Greetings to the New Show: “Castle”

Nathan Fillion is one of those actors who just about everyone loves. There are exceptions to this, I’m sure, since nobody is universally adored, but based on my experience, girls tend to think he’s hot, most guys think he’s pretty cool, both genders think he’s funny, and just about everyone can imagine having a drink with the guy. That’s why we hate it when he ends up on a show that deserves to succeed but doesn’t (“Firefly,” “Drive”) or, worse, find himself within a series that isn’t nearly as good as he deserves…like, say, “Castle.”

Given that the guy’s coming off a relatively successful stint on “Desperate Housewives” as well as a phenomenal re-teaming with Joss Whedon (“Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”), you’d think that Fillion would be looking for the best of all possible projects, in order to build on his career momentum. Unfortunately, there’s just no way “Castle” is going to be that project.

Brought to you by Andrew W. Marlowe, a man responsible for writing flicks like “Air Force One,” “End of Days,” and “Hollow Man,” the premise of “Castle” sounds like something that would’ve emerged during the 1980s. Famous mystery novelist Richard Castle (Fillion) is called in to help the NYPD solve a copycat murder based on his novels, and after teaming up with attractive young detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), he decides to write a new series of novels using her as the basis of the lead character…and given that he’s friends with the mayor, it’s easy for him to pull a few strings and be allowed to work alongside Beckett when she’s on a case.

The semi-good news? The premise allows for gimmicky cameos by famous authors such as James Patterson and Stephen J. Cannell, both of whom turn up as Castle’s poker-playing cronies in the first episode, and provided you remember that most authors aren’t going to be great actors, it’s a fun idea.

The bad news? Nothing else in “Castle” is nearly as much fun.

The show thrusts Castle and Beckett together, force-feeds us the fact that they have completely different personalities, and does so in a way where we’re clearly supposed to root for them to eventually get together. It’s straight out of the textbook for Romantic Action-Comedies 101…you know, the one that’s packaged with the Sledgehammer of Subtlety…and even with Fillion’s natural charisma, it never fails to feel anything less than forced. The fact that there’s limited chemistry between Fillion and Katic certainly doesn’t help things, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that he does have chemistry with at least one cast member: Molly Quinn, who plays Castle’s daughter, Alexis. Although I was unimpressed with the majority of the pilot, the scenes between Fillion and Quinn are great. Indeed, it’s where we get to see the real Castle, which is probably why it feels so painfully fake when he and Beckett are making with the dodgy banter.

Will I tune back in for more “Castle”? I gotta be honest with ya, folks: we’ve reached a point where there’s so much great TV on the air that I just can’t be bothered to wait for a show to find its footing. That’s not to say that I won’t listen if viewers drop me a line and assure me that it’s gotten better and feels less forced, and I’m always willing to check out a show when its DVD set is released. But after watching the pilot of “Castle,” my instinct is to take a pass and just wait and see where Nathan Fillion turns up next…because, although I’m willing to admit that I could be wrong, my suspicion is that he’ll be moving on to greener pastures far sooner than later.

  

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