Tuesday, March 10, 2009

TV REVIEW: ABC's "Castle"

The last time Nathan Fillion ("Firefly") was in a successful TV series was back in the late 90s' "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place." Since then, he's bounced around from TV to film never really headlining anything hailed by the critics. That might change with ABC's "Castle." After all, he has the killer formula: police procedural + smart ass non-cop crime solver + annoyed female counterpart + loads of sexual tension. That's pretty much the makeup of at least three shows ("Bones," "The Mentalist," and technically "Life") already on television. What it really comes down to is whether Fillion can summon the right amount of chemistry with his costar Stana Katic (Quantum of Solace and The Spirit).

Fillion's character, Richard Castle, is introduced as a rambunctious, best-selling, fiction writer who is being hounded by his publisher (and ex-wife) to submit his next manuscript, which is several weeks late. He killed off his most famous character and is crippled by writer's block, which is ultimately cured by Katic's character Detective Kate Beckett. She requested his consultation on a case where an alleged copy cat killer was paying homage to his crime novels. Once the case was solved--I'm glad they didn't drag it on all season--Castle realized that his new inspiration came in the form of a spunky, no-bullshit female with a cloudy past. He gathered--just by looking at her, a la Mentalist--that she's very well educated, grew up in Manhattan, and is driven by the fact that someone she cared about was murdered by someone who was never caught. So with the permission of the mayor, he will trail her on every case and profile her for his new novel series, which, of course, she's not excited about.

I think it'll be interesting to watch how they work together though. In this episode, they examined the case from two different perspectives. While she went the traditional cop route, he picked at it from the position of a person who was telling a story--always look for the better plot scenario. It isn't just that a guy kills his sister and frames her patient to become the sole heir to their ailing father's fortune. It's also that that ailing father never respected him and refused to pay his mounting debts. Tada! Motive.

It's also refreshing to see a non-cop investigator get excited about doing cop tasks. Patrick of "The Mentalist" and Brennan of "Bones" hardly get excited about the police aspect of investigating. Ok, so occassionally Brennan insists on handling a gun, but Richard was absolutely ecstatic about apprehending the killer.

While Kate is a bit of a mystery--aside from the fact that she's actually a secret Castle fan--Patrick's life is very much an open book. His super old mother is on the prowl for a new hubbie, and she uses what she refers to as "graydar" to find the single ones. His teenage daughter is a dedicated student, who doesn't live the wild and crazy life that her father wants her to. He's the kind of guy who gets arrested so often that he has the mayor--a fan--on speed dial. He's even the kind of guy who's honored to have a copycat killer. It's like Kate said, "He is a like a nine year old on a sugar rush--totally incapable of taking anything seriously."

They work well together, but like every police procedural, the cases can become tedious.

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