I've been watching a number of shows that have had even more clearly heroic characters than normal American television: Robin Hood (UK), Burn Notice, Royal Pains, Kings (wow), and now Leverage. Sure, we have a clear sampling bias... For me, those shows are probably the most available to watch, and least painful, which (again, for me) automatically rules out most of "reality television." Regardless, it is interesting to note common threads in all of them:
1) They all involve the socio-economic elite classes: Robin Hood, an English noble, Michael, a top-trained spy with ease in obtaining/spending cash and a grip on Miami's social scene, Hank consorting/consulting with/for folks in the Hamptons, Silas/David following the path to Biblical immortality, and the whole crew of Leverage, with their untold wealth, amazing talents, and mobility achieved through cleverness and mastery of technologies.
2) The writers on all the shows are very deliberately trying to make all these characters have struggles that add a dark, and therefore interesting tint to the stories; I wouldn't call this contrivance at all, as it feels natural, but I would venture to presume that their archetypes are so strong that they actually need to be made complex enough to sell and keep people hooked on the storytelling. Consider Robin's endless obsession with redemption, torment, and catharsis epitomized in the esteemed Virgin Mary seen through Marian, or the vengeance-obsessed Nathan from Leverage.
3) The illegal-ish wealth re-distribution is another theme, one I'm a fan of, most obviously in Leverage, Burn Notice, and of course Robin Hood.
I'm certain there's more, but I also might guess that the researchers network suits are hiring recognize many people's want for great leadership, as easily read from the US presidential elections of 2008, where someone with a great capacity to rouse people proved victorious, and the overall weariness every well-adjusted person should be feeling over all the sarcastic "irony" that's been in fashion for a while. David's story, as told, especially in this last instalment, directly attacks the cynicism that lacks faith in a destiny-driven leader, just trying to do right things with weaknesses. We need something sacred (please understand this generally, and not exclusively in a religious context), and I think the suits are attempting to comprehend this.
Does anybody else see a trend in "heroic" television? I like it. Sure, the sappy anachronisms present in Robin Hood are excessive, and the medieval-era characters all seem to posses really expensive educations that equip them with Classical philosophy, the wisdoms of Abrahamic traditions (Islam, Judaism, Christianity), and the geoopolitical know-how of regular readers of BBC News; these are all things we (I suppose I'll mean "we" to include "Westerners") recognize as at least present in our cultures, and our brains latch onto them instinctively from collectively religious and intellectual backgrounds; a more situationally accurate, though not as Anglo-centric (our colonizing parents who view the BBC couldn't stand for that) placement of the characters would have put them in Moor-administrated regions of Spain! Still, the presence of the strong hero archetype is nice, and I venture to say, inspiring.