Rating: Leverage, Season 3

We’ve been rewatching and rating Leverage and we’re through season 3. (For more on how our rating system works, see here, which also covers season 1 of Leverage.) Here’s how the season looks to us.

Leverage, season 3

  1. “The Jailhouse Job” – 4.5
  2. “The Reunion Job” – 5
  3. “The Inside Job” – 7
  4. “The Scheherazade Job” – 4
  5. “The Double-Blind Job” – 5.5
  6. “The Studio Job” – 5.5
  7. “The Gone-Fishin’ Job” – 7
  8. “The Boost Job” – 5.5
  9. “The Three-Card Monte Job” – 1
  10. “The Underground Job” – 6
  11. “The Rashomon Job” – 8
  12. “The King George Job” – 7.5
  13. “The Morning After Job” – 4.5
  14. “The Ho, Ho, Ho Job” – 8
  15. “The Big Bang Job” – 4.5
  16. “The San Lorenzo Job” – 6

Season 3 has a lot of decent but not excellent episodes in the 4-6 range, but the average for the season is brought down to 5.6 (just a hint below season 2’s 5.7) by one real stinker.

To get the bad stuff out of the way first: “The Three-Card Monte Job” is the season’s worst episode and only total bomb. It’s a story about a father and son who have a bad relationship and are bad at communicating with each other. Snore. We are so, so over father-son angst. Even a few clever on-the-spot caper bits by the team can’t save this episode. This season also includes a half-hearted attempt at an arc which never really pays off, but at least it doesn’t get in the way of the usual heists and capers too badly.

On the other hand, we have two solid episodes tied for best of the season at 8. “The Rashomon Job” is a sparklingly clever take on the heist genre as the main characters all recount, from their own perspectives, how once, before they all started working together, they were all after the same priceless work of art at the same time. The main cast really shines in this one as they get to play out different versions of the same scene, and so does John Billingsley in a brilliant guest performance. “The Ho, Ho, Ho Job” is a feel-good Christmas episode that also features the return of Wil Wheaton’s pain-in-the-ass hacker Kaos. There are lovely character bits in this episode, too, including Parker’s childlike love of Christmas and Elliot playing the grumpiest Santa Claus ever.

Any Leverage fans out there want to weigh in? Got a different pick for the best or worst episodes of the season? Let us know in the comments!

Image: Leverage cast via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

1899 Beer Fridge as Inspiration for Morgue Fridge in Murdoch Mysteries?

One recent introduction in our tv diet is Canadian detective fiction series Murdoch Mysteries. It’s based on novels by Maureen Jennings and set in Toronto during the 1890s and early 1900s. The series includes historical characters (Winston Churchill, Alexander Graham Bell, Emma Goldman and others), inventions (fingerprinting), and events (the Great Fire of 1904 in season 10) in their fictitious plots, and often hints at or spoofs future phenomena (telefax, sonar, Area 51).

Although not without issues, Murdoch is fun and interesting in its approach to history. Even if the Victorian era hasn’t ever really been my cup of tea, the production manages to make the era feel alive, not stuffy or staid.

And while I know just barely enough of Victoriana to say that feature X in Dr. Ogden’s dresses looks a little odd, or feature Y on that building appears historical, most of the time I’m guessing. It’s therefore nice to run into a historical detail that looks to have informed elements on the set, like this beer refrigerator from 1899:

Smithsonian Mace et Co Beer Fridge 1899

The image comes from a catalog of by L. H. Mace & Co. of New York, currently in the Smithsonian Libraries collections. (It’s also very interesting to note that this fridge was actally sold and marketed as a beer fridge, specifically.)

In the earlier Murdoch seasons, there used to be an ice cabinet for storing smaller body parts in addition to larger cadaver drawers. I don’t happen to have a screenshot handy, but fortunately the fridge appears in the background of a few random shots on the Internet: in the photo below, behind Dr. Julia Ogden and Detective Murdoch on the right…

Scannersuniverse ogden_and_murdoch_2

…and behind Dr. Emily Grace in the photo below:

Pinterest Murdoch Mysteries Dr Grace at Morgue

It looks almost identical to the L. H. Mace & Co. beer fridge. Really very, very cool!

