“Leverage”: TV’s best new drama?

Christian Kane in a less evil role.
Christian Kane in a less evil role.

Boston Legal and The Shield are gone. Dexter and True Blood won’t be back until fall. Lost lost its edge seasons ago and for drama fans it would be a dry month if it weren’t for Leverage.

The filming may have begun months ago but by the time Leverage producer Dean Devlin (Independence Day, Who Killed the Electric Car?) had taken the series from story board onto TNT’s Tuesday night schedule, the economy had tanked, Lehman Bros. had folded due to shaky dealings in sub prime mortgages and Bernie Madoff’s $50 billion Ponzi scheme had stolen the life savings of thousands.

As a result of real-world dastardly deeds, television viewers were ready to fall in to the marvelous fantasy of a series about former-insurance-investigator-turned-Robin-Hood Nate Ford and his band of highly skilled thieves who set things right for people the bigwigs have failed.

The Equalizer meets The Sting premise began with a pilot that revealed how the group netted the fortune that lets them engage in their weekly charitable grifts. Unfortunately, that first episode moved far too fast for any real character development beyond Ford’s, but it gave enough hints of excellence to come that I tuned in a week later. And so far every episode has been a winner.

A couple of episodes did need to be watched twice to get every detail but, in the DVR era, that’s not difficult. For me, the DVR lets me watch the series earlier in the evening the day after it airs – which is to say when I’m awake enough to follow the many twists and turns of each episode.

While Timothy Hutton is great as leader Nate Ford, it’s often the supporting characters that steal the episodes, particularly Christian Kane, who played an evil lawyer on Angel. His skill is hand-to-hand (or head-to-head) combat and he moves with the speed of a viper and the calm of a Zen master. And there’s master hacker Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge, Friday Night Lights), who adds humor to the episodes, and grifter Sophie Devereaux (Gina Bellman, Coupling) who has a romantic history with Ford.

The biggest mystery is master thief — and one would guess from her penchant for jumping off buildings, second-story expert — Parker (Beth Riesgraf), who has more than a bit of 24‘s Chloe O’Brien in how close to the chest she holds her cards. I’m waiting anxiously to learn more about her. But what you do or don’t know about the characters isn’t all that important. Unlike Lost, you can tune in at any point in the season, fall into the story and enjoy.