Nathan Ford, Eliot Spencer, Alec Hardison, Parker & Sophie Devereaux
(Leverage)
Created by Chris Downey and John Rogers

"Get ready to get even"

"Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys."

"The rich and powerful take what they want -- we steal it back for you."

-- assorted taglines used during promotion.

Mission Impossible goes downscale? Vengeance Unlimited plays nice? Search for hire?

However you want to spin it, there's nothing terribly original in this TNT show.

Fallen Boston insurance investigator NATHAN FORD (Timothy Hutton), whose son died because his own employers wouldn'tpay for his son's treatment, has a new-found hard-on for fiscal injustice and corporate greed. So he sets up a high-tech gang of scam artists and "former" criminals who pool their talents to right injustices -- usually at the expense of huge corporations, gangsters and other scumbags, and return the money (or liberty or reputation) to its rightful owners -- usually honest, hard-working people. Think of it as a grass-roots bailout system; a case-by-case economic stimulus plan.

Suffice it to say that it hits a certain viber.

But it's oh-so-TV-ish. For one thing, did the whole cast of purportedly seasoned criminals -- except for a slightly weathered Hutton -- have to be so predictably young and predictably good-looking?

Come on! A super-smart black guy, a hot-tempered jock, and a babe with issues? That's the team? Was the show written, or photocopied?

Except...

Except...

Except...

Despite the show's tendency to favour glib over sharp, to smother things in cuteness and too much reliance on formula schtick, there's a dark heart underneath it all and an occasional burst of wit. And any show that so routinely makes a point of sticking it to The Man is okay by me.

Eliot Spencer is the muscle and designated hunk, a fearless and occasionally explosively violent thug with a soft spot for kids and hurt women. Alec Hardison is the geeky-cool super-smart black guy and computer hacker and Parker is the designated blonde babe, a cold, controlled bank robber and second-story man (well, woman). But she's comes off not so much as a hard-boiled professional as a developmentally challenged problem child. Rounding out the team is Sophie Devereaux, a con artist and reluctantly aging actress who has an on-again/off-again thing with Nathan.

It's cool that the team is not one smooth, frictionless ensemble, and that they all have their little quirks -- and a healthy distrust of each other. But did so many of the conflicts have to be ripped off directly from old Archie comics? At times Nathan seems less like the team's leader and simply their homeroom teacher. Or maybe their dad..

Still, let's give credit where credit is due. The actual scams, while not up to the level of, say, The Rockford Files, are often quite clever and the suspense often deftly handled.

And someone somewhere involved in the production of the show seems to really know their crime fiction. In one episode, two members of the team go into an office claiming to be detectives. Their names? Marlowe and Archer. In another, Hardison and Parker are impersonating FBI agents and introduce themselves as Agents Elmore and Leonard.

But it's the call-outs to the late, great Donald Westlake that really stand out.

One show actually begins with what looks like the scam already over, and the gang on their way out of a bank with a briefcase full of loot when -- in a moment right out of a Dortmunder caper, the bank is robbed. The plot twists and turns and winds its way to a clever, sly ending -- every move and every wink and nudge is like something right out of one of Westlake's comic capers, making it easily the best episode of the show to air so far.

But it's not mere coincidence of plot alone that had me thinking about Westlake -- it was the episode's title: "The Bank Shot Job," as obvious wink to Westlake's 1972 Dortmunder novel , Bank Shot, as you can get. In fact, the whole episode-naming convention, where every episode is "The Such-and-such Job," fairly smacks of Westlake.

And just in case anyone missed the point, the head of the other gang is named Stark -- the name, of course, that Westlake used to write his novels about his unflappable professional thief, Parker.

But the most obvious homage is in the name of the all-business, no-nonsense member of the team, the unflappable professional bank robber whose professional expertise is called upon so heavily in almost every episode?

Parker, of course...

TELEVISION

............

