In the late 90's Quaker released a Cap'n Crunch spinoff in limited quantities called "Oops! All Berries!" The cereal was promoted with an ad campaign depicting some kids taking a tour of the mythical Cap'n Crunch factory. They're told not to touch anything, but then two of the kids pass a giant lever with a sign next to it that says "DON'T PULL THIS LEVER OR ALL THE FILLER PIECES WILL BE TAKEN OUT OF CRUNCHBERRIES AND IT WILL BE ENTIRELY BERRIES." Kid #1 reaches for the lever. Kid #2 says very sarcastically and with a grin he can barely contain, "Don't do that." "Do THIS?" Kid #1 snickers, and yanks the lever down. Crunchberries fill the room, the tour guides panic, and the kids munch their brains out!
Cap'n Crunch himself said that it was a limited time product. But demand made "Oops! All Berries!" last much longer than limited edition cereals usually do; it spent well over a year on the shelf. It was eventually discontinued regardless, because it never occurred to Quaker that no one really wanted the plain flavorless crunch-puffs in Crunchberries.
Many times, I've wished I had that big machine from the ad that separates Crunchberries from normal cornmeal spheres. But not for its original purpose -- I don't eat Cap'n Crunch. What I would really like to do is somehow throw NCIS in there and make the entire show about Abby Scuito.
I don't care about anybody else. Whenever there's a "suspenseful" scene where someone is critically wounded and fighting for life, and it isn't Abby, I yawn. You couldn't shoot Abby anyway; she'd catch the bullet between her teeth and spit it back at you at the same velocity. Without Abby would this show even be on as long? Pauley Perrette hasn't figured this out yet, but she could demand triple what Charlie Sheen demanded from CBS and get it. NCIS would be as boring as NPR without her. Abby is the Crunchberries in this cereal and I want my "Oops! All Abby!" spinoff.
Isn't that always the way? Every time I watch a show, I get hooked on one particular character who isn't a main character. He or she only gets about one or two scenes per episode, and I watch while slowly and unconsciously ripping a hole out of the sofa pillow with my teeth, because it seems like only I can see the potential in this person that ISN'T being exploited! The list is long. Paris Geller from Gilmore Girls. Luanne Platter from King of the Hill. Anna Wu from Chuck (that story's REALLY sad). Temari from Naruto. Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Parker from Leverage.
Wait, I forgot......you don't know what Leverage is. It's this show that comes on TNT occasionally, and they actually film it here in Portland -- that's what all those explosions you hear coming from downtown are about. Leverage is about a middle-aged alcoholic who worked for an insurance company, investigating fraud, until that company wouldn't pay to save the life of his own kid. In retaliation, he not only quits but gathers a team made up of the con artists and grifters he was hunting and uses them to bring down the company CEO. That'll learn him! After they do that, they decide being good feels better than being bad and they stay together to help others.
Every episode of Leverage follows this formula: somebody comes to Middle-Aged Alcoholic with a sob story about how a rich heel caused a personal tragedy. They don disguises and pull a con job on the powerful jerk, which works at first. Then suddenly, a complication happens! But then they reveal they anticipated the complication and planned ahead to thwart it, OR they thought up a brilliant backup plan that just happened to work. The jerk loses his money and is publicly disgraced, while the victim gets whatever they lost recovered. Unless this is a season finale, in which case the team will fail and be horribly screwed, and then have to wait for the next season pickup to resolve it.
If I made it sound awful, it isn't. It would only be bad if they took it seriously. TNT may think they "Know Drama," but Leverage is as dramatic as The Unusuals was "gritty." It's more comedy than anything else. Plus, a Great Recession version of The A-Team can be very therapeutic for the powerless proletariat with no future, such as you. The team consists of Timothy Hutton, Carmen Sandiego, Axel Foley, Bret "Hitman" Hart, and......Parker.
That's it, just "Parker." That's all anybody knows. That may be all she knows.
