Saturday, August 07, 2010

30 Day Television Challenge - Day 2: "Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys."

2. A show you wish more people were watching.
It airs on TNT. You should be watching.
Okay, so maybe I have something of a dog in this hunt: I've been reading the blog of John Rogers, the show's co-creator, for years, and followed Leverage since before it aired. Wil Wheaton and Mark Sheppard, geek heroes both, have recurring roles. Jonathan Frakes -- Commander William F'ing Riker, you guys -- has directed several episodes. Rooting for this show feels like rooting for the home team.

Convenient for me, then, that's it so good. Leverage is, more or less, a television version of one my very favorite film genres: the heist picture. Intricate scripts, funny and compelling characters, and people stealing things -- it's like The Sting: The Series. Only better.

The reason the show works as well as it does -- aside from the fact that it's made by talented people who know what they're doing -- is the wrinkle in its central premise, the wrinkle that separates it from pure heist porn* like Ocean's Eleven. The Leverage team are not thieves -- well, now, okay that's not even close to being right. They're Thieves, all right, but they're not crooks, if that makes any damn sense whatsoever. They're a modern-day band of Merry Men, stealing from the evil and corrupt and returning to the mortal and powerless. The team's leader, Nate Ford, was once an insurance investigator, and watched too many people get ground under by cold corporate steamrollers. So now, they fight from the other side: when an evil corporation strikes, they strike back. Sometimes with explosions, if Dean Devlin is directing that episode.

Even more interesting: the show is a fantasy, but only in the idea of a Leverage team fighting back. The villains? Terrifyingly real. The scripts are exhaustively researched, and it seems the more evil the bad guy, the more he/she is actually based on a real live person doing real live things. When one of them goes down, Leverage takes on a sense of wish-fulfillment you don't get at the end of most heist movies. (This is especially gratifying when the show takes a swing at a low-hanging piƱata, like a second-season episode that obliterates a Nancy Grace stand-in.)

Now, Leverage is a hit -- it just began its third season and has already been picked up for a fourth. So why write about it here? Because I told you: I have something of a dog in this hunt. I love this show, and I love all of the people who make it happen. I want them to be superstars.

(Also considered for this prompt: Community.)

*Not that heist porn is bad. Not at all. I love those Ocean's movies.

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