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"Leverage" The 3rd Season DVD Review

Leverage: The 3rd Season DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Leverage: Season Three (2010)
Show & DVD Details

Creators: John Rogers, Chris Downey / Writers: John Rogers, Michael Colton, John Aboud, Geoffrey Thorne, Chris Downey, Melissa Glenn, Jessica Rieder, M. Scott Veach, Rebecca Kirsch, Albert Kim, Christine Boylan / Directors: Dean Devlin, Jonathan Frakes, John Rogers, Peter Winther, Marc Roskin, John Harrison, Arvin Brown, Millicent Shelton

Regular Cast: Timothy Hutton (Nathan Ford), Gina Bellman (Sophie Devereaux), Christian Kane (Eliot Spencer), Beth Riesgraf (Parker), Aldis Hodge (Alec Hardison)

Recurring Characters: Elisabetta Canalis (The Italian), Robert Blanche (Captain Patrick Bonanno), Goran Visnjic (Damien Moreau)

Notable Guest Stars: Edwin Hodge (William "Billy" Epping), Arye Gross (Larry Duberman), Kari Wuhrer (Miranda Miles/Nikki), Anthony Azizi (Vazerat Agent), Richard Chamberlain (Archie Leach), Lisa Brenner (Dr. Anne Hannity), Nnamdi Asomugha (Walle), Giancarlo Esposito (Alexander Moto), Michael O'Keefe (Darren Hoffman), Katie Lowes (Ashley Moore), Lisa Foiles (Trina), John Schneider (Mitchell Kirkwood), Alona Tal (Kaye Lynn), Clancy Brown (Hugh Whitman), Malese Jow (Josie "Shorty" Marvin), Bill Engvall (Duke Penzer), Tom Skerritt (Jimmy Ford), David Meunier (Piotr Volik), Bruce Davison (Dan Blackwell), John Billingsley (Coswell), Riley Smith (Dr. Wes Abernathy), Juan Canopii (Minister Robert Bioko), James Frain (John Douglas Keller), Spencer Garrett (Mark Vector), Gerald Downey (Agent McSweeten), Wil Wheaton (Colin "Chaos" Mason), Dave Foley (Eben Dooley, Jr.), Timothy Carhart (General Elias Atherton), Geoffrey Blake (Bixby), Michael E. Rodgers (Chapman), Alastair Duncan (President Ribera)

Running Time: 680 Minutes (16 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated
1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned; Video Extras Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: June 7, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Four single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s); Clear Keepcase with Cardboard Slipcover
Season 3 Airdates: June 20, 2010 - December 19, 2010

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By Aaron Wallace

Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys. That's the premise behind "Leverage", a warmly-received TNT series with an unusual broadcast schedule. A band of career criminals repent from selfish pursuits and make a career of helping innocent civilians instead.
Just how they turn a profit is seldom clear, but never mind that.

Perhaps counterintuitively, flagrant disregard for the law proves itself an invaluable asset in this new enterprise, making these felonious Robin Hood-types uncommonly effective in protecting the meager from the powerful. Their carefree duplicity also makes them surprisingly likeable.

In fact, likeable is exactly how I'd describe "Leverage." Its tone falls somewhere between comedy and action-drama, and it frequently falls prey to the corniness that such disposition invites to a crime show. Those frequent gaffes are, however, astoundingly easy to bear and forgive.

I attribute that quality primarily to the cast. The ensemble of five the only constant in the series and each lead enlivens his or her characters with agreeable whimsy. Timothy Hutton plays Nate the Mastermind, the clan's leader and the only non-crook among them. He effectively serves as a kind of moral guide for the rest.

Nate (Timothy Hutton) joins Hardison and Elliot in the trenches to bust some bad guys. X marks the spot, but still no one can find Parker (Beth Riesgraf) in "The Inside Job."

Nate has a perpetually frustrated romance with Sophie the Grifter, played by Gina Bellman. She's the show's most impressive actor, if only because her role requires her to impersonate someone new in nearly every episode, and she always does it so well. Less striking but still successful are the other three: Hardison the Hacker (Aldis Hodge), Eliot the Hitter (Christian Kane), and Parker the Thief (Beth Riesgraf).

