AMC. They run from the gravitas of[[[ Mad Men]]] to the lightweight entertainment that is [[[Psych]]]. An increasing proportion of my viewing time seems to be focused on these networks and I’m happier for the variety.
John Rogers, who used to write [[[Blue Beetle]]] for DC Comics, co-created Leverage for TNT, a show about criminals banding together to do good. Starring Timothy Hutton and a fine ensemble, the series debuted to terrific reviews and strong ratings in December 2008. Those first 13 episodes were collected on DVD just before the first half of the second season arrived in July.
TNT kindly provided us with the first two episodes of the second half season, which debuts tonight at 10 p.m. Spoilers ahead…
TNT’s Leveragereturns to the schedule on Wednesday with six new episodes running weekly through February 17. The series, co-created by former Blue Beetle writer John Rogers, was one of the network’s bright spots when it debuted in December 2008.
As the second season opened this past summer, the Leverage team reunited in Boston to settle more scores against those who use power and wealth to victimize others. The gang is led by former insurance investigator Nate Ford (Timothy Hutton), who first got into the racket after his former employer refused to pay for treatment that could have saved his son’s life. His highly skilled team includes Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman), a grifter who uses her acting skills to corner her marks; Eliot Spencer (Christian Kane), a “retrieval specialist” with bone-crunching fighting skills; Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge), a gadget and technology wizard who keeps the team informed; and Parker (Beth Riesgraf), a slightly off-center thief adept at rappelling off buildings or squeezing into tight places.
SPOILERS AHEAD if you haven’t seen the second season so far and don’t want to watch the marathon before Wednesday’s premiere…
By the end of summer, the Leverage team had scammed a hedge-fund manager who happened to be in the custody of U.S. Marshals; used Eliot’s martial arts skills to corner a corrupt fight promoter; and took over a private school to recover millions of dollars lost in a Ponzi scheme. They also went head-to-head with an almost identical team of grifters to recover a painting that had been stolen by Nazis during World War II.
But for Sophie, something just wasn’t feeling right. Her conflicted relationship with Nate left her questioning if she wanted to continue working with the team. She decided to take some much-needed time away, but not before she arranged for a friend and fellow grifter, Tara Cole (Jeri Ryan), to fill in for her. Tara immediately proved her worth by not only helping the team save a client’s estate from a corrupt lawyer, but also fooling everyone into thinking she was the client’s attorney. (Of course, Bellman is merely taking a maternity leave but they have written her out in a nicely dramatic fashion.)
Here’s a look at the upcoming episodes (SPOILER: with brief plot synopses) and we’ll have a review of the first two on Tuesday.
On the heels of the broadcast network’s fall announcements
comes the never-ending trickle of cable commitments. As is their wont, many of
these shows will debut in the summer months (like, June) when broadcast network
series are on hiatus.
TNT will be showing us a hospital series starring Jada
Pinkett Smith called Hawthorne, Jerry
Bruckheimer’s got a cop show called Dark
Blue that stars Dylan McDermott, Mark Burnett’s got a new reality series
called Wedding Day, and this December
a series with an impressive pedigree called Men
of a Certain Age starring Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula.
truTV has a bunch of “reality” shows that fit square into
their format: a behind the scenes show called NFL Full Contact– the sort we used to call a “documentary,” Conspiracy Theory with Governor Jesse
Ventura, U.S. Special Ops: Declassified
– a program that outs our nation’s terrorist hunters, and Full Throttle, another behind the scenes look at Ballard’s Full
Throttle Saloon biker bar in Sturgis, South Dakota.
TBS has some inexpensive stuff lined up: a talk show
starring George Lopez, an animated
sitcom about suburbanites who used to live “down below” called Neighbors from Hell, and, of course, they’ve
picked up Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns
and The Bill Engvall Show.
MTV has a new series ripped from today’s political
headlines called 16 & Pregnant.
There hasn’t been a teevee series with a more self-descriptive title since The Jack Paar Program.
