My love letter to Leverage

Last night Crystal and I finished watching Leverage. For the entire time we were watching, I contemplated writing a love letter to Leverage. Well, now seems like a good time.

I like serious television.

That seems like a good place to start.

I’m not a sitcom kind of guy. I don’t want light, fluffy entertainment. I want stories that matter. If it’s too light, I’m not engaged.

So, while others are lauding How I Met Your Mother or Big Bang Theory, I’m turning to weightier fare.

The Wire and Babylon 5 are tied as my favorite shows. And please don’t make me pick. On the one hand, a story of an honorable man in dishonorable times (Babylon 5). On the other hand, a tale of organizational dysfunction, urban decay, and political critique (The Wire). These are shows that challenge me morally and ethically, force me to think deep thoughts, and to face the difficult parts of life.

They can also be seriously depressing. In particular, The Wire is populated with wonderful characters, but, honestly, some terrible things happen to them, and, really, do any of them actually win? (Just a few–a precious few–like Bubbles.) And, sure, that’s realistic.

But who wants to live in reality all the time?

Don’t you sometimes want a show that is sharp and intelligent but where good prevails, evil is vanquished, and it’s just…fun?

And that’s why I love Leverage.

You see, Leverage starts with a clear-eyed look at the villains of the world. Specifically, Leverage focuses on corporate evil and political corruption, those that manipulate the system and use the weak and powerless to gain money and influence. Insurance companies, banks, mercenary groups, pharmaceutical companies, big box stores–all these and more had their turn in the spotlight. Inevitably, some ordinary person gets in the way of the ambitions of the group or is harmed through their callousness. These are the sorts of stories that you don’t have to look hard to find in our day. They are the kinds of stories that get us angry, that make us want justice.

And that’s the beauty of the escapism of Leverage. It starts with real villains. And then, they get what’s coming to them.

So, each week, we see Nate Ford and his team of incredibly skilled con artists, hackers, and thieves take down these corporate villains, Robin Hood-style.

People like that… corporations like that, they have all the money, they have all the power, and they use it to make people like you go away. Right now, you’re suffering under an enormous weight. We provide…Leverage.
–Nate Ford

I’ve often said that Leverage combines two of my favorite things: crime and project management. This is because Leverage is a heist show. Every episode is like Ocean’s Eleven or The Italian Job, with clever plans, unexpected reversals, daring risks, and, eventually, sweet, sweet success. Along the way, you get to see very competent people being very good at what they do. Probably impossibly good, actually, but it doesn’t matter. Because they’re using all that crazy awesome to make bad people pay…and that feels so very good.

Also, Leverage is funny. Really funny. Like, I watch an episode and laugh out loud repeatedly. Snappy lines, situation comedy, recurring motifs (“Dammit, Hardison!”) and even the occasional playing with the fourth wall. Plus, despite the fact that all the characters are hyper-competent, they’re only hyper-competent in their areas. So, the times that Hardison (the hacker) ends up in a fight or Parker (the thief who is, admittedly, kinda crazy) is trying to con someone…well, hilarity ensues.

And then, on top of this, Leverage managed to unfold characters that transcended their base roles on the team to being full-fledged people that you actually care deeply about. So, Parker is the crazy daredevil thief, but she spent most of her life in foster care and has deep-seated fears of abandonment. Elliot is a one-man army, sure, but he remembers his blue-collar roots and carries the stains on his soul from a life of covert wetwork and constant violence.

Which means that the Leverage team isn’t just a group of quasi-super do-gooders. They are also needy, hurting people, who desperately needed each other. They start the show as loners, but together they become the family that they all needed.

Because, in Leverage, at the end of every show, everything is set to right, and the world is a better place for both the client and for the team itself.

And I’ve needed that in my life right now.

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time now, you know that I’ve been struggling with depression for several years. And so, I knew I needed to spend some time away from “realistic” television. I needed something that would be happy and uplifting without insulting my intelligence.

And that’s what I found in Leverage.

One more reason to walk out of the dark.

So, I want to thank showrunners John Rogers and Chris Downey, actors Timothy Hutton, Gina Bellman, Christian Kane, Beth Riesgraf and Aldis Hodge, and everyone else who worked on Leverage. You’ve made something wonderful and beautiful and seemed to have a lot of fun along the way. And, as you did, you made something precious to me and made the world a better place.

And it’s not every day you can say that.

Thank you. Thank you for Leverage.

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