Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I've been re-watching Leverage lately -- ripped our DVDs down to my iPad and am watching it while I'm at the gym. And also when I'm just sitting around with nothing else to do. I did all of the first season and am now about halfway through the second. It's quite the addictive little show. Now, I like crime caper shows anyway, but I started thinking about what it is that pulls me so hard about this one. And what, for that matter, pulls me in to any show I watch regularly.

Good storytelling is part of it, but I don't think that's the whole. I've started and then dropped shows that had good storytelling -- and stuck religiously to some shows with barely any storytelling at all.

The answer I keep coming back to is: how much I like the characters. And not just like, but identify with. The more main cast members I can identify with, the more the show will hold onto me.

Leverage has this in abundance. I mean, obviously I'm not a genius thief, but they've all got personality traits that I see in myself. And I think the show's success is that they've hit on a combination of personalities that appeal to almost all people. And, oddly, link more strongly to negative feelings than to positive ones.

Oh, certainly, there's competence and intelligence and strength and charisma, but those aren't the qualities that draw us in. It's the downer ones, really, that make us really identify. We all occasionally feel socially inept. We all feel like we're getting lost in the masks we create to hide behind. We all feel like we're undervalued and under-appreciated. We all get tired of being treated and judged as if we're one-dimensional. We all feel like we're scrambling for control that insists on remaining stubbornly out of our grasp.

And it works, because when a group of people who embody my own shortcomings triumph, it brings that sense of victory and joy straight home. It's not just their win; it becomes mine.

Almost all the shows I've loved and religiously watched did this to some degree. Babylon 5. Firefly. Sports Night. West Wing. Big Bang Theory. Buffy. And when I think about the shows that violate this rule, then I'm looking at a list of shows with some other quality that held me there -- I stayed with Dollhouse despite weak character identification, for example, because I trust Joss Whedon's storytelling and I knew the mindfuck would be glorious (and it was).

That's it. Nothing particularly deep. Just a random musing that fell out of my mental wanderings on the way home from the gym yesterday.

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