It’s such a great detail it’s a shame that at some point when the set was re-decorated it seems not to have made the cut. I will have to try to get a better screenshot of it when we re-watch.

Images: A beer fridge from 1899 via The Smithsonian Institution on Tumblr; Dr. Julia Ogden and Detective Murdoch via Scannersuniverse; Dr. Grace via Pinterest

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Rating: Leverage, Season 2

We’ve been rewatching and rating Leverage and we’ve got season 2 under our belts now. (For more on how our rating system works, see here, which also covers season 1 of Leverage.) Here’s our take on the season.

Leverage, season 2

  1. “The Beantown Bailout” – 5.5
  2. “The Tap-Out Job” – 2.5
  3. “The Order 23 Job” – 6
  4. “The Fairy Godparents Job” – 4.5
  5. “The Three Days of the Hunter Job” – 8
  6. “The Top Hat Job” – 2
  7. “The Two Live Crew Job” – 8
  8. “The Ice Man Job” – 8
  9. “The Lost Heir Job” – 7
  10. “The Runway Job” – 5.5
  11. “The Bottle Job” – 5.5
  12. “The Zanzibar Marketplace Job” – 4
  13. “The Future Job” – 7
  14. “The Three Strikes Job” – 8
  15. “The Maltese Falcon Job” – 4

This season is a lot of highs and lows. Several weak episodes are balanced out by a number of strong ones. The average for the season is 5.7, which is respectable but a step down from season 1, which averaged just under 6. The show was finding its footing this season and striking out in some new directions, which sometimes paid off but other times just fell flat.

We have a four-way tie for the best episode, all at a solid 8. In “The Three Days of the Hunter Job” the team manufactures a government conspiracy in order to discredit a ruthless reporter. In “The Two Live Crew Job,” they compete with another team (featuring Wil Wheaton as a pain-in-the-ass hacker!) to steal a priceless painting. In “The Ice Man Job,” Hardison, the hacker, gets in over his head while trying to show that he can get out from behind the computer and do an in-person grift, and the rest of the team has to improvise a heist around him to get him out. In “The Three Strikes Job,” the whole team get in over their head as they get tangled up in a larger plot involving the mob, the FBI, and a corrupt mayor. All of these episodes play with the heist/con formula in interesting ways and give the actors a chance to stretch their wings and tackle something new. In these episodes, we really see the creative team’s willingness to tinker with the mechanics of the procedural format pay off well.

The lesser episodes of the season also show attempts to vary the formula, but they don’t come off as well. The worst of the season is “The Top Hat Job,” at only 2. In this episode, the heist is pretty simple and most of the screentime is taken up by the team’s distraction event: Nate, the most mediocre and uninteresting character on the team, putting on a mediocre and uninteresting magic show.

Any Leverage fans out there want to weigh in? Got a different pick for the best or worst episodes of the season? Let us know in the comments!

Image: Leverage cast via IMDb

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Rating: Leverage, Season 1

We like to watch tv together and we enjoy rewatching the best episodes of series we’ve seen before, but how do you remember which episodes were worth seeing again and which to skip? We came up with a solution to that problem: now when we watch a series, we rate each episode. Each of us gives each episode a rating from 0 to 5, like this:

  • 0 – Terrible, I never want to see it again.
  • 1 – Pretty bad, but had a few redeeming features
  • 2 – Not awful, but kind of lacking
  • 3 – Decent, solid, nothing special
  • 4 – Pretty good
  • 5 – Awesome!

(We also sometimes give half-points, so a 3.5 might be for an episode that is a little better than average.) Then we add our scores together to get a total rating from 0 to 10. We note this score down on a slip of paper that we keep with our discs. (We like to watch shows on disc. We’re old-fashioned like that.)

We often end up giving the same rating to an episode, so a rating of 6 usually means we both gave it a 3. Part of the fun of watching and rating is chatting about the episode afterwards to see how we both felt about it.

