2009 Summer Television Preview

TV.com put together a nice preview of what’s in store for us this summer on the tube.

“Weeds,” “Eureka,” “The Closer,” “True Blood” and “Leverage” are returning, while “Nurse Jackie,” “Hung,” and “Dark Blue” are just a sampling of the new shows that are debuting this summer.

  

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“Leverage” finishes strong

I wrote back in early January that “Leverage” seemed to be getting better, and then Will Harris had a chance to spend 10 minutes interviewing Christian Kane (who plays Elliot Spencer on the show), just before the two-part season finale aired.

After watching the finale, I think it’s safe to say that the show finished strong. The two-parter focuses on Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton) and his obsession with taking down the head of the insurance company (that he used to work for) that failed to pay a claim that might have saved his son’s life. We meet Nathan’s ex-wife, Maggie (Kari Matchett), and Nathan’s rival at the insurance company, Sterling (Mark Sheppard), makes for a good foil.

Sure, the gang relies on a house-of-cards type progression to get through most of their jobs, but if you don’t spend too much time thinking about how ridiculous some of these plot points are, the show can be quite enjoyable. (I especially like the budding romance between Parker and Hardison.)

The series definitely has an “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Hustle” (BBC) feel to it, though I think that it would work better as the occasional two-hour movie than it does as a television series. (However, I do applaud TNT for limiting the season to 13 episodes — I would be frightened to see what kind of filler we’d get if it ran 22+ episodes.) TNT already greenlit a second season, so new viewers can dive in without fear that it will be canceled.

  

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10 Minutes and 10 Questions with Christian Kane

Tonight brings the first of the two parts of the first-season finale of TNT’s “Leverage.” We’ve commented on the show in the past here on Premium Hollywood, but after a slight false start in the early days of the series, it’s become an enjoyable blend of action, drama, and comedy that allows the viewer to escape into a world where the little guy actually gets to win once in awhile. We had a chance to talk to Christian Kane, who plays the rough-and-tumble Eliot Spencer on the show, and quizzed him about how the show’s gone for him. (We also snuck in a quick “Angel” question and checked on the status of his music career, too.)

1. If you can approach “Leverage” as a viewer rather than a fan for a second, are you surprised that “Leverage” was able to find an audience? Because a lot of series are in, out, and done in just a couple of episodes, but you guys found an audience quickly.

Yeah, we did, man. Y’know, it’s always surprising to me what works and what doesn’t work. I mean, I can’t believe that some of the stuff that’s on right now is on, and I can’t believe that “Arrested Development” ever went off the air. (Laughs) But it wasn’t surprising to know the track record of the people behind it. I mean, it was Tim (Hutton)’s first series (since “Kidnapped”), and I felt comfortable with that, but also John Rogers is an unbelievable writer, and Dean Devlin has had unbelievable success in the entertainment world, so we came in with a couple of big guns pulled out, unlike maybe some of the other people. So I felt confident in that. And then I started watching, and I got more confident. But then I remembered that, with the economy the way it is and the way the entertainment business is going… (Laughs) …it got a little bit scary for awhile, y’know, because you start thinking of stuff. But then when I went back to the economy stuff, and I went, “Y’know what? In this day and age, when The Man is sticking it to everybody, I think people are really going to want to sit back on the couch and really be part of the team and watch some people go out and stick it back to The Man.”

2. The “Ocean’s Eleven” comparisons that were being thrown around in the beginning were obviously really, really apt. Do you think the series has found its own identity yet, or is it still finding it?

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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“Kyle XY” canceled, “Leverage” renewed, “Friday Night Lights” ratings

TV.com reports that ABC Family has elected not to renew “Kyle XY” for a fourth season, but did pick up “Lincoln Heights” and “Greek” for additional seasons.

The news of Kyle XY’s cancellation first hit the Web via a report from EW.com’s Michael Ausiello, who believes that Kyle’s slumping ratings may have done it in. The show, ABC Family’s first original program, was one of the main reasons ABC Family has turned itself into a promising off-shoot of Disney and ABC. But now with other ABC Family shows–such as The Secret Life of the American Teenager–raising the bar, it appears that Kyle XY is the odd-man out.

