Tuesday, September 29, 2009
ABC's CASTLE channels T.V. detective classics like REMINGTON STEELE, MOONLIGHTING.
As a child of the 80's, I grew up on a steady diet of T.V. detective series like Simon & Simon, Magnum P.I., Spencer for Hire, and of course the Scarecrow & Mrs. King. Far and away my two favorite detective series, however, were Remington Steele and Moonlighting. The joy of these two series came from the friction and magnetic draw between their respective romantic leads (Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan in Remington Steele; Cybal Shepherd and Bruce Willis in Moonlighting).
For years I've waited for another series that would crackle with the humor and sex appeal of these two fantastic series, and finally my prayers have been answered. ABC's sophomore series Castle (Mondays, 10 Eastern) takes the best of each and adds better mysteries.
Series star Nathan Fillion combines the charm of Brosnan's Remington with the playful roguery of Willis' David Addison to create Richard Castle, a wealthy celebrity crime novelist who, to research his next book, begins to shadow a female police detective named Kate Beckett (relative newcomer, Stana Katic), a tough and fiercely independent woman in the mold of Stephanie Zimbalist's Laura Holt. Castle drives Beckett crazy in more ways than one, but he also helps her solve crimes with his knack for offbeat plot-twists. The show sizzles with style, sexual tension, spot-on comedy, great performances, and some of the best mystery writing on television today.
Castle is not a forensic procedural. It isn't focused on the science of crime, so it relies on its characters ability to think creatively through the problems, to solve the mysteries with outside-of-the-box thinking. Since Castle is himself an author of mystery novels, the writers have to stretch a little more to create unusual crime scenes worthy of stumping him a bit or leading him down a few blind alleys.
This season in particular seems to be channeling Remington Steele, from the new introductory opening that pays tribute to Stephanie Zimbalist's original title sequence voice-over from season one of Reming Steele, to the moment in the above episode in which Castle breaks the case by making a connection to Strangers On A Train (Brosnan's Remington often referenced classic cinema when trying to solve a case; last night's Strangers On A Train moment was actually a very clever gag playing off the old Remington Steele shtick — when Castle references the title, the police detectives ask if he means the Hitchcock film, and he answers that actually, he prefers the book). That the producers clearly appreciate the work of their antecedents is all the more a tribute to this show's attention to quality.
In any case, I'm happy that most of the shows I'm watching right now are popular favorites, but Castle's ratings could stand to improve. Therefore, I implore you, if you loved 80's detective shows as much as I did, give Castle a chance. I think you'll be glad you did.