Now when we go back to rewatch a show we can decide what kind of mood we’re in. If we want to plow through everything—good, bad, and indifferent—we can. If we want to just skip the worst episodes, we can watch everything that rated above a 2. If we want only the good stuff, we can stick to 6 and above. If we only want the highlights, we can go for 8 and up. (Or straight to the tens.)

We recently finished rewatching and rating the first season of Leverage, an adventure/comedy show about a gang of thieves and con artists who decide to go straight(-ish) and start using their skills to take on wealthy criminals and evil corporations. Here’s how we felt about season 1.

The average of the ratings this season’s episodes is just under 6, which is respectable and pretty solid for the first season of a show.

The highest rating this season was an 8, for which two episodes tied. The first was the pilot, ep. 1 “The Nigerian Job,” about how the team all comes together for revenge on a corrupt executive who used them to steal a rival company’s plans and them sold them out. The other was ep. 8, “The Mile High Job,” in which the team stumbles into an attempted murder on an airplane and has to improvise their way through to keep the target safe. Both of these episodes give all of the characters plenty of time to shine and throw lots of interesting problems in their way for them to solve.

Our lowest-rated episode this season was only a 3, ep. 11 “The Juror #6 Job,” in which Parker, the team’s not-exactly-social thief, finds herself doing jury duty under one of her aliases. We found the case uninspiring and the character interactions a little icky.

Our full ratings:

Leverage, season 1

  1. “The Nigerian Job” – 8
  2. “The Homecoming Job” – 6
  3. “The Two Horse Job” – 7
  4. “The Miracle Job” – 5
  5. “The Bank Shot Job” – 5.5
  6. “The Stork Job” – 4.5
  7. “The Wedding Job” – 5
  8. “The Mile High Job” – 8
  9. “The Snow Job” – 6
  10. “The 12-Step Job” – 7.5
  11. “The Juror #6 Job” – 3
  12. “The First David Job” – 5
  13. “The Second David Job” – 7

Any Leverage fans out there want to weigh in? Got a different pick for the best or worst episodes of the season? Let us know in the comments!

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Happy Twentieth Anniversary, Buffy!

“Welcome to the Hellmouth,” the first episode of Joss Whedon’s cult series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, premiered on March 10th 1997. Happy twentieth anniversary, Buffy!

Here are a few of our favorite Buffy episodes or moments.

One of the better-executed truly creepy episodes I’ve seen is “Hush,” season 4, episode 10.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer | The gentlemen via SpookyTube

“Once More, with Feeling,” the musical episode (s. 6, ep. 7), is so much fun despite its cheesiness! Also has one of my favorite throw-away scenes ever: “They got the mustard ooooooouuut!”

They Got The Mustard Out! via PrincePrimeval

In “Grave” (s. 6, ep. 22), Xander saves dark Willow, who’s about to destroy the world, without any superhuman powers by reminding her of their friendship.

Xander saves Willow via ChrisPhaleus

Buffy’s speech to potential slayers and allies before the final battle in “Chosen” (s. 7, ep. 22) is also epic.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer – 7×22 – Chosen – Speach [sic] via Tito Luiz Pereira

“In every generation, one Slayer is born, because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman [points to Willow] is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power, should be our power. Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of the scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?”

What are your favorite Buffy memories?

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

Sherlock North in Development

Variety recently reported that an interesting take on Sherlock Holmes is in the works:

“Finnish writer-director-producer Juha Wuolijoki will run the upcoming 10-hour television series ‘Sherlock North,’ which he introduced yesterday as a work-in-progress at the TV Drama Vision section of the Nordic Film Market in Göteborg’s 40th Film Festival. He aims to shoot the series in the winter of 2018, at the latest 2019. Finnish broadcaster YLE is on board for series development.”

The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia 2018-2019-sherlock-north-promo1

Snapper Films, Wuolijoki’s production, financing, and distribution company based in Helsinki and Los Angeles, has made available short production notes for Sherlock North:

“Consulting detective Mr. Sherlock Holmes in subzero Northern Scandinavia, featuring a female Dr. Watson from Finland, and the coldest Moriarty you have ever seen.

