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Building Castles in the Air: An Advance Review of ABC's "Castle"

I've long said that Nathan Fillion deserves a series that's worthy of his talents as an actor and leading man.

Fillion, perhaps best known for his role as the scrappy Mal on FOX's short-lived Firefly (and Universal's subsequent feature film Serenity), has managed to soar above most of the projects he's involved in but mainstream success has sadly eluded him. Most recently Dana Delany's arm candy on ABC's Desperate Housewives, Fillion--who manages to effortlessly combine a brigand's rougishness with the sly charms of a master flirt--should be on a series that utilizes his considerable skills to full effect. Sadly, I don't think that ABC's Castle, which launches tonight, is one that's going to crack the mainstream for Fillion either.

On Castle, created by Andrew W. Marlowe (Hollow Man), Fillion plays the titular character, a best-selling mystery novelist named Richard Castle who's almost as enamored with chasing the ladies as he is with himself. Bored with the success that his books have received, Castle kills off his main series' character and sets about to figure out what to do with his life next. Part of that life involves his precocious daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn) and his boozy, overbearing mother (Susan Sullivan) and ex-Broadway diva prone to breaking out in song. (We get it: he's surrounded by complicated women.)

But Castle's life gets even more complex when a killer begins using his novels as the inspiration behind a series of copycat murders, staging elaborate tableaux that recreate key scenes in Castle's well-known books. Which swiftly brings him into the orbit of tightly wound NYPD Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) who is investigating the murders. Chaos, meet control.

Castle and Beckett instantly form the sort of love/hate bond that only exists in films and television series and, despite their animosity and differences, we're supposed to feel that they are meant to be together. Unfortunately, we're not really shown this as Fillion and Katic have a shocking lack of chemistry together. Fillion's playboy author deserves a romantic ideal that's every bit as complex, devious, layered, and quirky as he is, yet Katic's Beckett is pretty darn dull. She's the type of female character whose severe and unflattering haircut is meant to symbolize how "serious" she is about her career.

And that's part of the problem. Hoping to recall the sort of tension-laden romance that categorized 1980s procedural series like Moonlighting and Remington Steele, Castle lacks all of the energy and verve of those earlier pairings. Even FOX's Bones, with his opposites-attract connection between David Boreanaz's Seeley Booth and Emily Deschanel's Temperance Brennan better approaches that classic screwball formula. Here, I keep hoping that Castle will lose interest and move on to another romantic target rather than waste his time aggressive wooing the dull-as-dishwater Kate Beckett.

The lack of sparks between the lead characters is also a major issue as the unconsummated sexual tension between Beckett and Castle is clearly meant to be the most interesting element of this series. The procedural mysteries, at least based on the two episodes provided to press for review, are pretty formulaic and standard to this type of series. By shadowing Beckett (in the hopes of using her as the basis for a new character), Castle is meant to use his creative skills as a mystery author to solve crimes in a way that the by-the-book (heh) detective can't. Which basically makes Castle Murder, She Wrote with more testosterone and form-fitting jeans.

In fact, there's far more sparkle and effervescence in the scenes between Fillion's Castle and his daughter Alexis (Quinn). Here, Quinn channels a teenager far older than her years who at times has to play the parent in her relationship with her doting yet vastly immature father. It's the playful banter between father and daughter that makes the lack of chemistry between the leads all the more painfully noticeable.

Ultimately, the foundations of this conventional series are pretty creaky and, unless the writers can find a way to inject some semblance of a spark between Fillion and Katic and create some more head-scratching mysteries for this duo to solve, this is one Castle that won't be standing for very long.

Castle launches tonight at 10 pm ET/PT on ABC.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Yeah, when I saw the preview I thought this looked like a show from the 80s that my grandmother would have watched. Too bad because I think Nathan Fillion is very talented but not even his boyish charms can get me to tune in to this.
Anonymous said…
Sounds like they're is trying to rework Californication, but without the sex, drugs and chemistry with the leading lady - so the time is filled with something more ABC.
Page48 said…
Capt. Mal deserves much better than the pure, unadulterated drivel that this appears to be.

