The simple answer to the question is YES, they are worth the hype for a lot of people. LEGOman273's post is right, but it goes even beyond that. The figures spark the imagination of what you can do; I look at some of these figures and the MOC just appears in my head... Three Musketeers, The Three Weird Sisters (witches) from MacBeth, all the classic b-horror movie figures. On top of that, you get the every day city folks to flesh out your city layout (if you're into that); the skateboarders, medical personal, better policemen (IMO) than what they release in sets, computer programmers...
And then there's that some of these make incredibly awesome little gifts... I've been saving graduates (a lot of kids in my extended family), I've been collecting programmers to give to people at work (because it's what we do), I've been giving Statues of Liberty to people that I know that have recently become U.S. citizens. No doctors in the family, don't know any skateboarders, but I can easily see how a lot of these figures can be used that way.
On top of all that, you get the army builders... I'm guilty, too. I have a dozen elves and a dozen "evil" dwarves. I don't army build like some, but for some people these CMFs are god-sends.
Lastly, as has been mentioned many times, all the different new faces and parts and torsos... outstanding.
I am to the point where, after having ordered by the box a couple of times, I think it's actually more cost effective for me to just order the box. I do enjoy "feeling" the packets, but I do that even when I get the whole box in order to sort them out. I verify my counts with Whitefang's reviews; I open up a complete set for display (all 112 at the moment), keep a sealed set for posterity, and trade away and use the others. I'm the big LEGO fan in my family, but EVERYONE likes them - both kids and my wife, they always pick a few from each series that they'd like, so I end up having to get even more than what's in the box, but I get to use extras for trading. Finally, when the MOC ideas start flowing, I try to trade for extras of those figures, too. See my signature if you want to trade!
My complete set of the first five series, 80 figures in four cases:
DSCF0851 by FredJH, on Flickr
So yes - they may not be for everybody, but people get just as excited for these as others do for other themes. I think they were a fantastic idea.
Edited by fred67, 23 May 2012 - 09:08 PM.