Saturday, December 22, 2012

LEVERAGE Gets the Ax from TNT

We're just a few days away from the end of Leverage. TNT has announced that its series about a team of clever tricksters and thieves conning rich bad guys for the cause of good will finish up its run on Christmas Day.

I have a weakness for grifter/con artist/thief shows, what with It Takes a Thief, Mission Impossible, Remington Steele, Hustle and White Collar, which is pretty much a remake of It Takes a Thief without the groovy 60s wardrobe, on my TV watching resume. TNT's Leverage has fit nicely in that company, with Timothy Hutton as a brooding ex-insurance investigator now heading up a gang of experts who know how to extract money from marks, including Sophie, an actress who specializes in fake identities, Hardison, a computer wiz, Parker, a second-story girl, and Eliot, who serves as the team's muscle. As their cards have been played, they've been termed The Grifter, The Hacker, The Thief and The Hitter, with Hutton's Nate Ford as The Mastermind.

And every week through their five seasons, they've found some big, powerful baddie taking advantage of a little guy, and then pulled an elaborate scam to right those wrongs and settle a score. That has sent them from the top of a mountain to the depths of a coal mine, inside chess and cheerleading competitions as well as baseball and hockey games, and up close and personal with paintings, diamonds, gold and every other kind of treasure available.

Last week, in an episode called "The Toy Job," they took down an evil toy magnate planning to unleash dangerous stuffed doggies on unsuspecting kids at Christmas. Gregg Henry played the big bad toy boss, while Jonathan Frakes of Star Trek fame directed and popped up behind Hutton in a now-you-see-it-now-you-don't cameo.

Sometimes their schemes have been outrageous, sometimes a little too incredible, but they've always been fun to watch, with clever plots and the feel-good message that justice will out, that greed and arrogance will lose.

When Leverage pulls out one last con in the series finale called "The Long Goodbye Job" on Christmas Day, it will find be hard to see the end of the con. But, like It Takes a Thief and Remington Steele, Leverage will live on on DVD.


  1. I wasn't that regular a watcher, but I liked "Leverage" a lot and will be sorry to see it go. At least it's going out with an appropriately named episode.

    Among the episodes I've watched, I remember three especially:

    "The Scheherazade Job," in which Hardison played the violin solo in a special performance of that orchestral work, during which (tip of the hat to "The Man Who Knew Too Much") a bank-vault explosion was timed for the loudest moment in the piece.

    "The Rashomon Job," in which we see everyone's memories of the night of a particular theft, at which it turns out they were all present and have remarkably different memories of the occasion and each other.

    "The Ten Li'l Grifters Job," which took place at a dress-as-your-favorite-detective party, and Timothy Hutton dressed as Ellery Queen, in exactly the outfit worn by his father in that role.

  2. I saw the latter two, but not the first. I'll have to look for that one. The show didn't seem to get promoted all that much by TNT, especially since Hutton is an Oscar winner and they could've mined that. So, anyway, even though the show is right in my wheelhouse, I didn't know about it until fairly late in its run. I think you told me about the Jim Hutton/Ellery Queen outfit in "The Ten Li'l Grifters" and that was my introduction to the show, actually.

  3. The series premiere was pretty heavily advertised on some other channels as I recall (and of course rated an article in the blogs that deal with such events). But after that, I had to remember on my own, as I don't watch TNT at all as a regular habit. Besides Hutton, I was interested in Gina Bellman (of the UK "Coupling") and Christian Kane (of "Angel"). If someone packages a special-priced "complete series" DVD set, I'll grab it.

    Of your list, I nodded knowledgeably at all the titles, except "Hustle," which I had to run to look up. How did I not know about this? Robert Vaughn! Adrian Lester!!!

  4. Leverage is, I think, an American version of Hustle. Although the Hustle folks are a bit clearer that they're con artists (as opposed to computer hackers or cat burglars who rappel thirty story buildings) and they've even identified some of the cons they were pulling, like the telegraph office and the pigeon drop and the badger game. When I first saw Leverage, I thought Sophie was very clearly Stacie 2.0, but maybe she is a creation of her own. I watched Hustle while Adrian Lester was there and then tuned out for awhile. When he came back, I think Stacie (Jaime Murray) was gone, and had been replaced by the blonde brother and sister. But in the beginning, the dynamic was Adrian Lester/Mickey as Nathan, Stacie as Sophie, and Marc Warren/Danny as more of a con artist/less fisticuffs version of Eliot. But he was the tough youngster who needed tutelage from the master, who was Lester. Leverage has no substitute for Robert Vaughn and Hustle has no Parker or Hardison, although they do have "Ash," played by Robert Glenister, who is kind of their equipment and arrangements guy. Hustle skews older; Leverage skews younger and more techie as well as more violent.

  5. As I haven't seen any of Hustle, I am happy to defer and learn from all that. I'll mention, though, that when Leverage started, another board was filled with reactions that it was a blatant ripoff of Mission Impossible, "and they even have the black guy stuck behind the scenes as the tech guy again." By that reckoning, they also have a sub for Peter Lupus as the muscle, and Sophie is sort of a combination Martin Landau and Barbara Bain -- she puts on accents and identities but can also play mysterious femme fatale if needed. But I don't spend a whole lot of time on such mapping -- any premise involving such a team is going to need a variety of skills to do the job, and it's not all that surprising if the same ideas turn up repeatedly.

  6. I thought the finale worked well to wrap things up satisfyingly. Did you see it?

  7. I watched it but didn't get a chance to really digest it (guests for the holidays) so I plan to rewatch and write about it then. Loved the very end, though, with Parker in the seat. It definitely felt like a finale, so Dean Devlin must've been pretty sure the ax was coming.