"Guy killed me, Mal. He killed me with a sword"
Anonymous said…
I'm gonna give this one a chance.
Anonymous said…
LOL. 3 strikes and you are out Jace. Did not agree with your Lost recap, do not agree with this one. I liked it. Clearly, I am on the wrong blog. You and I do not see things the same. Oh well, variety is the spice of life.
Anonymous said…
@anonymous Wow, you're rude. Me, I'd be too embarrassed to admit that I don't like Lost and I liked this crap. Cause it was CRAP.

Once again I completely agree with your assessment, Jace. Tuned in to see Fillion (swoon!) but found it dull. REALLY don't like Stana Katic (sp?) and agree that they don't have any chemisty. Should have cast Gina Torres instead! :)
Mazza said…
To say that this show was derivative is being kind. I hated it. Even NF couldn't save it for me.
Anonymous said…
Watched it last night, while not perfectly enamored will give it another try, just for Mal, I mean Fillion. ha.

He's so fabulous and deserving of a hot career.
Anonymous said…
I love, love, love Nathan. I will watch him in anything. Having said that, I didn't think Castle was that bad. Not great, but not as bad as some suggest. I did not like the female lead. It's a pet peeve of mine that smart, attractive females in positions of power are always portrayed as uptight bitches. There is zero chemistry between the two. I will give it a chance to see if it improves.
Ally said…
I didn't rewatch this from when I saw this months ago and thought it was terrible.

I thought I would watch anything with NF. I was wrong.

What a piece of crap.
Agree w/ Ruthie. That, I would have watched. They have chemistry.

I tuned in to the last couple of minutes wating for the DVR to change over. I didn't see any chemistry.

I went to another blog where most said the chemistry was sizzling, so I will hold my tongue until I watch the epi in its entirety.

But still, I'm not feeling Stana--she's brittle-and not in the good way. Not feeling the love.

I'll watch out of Mal love, but, so far, meh.
Anonymous said…
@ruthie. Read. I did not say I do not like LOST. I said I did not like/agree with Jace's recap of the last episode. LOST is my 2nd fav show. I liked Castle and can not wait for the 2nd episode. There is nothing rude about telling Jace that I am yet to agre with her. She could not care less I am sure and neither can I. It is just a blog and we are just commenting. She has one more chance and this goes off my fav places to visit. That's all I am saying..LOL.
Anonymous said…
@anonymous Somehow doubt this is one of your fave places to visit if you don't know that Jace isn't a "she". As for you disagreeing, I think it's prob b/c you are one of those stupid Kate/Sawyer shippers so I don't really think your opinion counts. It's not Jace's problem to agree with some anonymous poster 3 out of 3 times. So yeah LOL at you.
Anonymous said…
It's not Jaces problem to agree with me as it is not mine to agree with her/him whatever. Are you mother or sister? I do not see why you have carried this matter on your head. If you are looking for a cause, try starving children. Matter of fact, I disagreed with the entire recap so I do not know what Kate and Sawyer have to do with it. I do like Kate and Sawyer together. If that makes me stupid to you, that's fine. Anyone who prefers a relationship that got 10 minute screen time as opposed to one that you've watched over the years, is at a diff level of stupidity entirely . You can dislike them but to draw a conclusion on the "better" relationship from 10 minutes? Your discerning abilities are severely lacking and being called stupid from such an intellectually challenged individual is a compliment of the highest order. So, thanks, Ruthie. I aim to please.
Page48 said…
Wow, an ultimatum from an anonymous poster!

Get the next recap right, or 'anonymous' is toast. Get right with anon, or anon is gone.

In sports parlance, it's do or die. Next recap is for all the marbles.

Stay tuned.
supernatural said…
I actually agree with anon, so Jace, you better sit up ;)
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http://www.esurveyspro.com/Survey.aspx?id=1d29da2f-7773-436b-8ea2-3cb756a15063

If for any reason you want to forward this message on to anyone who is also from the US (between those ages) it will be much appreciated!

Thanks soo much

Sophie x

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