Parker is, put simply, the greatest thief in the entirety of the world. Everyone else can sneak around with varying degrees of competence, but there is no security system, no matter how overdone and ridiculous, that Parker cannot bypass in her sleep. If you have something that Parker wants, you might as well give it to her, because she's going to get it eventually and there's nothing you can do about it. She could steal the Statue of Liberty in thirty seconds, and nobody would know it was gone until the next morning. If there's a way to pass through a black hole, Parker knows of it.
Middle-Aged Alcoholic pretty much hit the jackpot when he picked this one, but there's one catch. Parker is incapable of doing anything else, especially relating to other people. She isn't exactly Rain Woman, but she fits into social situations about as well as I do, which isn't a good thing.
In the "sob story beginning" of one episode, Carmen Sandiego is replaced by Parker since Carmen wasn't around at the time. "I'm still not entirely sure I can trust you people," the victim says nervously. Parker puts a consoling arm on the woman's shoulder and says soothingly, "It's okay. We don't trust you either." Parker is much like Kanye West at the Grammys. "What? Taylor Swift! But Beyonce is MY FRIEND! I know! I can do a good deed!" She means well, but other people are like aliens to her and vice-versa. It makes the art of espionage a little difficult.
This dichotomy is what makes the character work so well and what makes her deeper and far more interesting than anybody else. Physically, Parker is unstoppable. Emotionally and mentally, she's more broken than an iPhone dropped from two feet. But why and how?
Not much is known about Parker's backstory, except for this:
Just so you don't panic and think that something happened to someone important, those weren't her parents, but one of her many foster parents. Parker is an orphan that got tossed around like a hot potato. No one ever loved her, so she withdrew into herself and eventually learned how to live alone by simply taking whatever she needed. The Leverage team are probably the first friends she's ever had. Now don't you feel bad for reacting in shock to what you just saw?
The rest of the team does their best to try to help Parker, but she's just too clever to be tamed.
My favorite Parker quote is from "The Bank Job." Parker and Axel Foley are working surveillance inside a hot van in the middle of Arizona. Axel Foley complains not only about the heat, but that his Internet connection is so lousy it took him an hour to torrent one Doctor Who episode. Immediately, Parker says this:
I guess that would be believable if it weren't coming out of a chronic kleptomaniac and the most skilled and prolific thief in the world. But she'd never torrent Doctor Who!
I love how clean her dive out the window is at the end, and how it would kill anybody else but Parker.
So what happens when you get Parker angry? Very few have dared to try. The first one got stabbed with a fork, and the show never followed up to reveal if he lived or not. Jeri Ryan once got on her bad side, and within seconds Parker was holding her by her neck at the edge of a skyscraper. Star Trek fans be damned, you don't pork with the Park. Ryan was there because Carmen Sandiego got pregnant and the birth coincided with several weeks of shooting time. The replacement made no sense storywise because by that point Carmen was the mother figure holding that group together and was very unlikely to leave for any reason. Parker had the right idea.
Though she's wild as any zoo-lu and is just as hard to tame, everybody loves Parker just the same. Axel Foley might love her more than just the same. I'm sure that'll develop into something in about four or five seasons from now, but it's a bit stretched. Parker is so spaced out and dangerous I can't see anybody truly falling for her.
Can you believe Parker was created by the same people who made those horrible Librarian TV-movies a few years back? The underwhelming Catherine Bell miniseries The Triangle was also theirs. How could they make such dull and uninspired characters first and THEN invent something like Parker? Practice makes perfect, I suppose. They're lucky they were given so many chances.
Leverage does well enough for itself to get renewed repeatedly, but I fear it will always be the Parker of the TNT lineup. Once The Closer ends, something else will take its place as their #1 original attraction, not this. Like its characters, it will always be the oddball underdog, but scrappy enough to survive. Parker needs more love -- not only from her team, but from her network and her viewers. In fact, Parker JPEGs should have become a 4chan meme a long time ago.
Get cracking on these!
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