March 10th, 2009



In the annals of TV, the only type of character who shows up more often than doctors and lawyers is the crime-solver. They're not always cops, sometimes they're private investigators, sometimes they're amateur sleuths who keep falling into mysteries. Sometimes they're even gamma-radiated scientists wandering the country in anonymity or fugitive doctors running from a frame-up. But the one thing they all have in common is that they solve the crime of the week.

And now we can add to the already mountainous plethora of such shows ABC's new series Castle. It's no surprise that a major network wants another cop show. They're tried and true. No, what's surprising is that Castle isn't bad. In fact, last night's series premiere was pretty darn good.

Not that Castle breaks any new ground. Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion, best known as Mal on Firefly) is a bestselling crime novelist. (The lush, crowded, glamorous rooftop party being thrown to celebrate his latest book release at the start of the episode was the funniest thing I've ever seen, mainly in that no publishers ever throw release parties like that, not even for their bestselling authors. Also, he writes detective fiction, and the party is filled with hot young women who want him to sign their chests, rather than the middle-aged and elderly women and men who make up the majority of the buyers of such novels. But I digress.) Castle is also arrogant and flirtatious. Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic, last seen in The Spirit by all fourteen moviegoers who bothered), whom he's tailing as research for a new book series, is exasperated by him but secretly a big fan of his novels. You know the routine. Also not breaking any new ground are Castle's bitchy, ice-queen ex-wife who's also his bitchy, ice-queen publisher, his young, precocious daughter who acts more like an adult than he does, in effect becoming his mother, and his actual mother who's a drunken floozy but in that charming TV way rather than the nightmarish, depressing real-life way. Let's hope they all get toned down a bit in subsequent episodes.

What makes it work, though, is the chemistry. Fillion and Katic work really well together. And I love that Katic's Detective Beckett isn't glamorous at all. She doesn't dress pretty, she doesn't have gorgeous hair or makeup. She comes off as a real woman, not a male TV exec's fantasy of what a hot female detective should look like. It's kind of refreshing. And Fillion is absolutely charming. He has a natural ease in front of the camera that makes the viewer can't help but like him.

Castle is hardly a bastion of originality, at least not right out of the gate (the first mystery involves murders taken from Castle's own books, and I've lost track of how many times I've seen that plot before), but it has its charms. It's sort of like Murder, She Wrote meets Bones. In a good way.