By Deane Barker tags: entertainment

I’ve become awfully smitten with the TNT series Leverage. it’s a dramedy about a team of five con artists who play Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and powerful and returning money to those they’ve wronged (“we provide…leverage,” Timothy Hutton says in the title sequence).

I figured out why I like it so much: it’s the re-incarnation of The A-Team.

  • The team consists of five people with interesting inter-relationships. Some like each other, some don’t. The banter between them is highly entertaining.

  • They gallivant around the country helping people who have been wronged, operating outside the law.

  • Every episode is self-contained. We’re introduced to the person who needs help, and we spend the episode resolving their problems. The ending is always neatly-tied up.  I like how there’s never any explanation of how the troubled soul found the team, they just did.

  • it’s light as a feather. No one dies. There’s no moral ambiguity. Guns are rarely fired. If they are, no one actually gets shot.

  • The way they solve problems is completely ridiculous and stretches the bounds of believability past the breaking point, but it’s done in such an entertaining way, you just don’t care.

  • There are usually two or three plot holes in every episode big enough to drive a truck through.

The team is well-balanced:

  • Nate Ford, Mastermind. He used to be an investigator for an insurance company, until that company denied treatment for his dying son. His son died, his marriage fell apart, and he developed a drinking problem. He’s the de facto leader of the group.

  • Sophie Devereaux, Grifter. An aspiring actress who is inexplicably horrible on-stage, but can assume any identity with any accent and mannerism. She and Nate have an unspoken…thing.

  • Parker, Thief. An abused child who apparently blew up her own home, she’s a master thief who can get in or out of any security system, pick any lock, and lift any item you’re carrying practically just by looking at you. She’s socially awkward in the extreme, and constantly says the wrong thing.

  • Alec Hardison, Hacker. He’s black, which is interesting for a hacker. He’s also an epic wiseass, but he can get into any network, hack any gadget with zero prep time, and usually create a technological solution for any problem. He has a major crush on Parker.

  • Elliot Spencer, Hitter. A martial arts and military expert and the show’s resident heartthrob. He can kick anyone’s ass, decisively. The fight sequences are extremely well done.

What makes me laugh in every episode is the bickering among the members of the team. Elliot and Hardison are very funny together, with Elliot playing exasperated straight-man to Hardison’s never-ending stream of complaints. Nate tries to manage everyone, Sophie plays mother hen, and Parker will chime in every once in a while with something so off the wall it stops everyone dead in their tracks.

The cons they run are sometime ridiculous, sometimes extraordinary. Some episodes will be fairly realistic, while others border on slapstick and are just a framework on which to hang witty dialogue and funny situations. At times, the show seems to be almost poking fun at itself, blatantly daring you to call BS on it. At any given time, you’re not quite sure exactly how the con works, but you find out in the end, often by way of flashbacks to events they didn’t show you earlier.

Leverage is comfort food. I know that I can watch the episodes out of order without missing anything, and the single episode I watch will be entertaining all by itself. There are some continuing plotlines and story arcs, but nothing you can’t pick up.

Give it a try sometime. You don’t have to watch the series from scratch – just pick any episode and go. Netflix has every episode available for streaming, and TNT has a bunch available at their site as well.

And if you’re ambitious, head out to Portland for the official convention.

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