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New TNT Drama Pits 'Robin Hoods' Against 'Capitalist Victimizers'

     “Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys,” declare the commercials for TNT’s new drama “Leverage,” starring Timothy Hutton. That’s the morally ambiguous theme of the show, which features a group of hitherto loner criminals who join forces to fight what they deem to be corporate injustice.

     “Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys,” declare the commercials for TNT’s new drama “Leverage,” starring Timothy Hutton. That’s the morally ambiguous theme of the show, which features a group of hitherto loner criminals who join forces to fight what they deem to be corporate injustice.

 

     In the series premiere Dec. 7., the thieves are the good guys and the villains are rich and corporate. The first company to come under fire was the insurance firm Hutton’s character, Nathan Ford, once worked for. Ford is a tortured former insurance investigator who saved his company millions until it refused to pay for his son’s medical treatment.  With his son is dead and his marriage destroyed, Ford is broke and angry.

 

     The second villain is Victor Dubenich, an executive who comes to Ford for help, claiming falsely that a rival aeronautics company stole his company’s airplane design. But Dubenich, being a stereotypical Hollywood version of a corporate executive, double-crosses Ford and his thieving pals who decide to get a little payback by stealing the plans back, making sure Dubenich gets arrested and that his company’s stock tanks. Oh, and Ford and his cohorts make untold millions of dollars by shorting the market.

 

     What about all the innocent shareholders in Dubenich’s company who lost money, but had nothing to do with his crime? Their plight is ignored.

 

     The resounding message from “Leverage” is that Ford and his team of bandits are the good guys, regardless of the crimes committed to exact revenge and with no thought to the innocent businessmen and women in the world.

 

     Executive producer Dean Devlin described the show to Monsters and Critics saying, “It is essentially a modern day Robin Hood … you need the band of Merrymen, the rich villains, and we live in a time where you can just open a window and throw a rock and hit a rich villain.”

 

     The New York Times review said the show “devotes itself to the deflation of fat cats who have stolen, burned, bribed, defrauded: capitalist victimizers who are pierced each week by the slings and arrows of a band of independent hackers, thieves and grifters suddenly bound together to rectify the wrongs of economic disparity.” A USA Today review headline said, “Timothy Hutton takes a stand on ‘Leverage’ for TNT.”

 

     A closing monologue by Hutton’s character reveals that other fictional companies will be battered and scammed in future episodes: “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.”

 

     Of course, attacking industries and businesspeople in general through television drama is nothing new. The Business & Media Institute analyzed the trend of primetime television attacks on businessmen in its first “Bad Company” report. That 2006 study found that businessmen were cast in a negative light 77 percent of the time and that businessmen committed crimes fives times more often than terrorists in storylines.