The other winning thing about "Leverage" is its clever schemes. These outlaws don't get away with crime on pure dumb luck. They know what they're doing, but the audience doesn't -- until the end. Each episode is therefore moderately suspenseful and usually (but not always) impressive in the final reveal. Serialized story arcs are slight and rare here, but the writers manage to hatch something unforeseen more often than not.

Paramount released The 3rd Season to DVD this summer and it marked my introduction to "Leverage." Even though it picks up where I assume Season 2 left off, with Nate imprisoned and the rest of the gang scheming to break him out, I found the show remarkably easy to dive into mid-stream.

This is not a great show but it's diverting and entertaining enough to earn a mild recommendation. Watching it in the course of a week, I was repeatedly reminded of "Pushing Daisies", a much better show that strikes a similar tone. I'd sooner recommend that to you, but odds are good that you'll also derive some enjoyment from "Leverage." After the first episode, the Season 3 set seems as good a place as any to start. Let's take a closer look at it below.

A nerd-turned-tycoon relishes success at his high school reunion, even going after the girl he thinks he remembers, our very own Sophie (Gina Bellman)! Hardison (Aldis Hodge) plays the violin but wishes he wasn't in "The Scheherazade Job."

Disc 1

1. The Jailhouse Job (42:39) (Originally aired June 20, 2010)
The season kicks off with an especially thick plot as the team schemes to break Nate out of a top-security prison. As if that weren't enough, they have one villain blackmailing them into taking on a second.

2. The Reunion Job (42:39) (Originally aired June 20, 2010)
In a fun spin on TV's routine high school reunion episode,
the team infiltrates a big-time executive's reunion to corner him at his most vulnerable moment. They falsify invitations and assume the identity of old classmates in order to get close to his secret crime.

3. The Inside Job (42:49) (Originally aired June 27, 2010)
Parker's working a side job for her old mentor when she finds herself suddenly trapped, in need of rescue by her crew. The only problem is that no one knows where she is.

4. The Scheherazade Job (42:40) (Originally aired June 27, 2010)
In a Hamlet-esque tale, a government official plots against his brother, an African president. Nate and his cohorts side with the crown and plot to expose the nefarious brother. Hardison reluctantly poses as a master violinist in need, an effort to entice the brother with the allure of good PR.

When a new job requires him to croon, Eliot (Christian Kane) picks up both girl and guitar! Parker the thief (Beth Riesgraf) and Hardison the hacker (Aldis Hodge) combine forces to break into an ultra-high-tech car in "The Boost Job."

Disc 2

5. The Double-Blind Job (42:40) (Originally aired July 11, 2010)
While romantic tension builds between Hardison and Parker, a pharmaceutical CEO plans to unleash a potentially fatal pain reliever to the market, FDA-approved and all. Not while the "Leverage" team's around!

6. The Studio Job (42:39) (Originally aired July 18, 2010)
A Nashville guru plays not-so-nice with a few fledgling artists who seek the team's help. The solution they cook up is so brilliant, it even turns Eliot into a bona fide country crooner.

7. The Gone-Fishin' Job (42:39) (Originally aired July 25, 2010)
What's worse than a tax thief? One who uses his ill-gotten gain to fund a secret army! With no time to wait for the IRS to catch on, Nate, Parker, and Sophie handle the business end of a new scheme while Hardison and Eliot head into the trenches.

8. The Boost Job (42:39) (Originally aired August 1, 2010)
Used car salesmen aren't known for their virtue, but few are as crooked as the one raising the team's ire this time. His cars aren't just used. They're stolen!

Nate's father (Tom skit-skat-Skerritt) finds himself in a dangerou(n)s situation! Unlike Sophie, Parker (Beth Riesgraf) is no grifter, which makes her rare moments of awkward acting some of her best!