  • LEVERAGE
    (2008-12, TNT))
    Created by Chris Downey and John Rogers
    Starring Timothy Hutton as NATHAN FORD
    Christian Kane as Eliot Spencer
    Aldis Hodge as Alec Hardison
    Beth Riesgraf as Parker
    Gina Bellman as Sophie Devereaux
    and Jeri Ryan as Tara Cole
    Guest stars: Tom Skerritt,
  • Season 1)..Buy this season on DVD
  • "The Nigerian Job" (Dec 7, 2008)
  • "The Homecoming Job" (Dec 9, 2008)
  • "The Two-Horse Job" (December 16, 2008)
  • "The Miracle Job" (December 23, 2008)
  • "The Bank Shot Job" (December 30, 2008)
  • "The Stork Job" (January 6, 2009)
  • "The Wedding Job" (January 13, 2009)
  • "The Mile High Job" (January 20, 2009)
  • "The Snow Job" (January 27, 2009)
  • "The 12-Step Job" (February 3, 2009)
  • "The Juror #6 Job" (February 10, 2009)
  • "The First David Job" (February 17, 2009)
  • "The Second David Job" (February 24, 2009)

  • Season 2)..Buy this season on DVD
  • "The Beantown Bailout Job" (July 15, 2009)
  • "The Tap Out Job" (July 22, 2009)
  • "The Order 23 Job" /Jul, 29 2009)
  • "The Fairy Godparents Job" (August 5, 2009)
  • "The Three Days of the Hunter Job" (
  • "The Top Hat Job" (August 19, 2009)
  • "The Two Live Crew Job" (August 26, 2009)
  • "The Ice Man Job" (September 2, 2009)
  • "The Lost Heir Job" (September 9, 2009)
  • "The Runway Job" (January 13, 2010)
  • "The Bottle Job" (January 20, 2010)
  • "The Zanzibar Marketplace Job" (January 27, 2010)
  • "The Future Job" (February 3, 2010)
  • "The Three Strikes Job" (February 10, 2010)
  • "The Maltese Falcon Job" (February 17, 2010)

  • Season 3)..Buy this season on DVD
  • "The Jailhouse Job" (June 20, 2010)
  • "The Reunion Job" (June 20, 2010)
  • "The Inside Job" (June 27, 2010)
  • "The Scheherazade Job" (June 27, 2010)
  • "The Double-Blind Job" (July 11 2010)
  • "The Studio Job" July 18, 2010)
  • "The Gone Fishin' Job" (July 25, 2010)
  • "The Boost Job" (August 1, 2010)
  • "The Three-Card Monte Job" (Aug, 8 2010)
  • "The Underground Job" (August 15, 2010)
  • "The Rashomon Job" (August 22, 2010)
  • "The King George Job" (August 29, 2010)
  • "The Morning After Job"(September 5, 2010)

  • Season 4)..Buy this season on DVD
  • "The Long Way Down Job" (June 26, 2011)
  • "The 10 Li'l Grifters Job" (July 3, 2011)
  • "The 15 Minutes Job" (July 10, 2011)
  • "The Van Gogh Job" (July 17, 2011)
  • "The Hot Potato Job" (July 24, 2011)
  • "The Carnival Job" (July 31, 2011)
  • "The Grave Danger Job" (August 14, 2011)
  • "The Boiler Room Job" (August 14, 2011)
  • "The Cross My Heart Job" (August 21, 2011)
  • "The Queen's Gambit Job" (August 28, 2011)
  • "The Experimental Job" (November 27, 2011)
  • "The Office Job" (December 4, 2011)
  • "The Girls' Night Out Job" (December 11, 2011)
  • "The Boys' Night Out Job" (December 18, 2011)
  • "The Lonely Hearts Job" (December 25, 2011)
  • "The Gold Job" (January 1, 2012)
  • "The Radio Job" (January 8, 2012)
  • "The Last Dam Job" (January 15, 2012)

  • Season 5
  • "The (Very) Big Bird Job" (July 15, 2012)
  • "The Blue Line Job" (July 22, 2012)
  • "The First Contact Job" (August 5, 2012)
  • "The French Connection Job" (August 12, 2012)
  • "The Gimme a K Street Job" (August 19, 2012)
  • "The D.B. Cooper Job" (August 26, 2012)
  • "The Real Fake Car Job" (September 2, 2012)
  • "The Broken Wing Job" (September 9, 2012)
  • "The Rundown Job" (September 16, 2012)
  • "The Frame-Up Job" (September 16, 2012)
  • "The Low Low Price Job" (November 27, 2012)
  • "The White Rabbit Job" (December 4, 2012)
  • "The Corkscrew Job" (December 11, 2012)
  • "The Toy Job" (December 18, 2012)
  • "The Long Goodbye Job" (December 25, 2012)

NOVELS

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with thanks to Mark and Stephen and all the others for spotting some of the shout-outs I missed.


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