Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Leverage" - because TV should be fun

Yes, I'm biased. I prefer my angst in literary form rather than televised form.

When it comes to television, I want to have fun.

And "Leverage" is very, very fun indeed.

It's really an old-fashioned sort of a show. It reminds me of nothing so much as the old Errol Flynn "Robin Hood": no, there never was an outlaw that clever, that charitable, that handsome and witty, but isn't it fun to imagine that there was?

"Leverage" is like that: it's the story of a band of four criminals - a grifter, a hitter, a hacker, a thief - and one mastermind, and how they go about stealing from the rich and wicked in order to defend the rights of the poor and helpless.

The best part of this show is the characters: they're well-drawn and well-acted. I buy the friendships and affection between this mis-matched group of people, and I enjoy the frequent humor.

The biggest downfall of this show for me is not that it's far-fetched: I actually like how fantastical it is.

No, the part that makes me wince is the little bits of reality they can't quite erase. Because if you're a grifter, even if you're grifting for good, you're still lying and stealing. There's still moral harm to your soul and, inevitably, measurable harm to the people you're fooling - and to the occasional bystander. Is it fun to watch hulky Elliot beat up the goons who were menacing an innocent housewife? Yes. Totally.  But what about when he beats up the security guards at the corrupt multi-million dollar corporation? Yes, the corporation is horrible. Yes, Elliot's fighting corruption. But the security guards were just blue-collar guys doing their job, and our hero just put them in the hospital.

The times when "Leverage" is at its best is when it's honest about the damage evil does to human beings. When Hardison and Parker have a careful, elliptical conversation about their childhoods and Parker admits how horrified she is that any other child might end up being, well, being like her . . . that's when the show really shines. Those little moments when they don't actually lie about the cost.

In sum: like most television shows, this one isn't perfect and it has its problems. But the sum of it is good, I think, and it's certainly entertaining.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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Ed Eubanks said...

Ha! We have just started into Leverage, now that we finished the excellent and satisfying White Collar. (Literally, we're about three episodes in.) So far it seems like a decent pick; we love a good heist/con/scam act as much as anyone.

To me, the interesting thing about White Collar and now Leverage is that the storylines frequently poke at distinction between law and morality, often exposing how true justice is either simply out of reach of the legal system or is itself actually illegal. Like much fiction—and certainly a lot of TV—this exploration is over the top and hyperbolic; yet, the point within the caricature is a valid (if postmodern) one: the "system" is not above criticism, and it's certainly not perfect or perfectly right and just.

jen said...

This the one show I recommend that people watch on Netflix!

Jessica Snell said...

Ed, that's a good point. I hadn't specifically thought of them as a critique of "the system", but you're right, they do serve that purpose.

Jen, so fun to find you're a fan, too! :)