Disc 3

9. The Three-Card Monte Job (42:40) (Originally aired August 8, 2010)
A band of mobsters is blackmailing innocent victims, forcing them to carry out crimes. Nate's happy to help as always, but things get complicated when he confronts the mob leader: his father (Tom Skerritt).

10. The Underground Job (42:40) (Originally aired August 15, 2010)
A coal mine owner embezzles the government cash entrusted to him following a mining tragedy. Unfortunately for him, Nate & Co. are on his case.

11. The Rashomon Job (42:42) (Originally aired August 22, 2010)
In a refreshingly different kind of episode, the five team members each recall a heist attempt from their early criminal careers and realize they were all at the same place at the same time.

12. The King George Job (42:40) (Originally aired August 29, 2010)
Season-spanning villain Damien Moreau ("E.R."'s Goran Visnjic) is a known smuggler of stolen antiquities, so the crew finds itself hot on the trail of a black market trade using young refugees in its shadowy crimes.

Wil Wheaton is surprisingly effective as a villain, even when flanked by festive Santas. Eliot (Christian Kane) has a wonderful "Walker, Texas Ranger" vibe about him.

Disc 4

13. The Morning After Job (42:39) (Originally aired September 5, 2010)
The hunt for Damien Moreau continues as the team targets a hedge fund manager with critical info... but when their enemy catches on, they find themselves in over their heads.

14. The Ho Ho Ho Job (42:39) (Originally aired December 12, 2010)
In a Miracle on 34th Street-inspired premise, a discharged mall Santa approaches the team to explain that he was terminated for drinking on the job even though he'd never had a drop. As they soon learn, he isn't the only set-up Santa... and all the newly hired Kringles are former crooks! Wil Wheaton and Dave Foley guest star.

15. The Big Bang Job (42:39) (Originally aired December 19, 2010)
In an episode big on gunfire and explosions, secrets are revealed and the team moves closer to a face-to-face showdown with Moreau, who plans to auction off a weapon to terrorists.

16. The San Lorenzo Job (42:59) (Originally aired December 19, 2010)
The season's finale is also one of its best episodes, following the team to San Lorenzo. They're in pursuit of Moreau, who's escaped there and gotten in bed with the country's corrupt leadership. They side with a noble but fairly inept politician in order to orchestrate a regime change and expose Moreau.

Stare-down between Timothy Hutton and guest star Dave Foley, two men who look little like their famous, youthful selves. That's not a look you want to see when standing in a warehouse full of explosives. Guess again, skinhead!


The 3rd Season comes to DVD with a decent 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, matching its original HD broadcast ratio. The picture suffers from frequent edge enhancement, softness, motion blurriness, and the occasional moiré effect. Those are likely symptoms of the digital cameras used in production. The problems are most evident in dark shots and transitional wide shots of city landscapes, but they turn up during regular daytime scenes too. (The moiré pattern is rare, appearing when computer screens or other electronic displays are recorded, and could arguably be intentional).

None of this seriously detracts from the viewing experience. Many of the scenes look reasonably clear and are often even appropriately sharp. It all adds up to a mixed bag of video quality, one that is surely satisfactory to the vast majority of viewers. The digital video even compliments the show's less-than-serious tone. Just don't expect anything filmic in appearance.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track, on the other hand, is quite excellent. Every channel is active in this dynamic mix, which finds an ideal balance between dialogue, score, and effects. The latter two get plenty of rear-channel support. No matter where you're positioned in your home theater, you're bound to notice the truly surrounding audio in this enveloping soundtrack.

It's a pity this wild-haired man's "Africa Talk" shows up only as a deleted scene. He looks like someone we could use a half-hour of! Aldis Hodge goofs around on the set of "Leverage," as seen in the 3rd Season gag reel.


"Leverage" is treated to a slew of bonus features that even many of history's most popular TV series are denied. Most immediately impressive and surprising are the audio commentaries for each and every episode.
I picked a few at random to listen to in their entirety and spot-checked the others. With substantive, engaging conversation and absolutely no lulls, these are a treat to hear. Granted, you'd have to be a hardcore "Leverage" fan to sit through all of them, but those who are should thank both Paramount and the cast/crew for putting in effort they could have easily avoided.