* Quote of the day from novelist David Mack, talking about Sandman:
One story from that series, “Calliope,” continues to haunt me; a writer who tried to justify his crimes as a desperate search for ideas is cursed by Dream to be deluged with story ideas faster than he can write them down. In a handful of panels, the character rambles off nearly a dozen snippets of story concepts as he succumbs to a delusional fugue. What really haunts me about that scene is that Neil Gaiman tossed off a dozen story ideas as throwaway lines of dialogue that are all better than anything I’ve ever written. As a writer, I’ve never slept well since reading those panels.
This is all part of agent Lucienne Diver‘s weeklong discusion about comic books. Monday was Keith DeCandido‘s turn. I look forward to seeing who’s next– and slightly insulted she hasn’t asked me yet.
* Sandman, of course, is not to be confused in any way with Mr. Sandman, who, "though immortal and existing since the beginning of time, is your standard everyday teenager from the 50s. He enjoys such activities as going on dates with Calliope and Nada (rivals for his affection), meeting up with his old friend Jughead (a mortal granted everlasting life) at the same soda jerk every 100 years, and bringing into existence desirable new teenagers at the request of existing ones." Here, we see Mr. Sandman’s famous crossover with Jughead.
* TNT renewed the drama series Leverage for a second season, ordering 15 new episodes. Congratulations to show co-creator John Rogers, who won’t have much time to write comics any more, and the rest of the crew and cast.
While promoting his role on TNT’s Raising the Bar, J. August Richards was asked about Gunn’s role in the Angel: After the Fall comic. The comic, from IDW, continues the WB’s series as a sixth season which saw Gunn turned into a vampire and becoming the latest Big Bad.
“You’re kidding!” he exclaimed to ifmagazine. “Oh, my God. I need to see this. That is crazy. I was told that that was what was going to happen if we were to continue or do a TV movie, but I’m so happy to actually see it happening somewhere. I always thought Gunn’s end should be, he should turn into a vampire and kill himself. That’s always how I saw that character ending. I hope I get to act that one day, I really do. I’m still connected to that character.”
Why should Marvel and DC be the only comic book companies making serious bank at the box office? Top Cow Productions has officially begun work on a live-action feature adaptation of their popular Witchblade comic book series.
The series already spawned a live-action television show on TNT that lasted for two seasons. Plus, half naked women beating up bad guys with an awesome glove is the type of can’t miss concept that Hollywood craves.
The producers hope to start production of the film in September.
USA Today is first out of the gate with an exclusive look at everyone’s favorite mis-understood Jedi who turns evil and becomes a Sith Lord: Anakin Skywalker. This cool new image is, of course, from the upcoming CG-animated feature film "Star Wars: Clone Wars" set to hit theaters on August 15th.
In case you haven’t heard, the film chronicles the adventures of a pre-Vader Anakin and his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi during the Clone Wars and is set immediately before the events of "Revenge of the Sith". The film will also serve as a starting point for the half-hour animated TV series planned for Cartoon Network and TNT.
I’ll say for the record that I love "Star Wars" and if the only way I’m going to get more of it is through an animated feature film and then a TV series, sign me up — just please, no more Jar Jar Binks, animated or otherwise.
TNT has a few new series in development that could be of interest to us all:
The Talisman – a six-hour limited series scheduled for summer 2008; a new project from DreamWorks Television and executive producer Steven Spielberg, based on the Stephen King and Peter Straub novel of the same title.
The Saint – a new one hour series based on the Leslie Chateris classic character – the famous Simon Templar. From executive producer William J. McDonald and producer Jorge Zamacona. The Saint was featured in movies dating back to the late 1930s (starring the great George Sanders) and the British television series from the 1960s starring Roger Moore. I can hear the theme song now…
The Company – a limited one-hour, six-part series debuting in August with Chris O’Donnell, Alfred Molina and Michael Keaton that looks at the CIA’s activities during the Cold War, based on the bestselling novel by Robert Littell. Batman, Robin, and Doc Ock? Sure, why not.