Friday, July 16, 2010

Leveraging His Leverage

The rich and powerful take what they want. We seal it back,
Sometimes the bad guys make the best good guys. We provide, leverage.

is the story of Nate Ford, an honest man in a crooked world, a retired insurance investigator who runs a crew: a grifter (Sophie), a hitter, (Eliot) a hacker (Hardison), and a thief (Parker). In tv-speak it’s Mission:Impossible meets Banaceck meets It Takes a Thief (more about that later) framed by The A-Team. (A more recent parallel was Tony Jordan’s series for the BBC, Hustle, about a grifter who runs a crew and cons bad people out of things.)

Nate is nursing extreme grief at the loss of his son, who died because the insurance company wouldn’t approve the drugs that might have saved his life. He’s an alcoholic with a fairly realistic struggle with the disease. He lives on the edge, but he tries to do the right thing for the people who come to him for help.

The stories show you some of what happens, but the delight is seeing the “inbetween scenes” that come at the end, in black and white, that show you the slick machinations that made the cons work.

The crew is cool and funny. The dynamics between Sophie and Nate, between Hardison and Parker, and Eliot in general are engaging, and the cons are good. One of my favorites is “The Inside Bank Shot Job,” when Hardison and Parker impersonate FBI agents.

Now in its third season, Nate lives above a bar, John McRorys, and of course I love the Irish tints to the series. That Irish sensibility in general comes through Timothy Hutton. I am a big TH fan, particularly his Nero Wolfe work.

Really Breaking the 4th Wall

Leverage would be a keeper for all of the above, but there is another aspect to its charm: its cocreator and current showrunner, John Rogers, writes a blog, Kungfu Monkey, and he invites fans to ask specific questions about specific episodes, and he patiently answers almost every question. What a great use of blogging. What a great way to engage the audience directly.

I posted some thoughts on a recent episode, “The Inside Job.” Here’s the exchange on his site:

@M.A. Peel: Also love the nod to The Avengers in "Inside Job." Sophie as "M.A." Peel (great minds) and Hardison as Jonathon Steed. Commentary of sorts that no one said, hey, you guys have the same name as the Avengers? And Archie Leach? Nice to see Cary Grant isn't forgotten either. But he seemed more reminiscent of Fred Astaire in the tv It Takes a Thief.

: "We had a couple people say "Come on, those aliases were too easy! No way the corporate humans wouldn't have spotted them!" To which I reply, I assure you genially, "You are a person who writes to other strangers about television on the internet. You are not a good representative sample." The Avengers went off the air forty years ago!

You want to know where the cultural norm is now? We were having dinner with friends and their geeky, brilliant anime-obsessed 17 year old daughter. Super normal, super cool kid. And in the middle of our conversation about the latest scandal, she squinched her nose and asked "Um, what's a Mel Gibson?"



The Fred Astaire role on It Takes a Thief was definitely an inspiration for Archie, but of course most hipsters will realize we're referencing Cary Grant's real name."

Ok, I think it’s possible he’s saying that I’m not a hipster, but I forgive him because he doesn’t know I do tv for a living.

But how great that he thought of M.A. for Emma--which Sophie clearly annunciates--in his script, when he wanted to slightly permutate the name!

The show is appearing at Comic Con next weekend. I am seriously thinking about jumping on a plane . . .


Tim Footman said...

"Um, what's a Mel Gibson?"

(Punches air in delight.)

It does sound very much like Hustle. And is that Gina Bellman (the brunette, I mean)? Mmmm...

M.A.Peel said...

Yes, that's Blackeyes. I never saw the tv production, but I read the book. Wiki says that Potter casting Bellman lead to his falling out with longtime collaborator Kenith Trodd.