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TV Review: Castle – Nathan Fillion Returns to TV

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Nathan Fillion is just one of those guys I root for. We all have people like that — for one reason or another the people whom they portray on screen captures our imagination, the actor has a certain way of carrying themselves, of delivering lines, of doing what they do. For me, Nathan Fillion is one of those guys.

I didn't know who Fillion was back when he was on Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, nor when he appeared as Caleb on Buffy. No, I watched the first sporadically and the second religiously, but I didn't know Fillion. The first time I realized I enjoyed watching him was, I think, when many Fillion fans realized it — with the premiere of Firefly. Of course, Firefly didn't last all that long, so I didn't really have a good chance to know Fillion at the time, I just knew that I was intrigued.

By the time he appeared, three years later, in Serenity, I was well aware of who Fillion was. I had watched all of Firefly on DVD, and had been looking forward to the film for some time. Of course, I didn't only seek out Fillion as Malcolm Reynolds; I watched him in Slither, an episode or two of Drive, Waitress, Desperate Housewives, and last night (and the reason I'm telling you all of this) on Castle.

Castle is ABC's new show with a terribly old premise – killer uses writer's work to commit serial slayings, at least that's what happens in the pilot. The writer, Richard Castle, is played by my old friend Nathan Fillion, and opposite him is Stana Katic as Kate Beckett, the police officer hunting down the brutal murderer. Castle is juvenile, sophomoric, and goofy, but has a great eye for people, and Beckett is the world-weary, nose to the grindstone cop. You know how it goes — she doesn't want to work with Castle, but as Castle may be able to shed insight onto the killer she has no choice.

It could be a one-off, two-hour, made for television movie, but it's not. See, Castle just killed the character he's written several successful novels about, and is looking for a new hero. See where this is going yet? That's right, by the end of the episode Castle has decided that his new character will be based on Beckett, and that he needs to spend time with her, following her around, in order to get a feel for how to write her. She's against it, but as Castle is buds with the mayor, she's got no choice.

It's hammy, clichéd, and forced, but at least it's an opening and shows have proceeded with less of a plot. Think about it — guy drops academic fiancée off at a sports bar while he goes to see his ex, guy doesn't return, fiancée gets a job at that bar, show becomes massive success. See, shows have worked magic with less. I'm not saying that Castle will be the success Cheers was, but I'm not counting it out because of the weak excuse to continue.

No, far more concerning in last night's episode were the rest of the stock characters – ex-wife who happens to be publisher of Castle's novels, goody two shoes daughter, boozy flirty mother. It's almost as though the series has created broad, shallow characters who could have appeared in Castle's books to surround their main character. Now, if that's the case, I can take it as something of a joke and move on, but I'm not yet convinced enough that they were intended to be so stereotypical. Only time will tell there.

Fillion and Katic do seem like fun, and hopefully more deep, characters than we were led to believe, and the show did have a couple of good scenes in it. Of particular note was one where Castle is playing cards with some unnamed other authors. Those authors were Stephen Cannell and James Patterson, and they were kind of just thrown in there. References were made so that you could work out who they were, but show didn't smack you over the head with it which was nice.

A few good moments every episode, a few good murder mysteries, and characters who get slightly more deep over time, and Castle could turn into a really good show. Right now, the premiere was good enough, and so with Fillion starring I'll be tuning in for a few more episodes at least.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • http://www.valentineonfilm.com Brandon Valentine

    Josh,

    I agree whole-heartedly with your comments. “Castle” echoes traces of FOX’s darling “House” and CBS’s successful “The Mentalist.”

    Now that the pilot has set up the premise, it will be interesting to see if the show can maintain originality and avoid cliches.