“Based on the unforgettable characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock North is a contemporary crime fiction television series, which will consist of 10 one-hour episodes. The series, produced by Snapper Films, is being developed in collaboration with the Conan Doyle Estate Limited.”

According to the notes, writer and actress Jenny Dahlström works with Wuolijoki on the project.

Wuolijoki describes the series concept further:

“Here is a fish-out-of-water story: Holmes is hiding from Moriarty but doesn’t know how his new landscape works. But he cannot live if not involved in something. He is a cocaine user, and although he has promised his brother Mycroft that he won’t do this, he starts solving local small crime mysteries, which lead into some bigger issues, helped by a Finnish former woman doctor, Johanna Watson. […]

“Doyle did not write what he did there [in Scandinavia], we created that, and it has been totally approved by the Doyle Estate. It is a Nordic series, with a Nordic identity, with an international appeal.”

IMDb Snapper Films Sherlock North Pilot Poster

On the basis of Wuolijoki’s interview in Variety, it sounds that the series was inspired by a one-liner in a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle called “The Adventure of the Empty House.” (The reference really is just one sentence and reads: “You may have read of the remarkable explorations of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you that you were receiving news of your friend.”)

Sounds intriguing! (Even if they’ve copied the gender-flipped Watson from Elementary.) I’ve seen two posters for the series, the first (at the top of this article) with snow-covered fells in the background, and the second (above) with a fjord and fishing boats. It’s the latter that leads me to think that the series might take place in Norway. I’m looking forward to hearing more, and am definitely hoping Sherlock North will be successfully produced!

P.S. Read Conan Doyle’s short story, “The Adventure of the Empty House,” for free via Project Gutenberg.

Images: Snapper Films via The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia and via IMDb

Tips Needed: Years-Long Story Arcs on Screen?

Recently I’ve been thinking of Babylon 5 quite a bit from the storytelling point of view. When it first aired (1994-1998 in the U.S.), it was unique in my experience (which was, at the time, still quite limited) for a few things.

The Catholic Geeks babylon52

Firstly, I loved B5 for its complex, detailed, and consistent world. I hadn’t seen that level of commitment to worldbuilding on tv before. Also, the plot moved on several levels, from individual concerns to multi-species war, and involved political struggles, religious prophesies, racial tensions, social pressures, and personal rivalries of many kinds. At times it was heavy-handed, for instance in its discussion of authoritarianism vs. free will (“Who are you?” “What do you want?”), but not consistently across every plotline, if memory serves. (Note to self: It’s clearly time for a rewatch!)

What really sets B5 apart from other attempts, however, is that it’s carrying essentially one huge story arc over years of tv programming, not just one season’s worth. The creator, J. Michael Straczynski, conceived of the whole plotline before the series was written for tv. Apparently, it was specifically supposed to be a “novel for television,” with the core plot points figured out beforehand. (That’s my biggest beef with the current Doctor Who, for example: the writers are struggling to fold in new storylines into the existing canon—even very recently created canon—and it shows.)

Game of Thrones and The Expanse feel very similar to B5, being tv adaptations of stories already in existence, and I’ve really enjoyed those aspects of both. Before them, though, I can’t really remember seeing that many quality series that incorporate truly extended story arcs. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the Battlestar Galactica reboot all tried, even though none of them really implement as overarching a story as B5 does.

I’ve been wanting to see (and not just read) long plots lately, so I’d really appreciate your input. I still haven’t looked into Straczynski’s new series sense8—does anyone know whether it has a similar structure? Or can you recommend any other genre shows with long-term payoff?

Image via The Catholic Geeks

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

 

The Expanse Season 2 Trailers

Trailers for the second season of The Expanse are out!

THE EXPANSE | Season 2 Trailer | Syfy

THE EXPANSE | Season 2 Trailer #2 | Syfy

I saw the first season well after it had broadcasted. It’s clear that it merely scraped the surface of the story, but I liked it enough to want more. The writing managed quite well to avoid infodumps while giving us enough to understand any given situation. Most of the cast was new to me, but I enjoyed their performances. Detective Miller was the most boring character of all; I liked the crew of the Rocinante, though, especially Nagata and Burton.

Season 2 will be out February 8, 2017.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.