Here's a list of commentary participants by episode. Note that following complaints from last season's commentaries, some of the previously-absent actors regularly join in on the fun now.
3.01 - Executive producer/writer John Rogers, director/executive producer Dean Devlin, star Aldis Hodge
3.02 - Rogers, Hodge, director Jonathan Frakes, and writers Michael Colton, John Aboud, and Chris Downey
3.03 - Rogers, Downey, star Beth Riesgraf, writer Geoffrey Thorne
3.04 - Rogers, Hodge, Downey
3.05 - Rogers, Downey, director Mark Roskin, writers Jessica Rieder and Melissa Glenn
3.06 - Rogers, Downey, Frakes, writer M. Scott Veach
3.07 - Rogers, Hodge, Downey, director John Harrison, writer Rebecca Kirsch
3.08 - Rogers, Hodge, Downey, Roskin
3.09 - Rogers, Devlin, writer Christine Boylan
3.10 - Rogers, Downey, Roskin
3.11 - Rogers, Downey, director Arvin Brown
3.12 - Rogers, Boylan
3.13 - Rogers, Downey, Frakes
3.14 - Rogers, Colton, Aboud, Downey, Roskin
3.15 - Rogers, Hodge, Downey, Thorne, Roskin, star Christian Kane
3.16 - Rogers, Hodge, Downey, Roskin, Veach, Kane

Several deleted scenes are spread across the set, all of them pretty short and inconsequential. Corresponding with episode titles, they are: "The Scheherazade Job" (0:50) on Disc 1, "The Studio Job" (0:23) and "The Gone-Fishin' Job" (0:26) on Disc 2, and "The Big Bang Job" (0:39) on Disc 4.

Disc 1 also offers a "Gag Reel" (5:36), this one more thoughtfully edited than most. It's fun for a few minutes.

New "Leverage" writers Michael Colton and John Aboud get no respect in this humorous skit found on the 3rd Season DVD. A storyboard comes together at rapid speed in "Inside the Writers' Room."

Rounding out the first disc is a preview for the "Leverage" Season 4 premiere on TNT (0:31). The same thing plays automatically on that disc's startup.

Disc 2 provides "On Set with Colton & Aboud: The New Writers of 'Leverage'" (2:22), a funny featurette in which the newbies are playfully shunned by the rest of the crew.

On Disc 3, "'Leverage': What Does a Producer Do?" (2:33) answers a legitimate question that many viewers might have. With such a short run time, it doesn't provide any real depth, but it's nice to hear from this lot of seldom-seen producers. Then there's "Inside the 'Leverage' Writers' Room" (2:31). It's another behind-the-scenes peek that's too short to amount to much, but is appreciated nonetheless.

The "Behind the Scenes" featurette reveals just a little about the crew's preparation for a pool scene in Episode 3.15 of "Leverage." Timothy Hutton peers mastermindedly from the "Leverage": The 3rd Season - Disc 1 main menu screen.

Finally, Disc 4 gives us "Behind the Scenes of 'Leverage' Episode 315: The Big Bang Job" (7:40), a just slightly longer look at the making of Season 3's penultimate episode.

All of the menu screens are 16x9 but static and without sound. The discs have Paramount's standard, plain-gray labeling and are thankfully all housed inside one standard-sized, clear keepcase. A helpful episode guide lines the interior. A cardboard slipcover replicates the cover art, which curiously subtitles this season set as "The Art of the Con."

It's a shame they didn't go ahead and reenact the "Smooth Criminal" video while they were at it.


Even after watching and enjoying a whole season, I don't see myself adding new episodes of "Leverage" to my TiVo queue. There's just too much other, better TV to occupy my limited time. That said, I did enjoy the couple-dozen hours I spent with the show and would be happy to review another season in the future. Decent video, excellent audio, and surprisingly plentiful bonus features (including great audio commentaries on every episode) all help tip the scales in favor of a recommendation.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Reviewed July 25, 2011.

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