Leverage is a delight of a TV show whose second season begins tonight at 9 p.m. ET on TNT. For maximum enjoyment you should record it and buy or rent the just-released first season on DVD, although I have a feeling you'll get everything you need to know from tonight's season opener. [Update: Yeesh... Not their best episode.]
When the pilot arrived as a screener last December I was impressed. The network hiatus of most new programming over the winter holidays and, especially, the summer affords basic-cable channels the perfect opportunity to hook hungry viewers on new series — and for many folks it's just icing on the cake if they're genuinely good. Leverage introduced its premise with a caper reminiscent of "rogues turned Robin Hood" heist movies like Sneakers and The Italian Job: Timothy Hutton is a former insurance-claim investigator whose bosses denied his son a potentially lifesaving treatment. Getting both mad and even, he assembles a gang of thieves to bring justice to those who've been wronged by the moneyed and powerful but corrupt (I say "but" instead of "and" again because, hey, the financial elite aren't always corrupt... Right?). For me the next episode was quite a come-down from the pilot, but I stuck with the series and enjoyed it on balance as more than just a guilty pleasure.
The well-intentioned scams and character interplay are equally satisfying, with slow but steady revelations about the characters' pasts and similar developments in the group dynamics. My favorite is Beth Riesgraf's kookily amoral master burglar Parker, baffled by conventional personal interaction and flirting to her own confusion with tech wizard Alec Hardison, played by Aldis Hodge. Rounding out the cast are Christian Kane's Eliot Spencer, a firearm-averse combat genius, and Gina Bellman's Sophie Devereaux, a grifter who has dreams of legitimate acting success as well as a complicated budding relationship with Hutton's Nathan Ford. Leverage's renewal early this year was very welcome news, and I look forward to another batch of cons in service of both the have-not underdog and these misfit malcontents' own redemption.