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TELEVISION REVIEW: Leverage: A Little Mission: Impossible; A Little Robin Hood!

After sitting through the first four episodes of TNT’s new series Leverage [premieres Sunday, 10/9C, then moves to Tuesday, 10/9C] – one of the easiest assignments of my career, it occurred to me that TNT’s motto could be modified to read, “We Know Dramedy.” Leverage, like its fellow TNT shows The Closer, Saving Grace and Raising the Bar, does have its moments of drama – but like those other show [okay, excepting Raising the Bar], it makes frequent use of wit, charm and humor.

Cast 3

Former insurance investigator Nathan Ford [Timothy Hutton] put has a team put together to steal a supposedly stolen set of plan for a new aircraft on the series premiere, The Nigerian Job. Part of the reason he takes the job is because that insurance company, for which he saved untold millions of dollars in claims, refused his son’s medical treatment and the boy died.

The other four members of the team – grafter Sophie Deveraux [Gina Bellman – Coupling], retrieval specialist Eliot Spencer [Christian Kane – Into the West, Angel], cat burglar Parker [Beth Riesgraf] and hi-tech thief Alec Hardison [Aldis Hodge – Friday Night Lights] – aren’t especially interested in doing the right thing. For them, the money is where it’s at.

Leverage is smart, showing its influences without losing its own identity. One of the keys to its success is that Ford puts together his team from thieves he’s taken on in his old job. As the team leader and token “honest man,” Hutton takes the still grief-stricken Ford and gives him enough dramatic weight that he anchors the show as well as the team.

The rest of the cast fills out their roles in various idiosyncratic ways – all of which work, because series creators John Rogers [Transformers, Global Frequency] and Chris Downey [The King of Queens] have written them with a depth that is striking. There are also twists on the standard caper personalities, the biggest of which is that, whereas the “crazy” member of the team is usually a guy, here it’s beautiful, blonde Parker. That’s only one of many variations of the usual themes that sets Leverage apart – in a good way.

Over the first four eps, the team will steal top secret plans; save a church; tackle the ownership of a thoroughbred and deal with a Blackwater-type mercenary company. In each case, the caper is different – especially when the man who moved into Ford’s old office [played by Mark A. Sheppard, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica] appears on one of their cases!

Final Grade: B+