TELEVISION: Castle – Where Murder She Wrote Meets Moonlighting!

Castle’s [ABC, Mondays, 10/9C] Nathan Fillion is a star waiting to happen. If you don’t believe me, just re-screen any of his work on television [Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Desperate Housewives] or movies [Serenity, Waitress] – or the incredibly funny web mini-series, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog – and you’ll see what I mean.

Castle

He has the look of a young Kirk Douglas [right down to the dimpled chin]; the timing of a Groucho Marx, and the acting chops of a Bruce Willis. He has a natural charm and holds the screen like the young Cary Grant. And yet, he’s never had a hit series [though Waitress was a minor theatrical hit].

Castle may change that. The premise melds the mystery writer who solves real mysteries premise of Murder She Wrote with the banter and unresolved sexual tension of Moonlighting – then a dash of police procedural to the mix just to provide an extra layer.

Rick Castle [Fillion] is a full-of-himself mystery writer who has just killed off the main character in his bestselling series and is suffering writer’s block. When two murders are discovered to have been taken from his books, he offers to help the police with their investigation and is partnered with Kate Beckett [Stana Katic, The Closer, The Librarian: Curse of the Judas chalice]. Beckett is a gifted detective who works within the procedural lines and her immediate reaction to the less disciplined Castle is one of distrust and wariness.

When Castle arrives at certain conclusions in his own unique way – conclusions that she has reached through more ordered deductive means, she begins to be impressed and, finally, comes to accept that they make a good team [even if it had to be formed at the behest of the mayor – one of Castle’s biggest fans]. The partnership also inspires Castle to create a new mystery series – about a female police detective!

On the periphery, Castle has a superb supporting cast that includes: Susan Sullivan as Castle’s frequently divorced mother, Martha Rodgers; Molly Quinn as his daughter, Alexis – one of the few grounding influences in his life]; Jon Huertas as a detective who support Beckett, Reuben Santiago-Hudson as Captain Roy Montgomery, and Tamala Jones as the Medical Examiner, Lanie Parish, probably Beckett’s best friend.

The premiere, Flowers for Your Grave, is written by series creator Andrew W. Marlowe and directed with all kinds of Panache by Rob Bowman. In order to introduce the show’s cast, the balance between humor and drama isn’t quite right – everyone gets time enough to give us a solid idea about who they are – but the chemistry between Fillion and Katic definitely has a Willis/Shepherd slow burn to it.

In next week’s ep, Nanny McDead, the balance is better and the cast is not only more comfortable, but more engaging. With everything it’s got going for it, Castle just might become the elusive hit series for Fillion – and it couldn’t happen to a nicer Canadian guy [not to mention his nice, Canadian girl partner].

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