Con artists play God in Leverage

    It’s a Christmas miracle: a series that isn’t in reruns in late December. Not only does TNT gift us with a new episode of Leverage (Tuesday, 10 p.m.), but a great episode. Just three weeks old, this dramedy is already one of my favorite shows.{mosimage}
    Timothy Hutton is Nate, a former insurance investigator who turned Robin Hood after being betrayed by his company. And this wasn’t any old betrayal — the company denied coverage for his ailing son, who subsequently died. Nate’s grief gives Leverage poignancy around the edges, but at its heart it’s a con-artist comedy. Nate has assembled a team of grifters and thieves to foil corrupt millionaires and corporations Mission: Impossible-style. They construct elaborate scams involving disguises and deceit, and it’s pure pleasure to watch their plans unfold.
    In this week’s episode, a priest tries to save his church from an unscrupulous developer who plans to turn the property into a mall. The developer sends out thugs to scare him into backing down. That doesn’t sit well with Nate. “This guy beat up a priest,” he tells his team. “We’re not going easy on him.”
    They determine that the quickest way to save the church is to fake a miracle there. Pilgrims will flock to the place, the Vatican will declare it holy ground and the mall will be thwarted. They trick up a statue of a saint in which tears appear to drip from the eyes. Computer specialist Alec (Aidis Hodge), however, has grave reservations about the plan. “We’re all going to hell,” he says.
    Maybe, but TNT is going to heaven for bringing us this wonderful series.

WWE Tribute to the Troops
Saturday, 9 p.m. (NBC)
    Professional wrestling stars head to Iraq to salute the troops in their own special way. Nothing says “we love you” like slamming someone head-first to the mat, grinding a foot into his neck and twisting his ankle 360 degrees.

Million Dollar Password
Sunday, 8 p.m. (CBS)
    William Shatner, the aging oddity who’ll do anything for a buck, is this week’s celebrity contestant. The password is: “shameless.”

10th Annual A Home for the Holidays with Faith Hill
Tuesday, 7 p.m. (CBS)
    Faith Hill, Melissa Etheridge, Martin Short, Tim McGraw Gavin Rossdale, Kristin Chenoweth, Rene Russo, Patricia Heaton and Jamie Foxx appear in the annual special that raises awareness of foster-care adoption. The broadcast is usually pretty solemn, befitting the subject. If Martin Short can get any laughs from a foster-care theme, I’ll proclaim him a comic genius.

Tuesday, 9 p.m. (ABC)
    The guy who discovered Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, Keri Russell and JC Chasez created this showcase for wannabe child stars who never made it big. Now all grown up, five could-have-beens have a chance to perform for a $50,000 prize and a fresh chance at fame.     Creepy hosts Donny and Marie Osmond are on hand to suggest that, hey, maybe child stardom wouldn’t have worked out so great anyway.
    To fill out the hour, Rediscovered shows the kiddie audition tapes from Spears, Timberlake, Aguilera, Gosling, Russell and Chasez. Just think of all the pain we would have been spared had Spears been rejected at square one.

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