I didn’t watch “Kyle XY,” but this has to be heartbreaking news to fans of the show. “Greek” makes for good summer viewing, so I’m happy to see it was picked up for another season.

In other news, TNT renewed “Leverage” for a 15-episode second season.

The early-December debut of Leverage drew an impressive 5.6 million viewers, and over its first nine episodes has averaged 3.2 million viewers.

“Leverage” has been sailing along, though it is pretty unbelievable at times. It has a sense of humor and doesn’t really take itself too seriously (except when it takes itself too seriously). The characters are diverse and strong, and though the humor can be a little “shticky” at times, it’s a pretty funny show.

“Friday Night Lights” fans have to be wondering how the ratings have been since the show debuted on NBC. Well, the show averaged 4.17 million viewers over its first three episodes, which is down from 5.61 million last season. Michael Ausiello says that the show “will be back provided all (or most) of the 4.6 million people that tuned in for last Friday’s season premiere … stick around for the entire season. And they’d be fools not to.”

Hopefully, “Friday Night Lights” can stay above the 4.0 million level so that NBC is getting enough out of the show to continue to co-own the rights with DirecTV.

  

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“Leverage” seems to be getting better

In the interests of full disclosure, I would have cut “Leverage” from my playlist after a ridiculous second episode (“The Homecoming Job”) if not for the insistence of my wife, who liked the first two episodes a whole heck of a lot more than I did. The premiere was solid, even if it was a little rough around the edges. It’s understandable that a show that tries really hard to be cute (a la “Ocean’s Eleven”) might struggle at the start as the relatively unknown actors get used to playing their characters and working with each other. In “Ocean’s Eleven,” audiences already knew and liked Brad Pitt and George Clooney, and had seen them acting “cute” dozens of times before, so their act went over well.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. “Leverage” is a TNT drama, which (for me) has been a little hit or miss when it comes to original scripted series. I am hooked on “The Closer,” but was never able to get into “Saving Grace” and was too annoyed by Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s distractingly long hair in the promos for “Raising the Bar” to even bother with that show. (I did enjoy the paramedic drama, “Saved,” but it was canceled after only one season.) “Leverage” is about a group of thieves that decide to go the Robin Hood route by enacting their own brand of justice on those that would take advantage of others.

At the center of the show is Timothy Hutton, whom I’ve liked since the days of “Turk 182” and “Beautiful Girls.” He plays Nathan Ford, a former insurance investigator who recently lost his son when the company he worked for wouldn’t cover his son’s experimental procedure. He enlists the help of four criminals — a con artist, a cyberthief, a cat burglar and a martial arts expert — to, and I quote, “pick up where the law leaves off.”

“Leverage” tries very hard to be witty, and it often hits the mark. There was the aforementioned second episode, however. At one point, Ford and his beautiful con artist cohort had to create a distraction at the L.A. shipping docks. So they pose as an obnoxious couple on vacation, complete with Hawaiian shirts and awful attitudes. They were even dragging their luggage around the shipping docks of L.A. — in a post-9/11 world. It was simply ridiculous.

The good parts of “Leverage” actually remind me quite a bit of “Hustle,” a British television show that was also about a group of con artists. Their intentions weren’t as noble as Ford’s, and that’s one thing that bothers me about “Leverage” — they don’t seem to want to keep any of the money. For example, in the third episode, “The Two-Horse Job,” a trainer hires them to retrieve an injured horse from his nefarious owner after the owner set fire to the trainer’s stable. The gang does its thing and manages to get the horse back and steal $12 million from the greedy owner. Do they keep any of the dough? Nope. They give it all to the trainer. This just doesn’t seem realistic to me.

I’ve always been fascinated with the dark side of society which is why I’m often drawn to anti-hero stories like “The Shield,” “Rescue Me” and “The Sopranos.” “Leverage” doesn’t get nearly as dark as those series, but it does live in that grey area between right and wrong. I’d like to see the moral ambiguity get a little thicker, as the victims of the con jobs are often caricatures of villains (with no discernable positive qualities).

So for now, I’m going to keep watching. But if I see Timothy Hutton dressed in a Hawaiian shirt traipsing through the docks of Los Angeles again, I’m going to delete my season pass and not look back.

  

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