Tuesday, December 09, 2008

TNT has been promo-ing the hell out of Leverage, starrting Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton (I'm pretty sure it was for his role as the motivational guru villain in the Queen Latifah has-terminal-disease-but-really-doesn't inspirational vehicle Last Holiday(actually quote from Hutton's character: "Rule One: Life is not a popularity contest, but it is a contest. Boo-hoo, they don't like me. Rule Two: You grab that scared little loser inside you and you beat the living crap out of him. Rule Three: When is enough enough? Enough is *never* enough.")).

"Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys" claims Hutton in the commercial. And why not? This is one the perfect television or film concepts - antiheroes, who were criminals, are turned to the force of good, letting us root for them, without being boring like goody two-shoe law enforcement, and breaking all the rules regular cops and agents couldn't. In addition, each member of the team has their own speciality - say, a muscle man, a disguise artists, a computer specialist. Generally, they're all loners, used to working by themselves, but they're forced to work as a team, often by the government or some shady non-governmental or shadowy agency, and slowly over time learn to trust each other.There's honestly no reason it shouldn't make for a smash hit.

Leverage lives along these precepts. According to the information I can gather without having seen an episode, Timothy Hutton is an expert insurance investigator who goes renegade when his employer denies his son's insurance claims. He somehow assembles his rag tag team - himself, the leader, Alec, the computer man/hacker, Eliot, an expert martial artist, Parker, a thief, and Sophie a master con-artist.

Sadly, though, it's been done before, and somehow not become the success it was supposed to.

For six or so weeks in the mid-season replacement time of early 1998, WB tried out the concept with a show called Three. The three in question were Johnathan Vance (Edward Atterton), an expert jewel thief, Marcus Miller (Bumper Robinson), the expert hacker, and Amanda Webb (Julie Bowen of Ed, Boston Legal, and Jack's ex-wife on Lost fame), who according to all I can find is an expert...oh...specialist, whatever the hell that means. The Three were all criminals on their own before they were recruited by "The Man" who gave them the classic story - work for us (in this case "The Organization") or go to jail. Of course, they take the deal, and for six weeks, they righted wrongs and fixed problems.

In the same TV season, NBC tried their hand at the format with Players. Players started Ice-T, before his Law & Order days, Costas Mandylor, of Detective Mark Hoffman in later Saw movies and deputy Kenny in Picket Fences days, and Frank John Hughes, who appeared in Band of Brothers, and killed Phil Leotardo in Sopranos (sorry if you haven't seen the last season - get on it). Charlie O'Bannon (Hughes) is the hacker, Alphonse Royo (Mandylor) is the con-man, and Ice Gregory (shockingly Ice-T) is the street-smart black guy. The three are paroled early from jail in exchange for their continued cooperation with the FBI. Players lasted a whole of 18 episodes before getting the axe.

Since we're hitting the time period, we'll go with the movie version of The Mod Squad, from 1999, which has possibly the worst and least informative wikipedia page for a major studio movie from the last 20 years. The movie starred Claire Daines as Julie (Peggy Lipton in the TV show), Omar Epps as Linc (Clarence Williams III) and Giovani Ribisi as Peter (Michael Cole). They were three young people busted by the cops, though their specialties are a lot less inspiring - Peter is the rich kid, Linc, an arsonist, and Julie a former drug addict. The cops convince them to work for them in exchange for getting them off for their crimes. The TV show had of course the same premise but was a lot more successful, and thus has no place there.

We can only feel for Leverage then and hope (maybe?) that the same fate does not befall Hutton and crew.

1 comment:

waldinho said...

Who knew that Three had a perfect episode?