Hippogriff's Aerie

Apparitions of Imagination

A Tip of the Hat and a Moment of Silence for Leverage

Leverage-Season-3Leverage was a show that I initially saw ads for, but the ads didn’t pique my interest, and so I passed on it the first two seasons. When two different friends recommended that I should watch the show, I decided to pick up the first season on DVD. From the first episode I became hooked. Marathon viewings, including the purchase of season two on DVD while recording season three on the DVR at the same time, helped me catch up quickly, and I followed seasons four and five in real time.

With ample action, humor, and twisting plots, Leverage was kind of a cross between the A-Team, Oceans 11, and Mission Impossible. The plot involved a group of criminals used their talents to help people out of seemingly hopeless situations, with the underlying season-long plot thread of either being chased by authorities or facing down big boss criminals. With a stellar ensemble cast led by Oscar-winner Timothy Hutton, recurring guest appearances by Wil Wheaton, Jeri Ryan, Mark Sheppard, Richard Chamberlain, and Tom Skerritt, and with special guest appearances by Danny Glover, Saul Rubinek, Ronnie Cox, Fred Ward, Adam Baldwin, and Treat Williams, Leverage also boasted appearances by several recognizable character actors as well, and some episodes were directed by Jonathon Frakes. The show was filmed in my hometown of Portland, Oregon…although the series was initially portrayed as taking place in Boston, the fifth season had them actually “in” Portland, as the owners of the Bridgeport Brewery and brewpub, where many of the season five scenes were filmed.

Leverage executive producer Dean Devlin wrote an open letter to fans announcing that, due to the uncertainty over whether the show would be renewed, he and series co-creator John Rogers “decided to end this season with the episode we had planned to make to end the series, way back when we shot the pilot.” And sure enough, the December 25th episode became the end of the series when TNT decided not to renew the show for a sixth season. Even though I enjoy the characters, with excellent performance from the cast, the series did suffer from uneven writing, at times even being silly or boring. But when Leverage was good, it was outstanding. Even at its worst, Leverage was entertaining due to said character performances, and better than many shows on TV, including the fake reality TV shows (which is almost all of them) that seem to be the trend today. I’m sad to see it cancelled.

I liked watching the scenes to see if I could figure out where in Portland it was being filmed. Each season finale was usually the best episode of the season, with misdirections, red herrings, and seemingly impossible situations…sometimes these were cliff-hangers, and sometimes they were wrapped up neatly. At times it became a chore to watch Hutton’s character, Nate Ford, struggle with a drinking problem, but he (almost) always delivered a solid performance (he had trouble with a few accents). Gina Bellman, who I had seen a few times on the British series Coupling, showed great range as an actress in her role as a grifter. Beth Reisgraf’s character, Parker, showed the most growth of any character over the five-year run, which laid the groundwork for the series finale, though I expect another year would have developed this more without such an abrupt transition. And Christian Kane (who played Elliot, the muscle) developed his side career as a country music singer.

Here’s a brief list of some of my favorite episodes…

Season One

The First David Job and The Second David Job: a two-part season finale that involved the company responsible for the death of Ford’s son. Introduces Mark Shepherd as Jim Sterling.

Season Two

The Two Live Crew Job: the Leverage team must battle another team that is a mirror images of themselves. Features Wil Wheaton as a rival hacker.

The Three Strikes Job and The Maltese Falcon Job: another two-part finale where the team takes on a corrupt mayor while trying to elude the FBI & Sterling, who now works for Interpol.

Season Three

The Inside Job: Parker goes missing when trying to steal something for her mentor, Archie Leach (played by Richard Chamberlain).

The Rashomon Job: each team member discovers they once all tried to steal the same priceless artifact.

Season Four

The Cross My Heart Job: the team pulls off a con to recover a stolen heart transplant while they are stuck in an airport.

The Radio Job and The Last Dam Job: Nate Ford’s dad Jimmy Ford (played by Tom Skerritt) gets in over his head on a heist and Nate must go against his father. Brings back a few previous guest stars such as Wil Wheaton, Saul Rubinek, and Richard Chamberlain.

Season Five

The D.B. Cooper Job: the team follows the legend of D.B. Cooper, shown as flashbacks in which the cast portray a different set of characters. Great guest appearances by Ronnie Cox and Fred Ward.

The Rundown Job: the team tries to stop a terrorist from releasing a chemical weapon, with a guest appearance by Adam Baldwin.

The Long Goodbye Job: the series finale, with a case connected to Ford’s son’s death and an appearance by Agent Sterling. A nice way to end the series.

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January 1, 2013 - Posted by | tv shows

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