Castle Official Site
The Time: Mondays, 10:00 PM, ABC
Richard Castle is a rambunctious and wisecracking best-selling author of crime fiction who has just killed off his golden goose main character because he was bored with him. Now, he’s beset by writer’s block and is wondering what his next move will be. That is until the no-nonsense and driven Detective Kate Beckett pays him a visit and informs him that his help is needed on a murder case. The womanizing and smarmy Castle is instantly smitten with her and throws every cheap line and innuendo her way and generally makes a nuisance of himself at every opportunity, which Beckett is forced to tolerate for the sake of solving the case. But aside from the hijinks, Castle also brings a keen insight and plenty of connections with city government into the case that proves useful. Once the case is solved, Castle convinces the mayor to allow him to tag along on Beckett’s future cases as he researches a new female detective character for his upcoming book, much to Beckett’s chagrin.
• Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle
• Stana Katic as Det. Kate Beckett
• Susan Sullivan as Martha Heath
• Monet Mazur as Gina Cowell
• Ruben Santiago Hudson as Capt. Montgomery
• Molly Quinn as Alexis Castle
The Episode: “Flowers For Your Grave”
Best selling author Richard Castle tags along on Detective Kate Beckett’s serial murder case when she discovers that the killer is taking inspiration for his crimes directly from Castle’s novels. Beckett accurately describes Castle as a “nine year old on sugar,” as he proves to be a raucous bundle of enthusiasm for helping her solve the case…and for getting her into the sack. Beckett is the straight man so to speak to Castle. And while she can barely tolerate his presence (particularly his advances), she can’t deny that he has insights and meaningful contributions to make to the case. Meanwhile, Castle has just found a new model for his next fictional hero, or heroine as the case may be. He also has a 15 year-old-daughter who’s more mature than he is and and an oversexed mother to look after.
I’ve read and heard the scuttlebutt on Castle for a few days now. Most of the more established critics generally have the same thing to say: It’s Murder He Wrote. It’s a Moonlighting wannabe. The show is fluff, breezy, completely unrealistic. Fillion generally delights, but the material is pedestrian…and so on and so forth. For instance, a person that I’d listen to before most of these guys, Hercules over at AICN, hated it. Now, considering most of the issues that the others have brought up, I can’t disagree. The show is an airy, rat-a-tat dialogue cavalcade with novel (no pun intended) ideas about how a murder investigation should go. It’s ridiculously cute, which I typically despise.
Furthermore, it does riff on the Moonlighting formula quite blatantly. It’s essentially The Hard Way if James Woods happened a Croatian former Bond Girl (which I wouldn’t put past him). Castle’s a buddy comedy where the buddies are fated to probably end up in the sack at some point. It’s a tried and true formula of which Bones is currently utilizing quite well and for which Moonlighting definitely blazed the trail. See the thing is though, I loved Moonlighting. Adored it in fact. In a review I once called it the best show of the ’80s. Castle ain’t that show by a long shot. But I did like it.
The obvious attraction (beyond Katic of course, more on that forthwith) is indeed Fillion, who is laying on the charm thick enough to pave any major highway. His Richard Castle is a boisterous dervish of sexism and quips. Beckett sets up the jokes and he tees off on them like Bonds post-cream and post-clear. Fillion is doing what he’s especially good at: being a motivated jester. There’s a fair amount of Captain Mal to be found here, if Mal were more interested in the ass than the job / ship and took the entire experience for a romping drudge.
Fillion was criminally underutilized in Desperate Housewives (yeah, I know, sue me) as Dr. Mayfair, Dana Delaney’s husband. Fillion shines when he can be given some leeway for the snide observations, the droll delivery and the witty repartee. Check out the recent Wonder Woman animated cartoon for his Steve Trevor if you need further proof. This is Fillion’s comfort zone and he gets to indulge in it here like seldom before. As for Katic, well first of all the obvious: she has a simmering attraction that’s never allowed to boil over because you know it could burn down the kitchen if it did. But she also plays the straight girl well against Fillion’s prattling clownishness, although she’s portrayed far too sedate and anal to get the full effect this first go-round. Once she settles into Beckett fully, as Castle is looking to hopefully do, I think the chemistry could improve.
One thing that Moonlighting also had going for it were the quirky cases to complement the unusual Addison / Hayes relationship. Castle takes a stab at that this first go-round, although it comes off quite a bit too overtly for the nuance the show needed. Once the first suspect is caught so quickly, you’re not buying because you know you’re not supposed to buy it. I expect that that will need to improve also if the show is given a chance to find its footing. In terms of the supporting cast of Sullivan and Quinn as Castle’s mother and precocious daughter, respectively, my interest wasn’t really with them, although Sullivan did provide a humorous moment or two, particularly with her “graydar” comment when referring to a potential suitor. It’s not inconceivable that her Mona-like character (a Who’s the Boss? reference for you there) could quickly wear thin if given too much of a dose. And Quinn’s Alexis is just another reminder that next to her at that age, we were all comparatively immature morons, a fact upon which Castle himself remarks.
Liked the little touch of the scene with the cameoing Stephen J. Cannell and James Patterson as Castle’s poker buddies as he was seeking to get a handle on the case. Castle is the brainchild of Andrew W. Marlowe, who wrote the pilot, which was directed by Rob Bowman, who of course has experience in the boy / girl investigative team arena with X-Files. Yeah, the show is breezy fluff, but I think it has potential.