26 March 2009 | cchase
Fillion is "King" Of This CASTLE...
Oh, yeah, we've seen this one before....Irresistible-force-meets-immovable object. Opposites attract. Oil and water. Fire and ice...you know the drill. The problem is that when you have a pairing that mixes snappy patter and grudgingly mutual admiration with just a touch of sexual tension, the recipe is only going to be as good as the charisma of the two leads involved, whether it's a sitcom, dramedy or police procedural.
CASTLE wants to be a mix of all three, and fortunately one of the most valuable weapons in its arsenal is the rakish charm of its featured lead actor, former FIREFLY star Nathan Fillion. I can count the number of actors on one hand who can pull off the "charming rascal" vibe in a way that never gets old, and Nathan can do those guys in his sleep. (And probably has.)
But he also knows how to modulate them as the occasion warrants, and where in his former role as Captain Mal Reynolds he could definitely play the bad-ass card when needed, here as womanizing bad-boy, party animal and bestselling novelist Rick Castle, he's a whole lot less serious. Bored with the cop character who has been his bread-and-butter for a string of chart-busting crime thrillers, Rick has decided in his latest tome to blow his hero's brains out, thus making a continuance of the series a little difficult to say the least. It wouldn't be a problem if the laid-back Lothario weren't suddenly faced with a major case of writer's block. But inspiration is coming in the most fortuitous if unlikely of ways.
A serial killer has decided to rehash some of the more gruesome deaths from Castle's earlier novels, and it's up to the very attractive (of course!) and no-nonsense detective Kate Beckett (newcomer Stana Katic) to crack the case...which of course will require the assistance of a certain writer of whose books Detective Beckett is a closet fan. But a fan of smart-alecky guys who like to make very unsubtle passes at her? Not so much. Let the games and one-upmanship begin!
At first blush, you could easily accuse CASTLE of trying too hard, especially since matched with the seasoned experience of Fillion, the jury was out on Katic's ability to keep up with him in the first few episodes (at least it was for me.) And to enhance its credibility, the pilot even threw in some heavy hitters in guest cameos - James Patterson, no stranger himself to the crime fiction genre, and Stephen J. Cannell, who used to crank out pilots for series just like CASTLE over breakfast.
But creator Andrew Marlowe left nothing to chance with this one, knowing full well that no matter how great a character is, he's nothing without a good backstory and some fascinating support players. Here these come in the form of Rick Castle's teenage daughter, Alexis (Molly C. Quinn), whom of course is the real 'adult' in their relationship - probably her way of rebelling against her lovable father who nevertheless lives the lifestyle of a guy half his age, and their temporary roommate who also happens to be his mother, former stage and screen star Martha Rodgers (Susan Sullivan in a turn that makes Shirley MacLaine in POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE look like a dowdy matron). Once you meet Martha, suddenly Rick's personality makes perfect sense.
As with any new series, this one will take some time to really settle into the groove it needs to capture a wider audience, but with the growing ease of the push-and-pull relationship between Fillion and Katic's characters, it could very well become the next "MOONLIGHTING" or "REMINGTON STEELE"...which wouldn't be a bad thing. Crime procedurals have been missing that fun element of late, and CASTLE could very well bring it back, without having to resort to a less-successful springboard of surrealism to build from (sorry, LIFE ON MARS).