Wondering if there's going to be quality entertainment available on Independence Day for when your family has run out of conversation and foodstuffs to use as distraction? My friends, may I introduce you to Leverage?
Hopefully, I'm not really introducing you to the series, which returned a couple of weeks ago for its third season on TNT; I'm presuming that, being people of both good taste and wisdom, you're all already aware of the charms of this modern day Robin Hood show created by Transformers screenwriter (and Blue Beetle comic writer) Jon Rogers and Chris Downey. If not, then this Sunday's four-episode mini-marathon is just for you.
The concept behind Leverage is simple: Four criminals at the top of their game - in the words of the show, a hitter, hacker, thief and grifter - have been brought together by a former insurance investigator to use their powers for the greater good... which just so happens to take the form of weekly cons on the rich, powerful and corrupt. Imagine The A-Team where Hannibal and friends have been replaced by George Clooney's crew from Ocean's Eleven, and you're kind of on the right track.
What makes the show so great, though, isn't (just) the concept, but the execution; not only are leads Timothy Hutton, Gina Bellman, Aldis Hodge, Christian Kane and Beth Riesgraf perfect in their roles, making the most out of each line, grunt and innuendo given to them, not only does the show get really great guest actors on a regular basis (including Battlestar Galactica's Mark Sheppard, Wil Wheaton, Jeri Ryan and many more), but the show consistently sparkles with wit, inventiveness and a ridiculous amount of geek shout-outs; watch "The Inside Job" on Sunday, for example, and catch references to comic creator Jim Steranko, TV's Avengers John Steed and Emma Peel and Cary Grant's real name and/or character in To Catch A Thief, all within fifteen minutes.
At its worst, Leverage is a happily diverting hour of television. But the series is rarely at its worst; without a doubt, I'd call Leverage one of the most enjoyable shows on television: Fast-moving, self-aware and completely entertaining. If you're not watching, then use this Sunday's season three catch-up to learn the error of your ways.