TV Eye

Murder, He Wrote

Nathan Fillion stars as a crime writer shadowing a reluctant cop in ABC's <i>Castle</i>.
Nathan Fillion stars as a crime writer shadowing a reluctant cop in ABC's Castle.

As a general rule, I don't like procedurals (the CSIs, the Law & Orders), whodunits, or mysteries. But I love me some Nathan Fillion. His name attached to a new police/murder mystery/procedural series? Sure, I'm there!

Fillion is one of the actors you've seen around for a while. Handsome in a ranch-hand-meets-boy-next-door kind of way, most may remember him from his short-lived role as Dr. Adam Mayfair on Desperate Housewives or as Keri Russell's love interest in the 2007 indie film Waitress. Joss Whedon fans know him as Malcolm Reynolds in the short-lived TV series Firefly and its big-screen rendition, Serenity. I first noticed Fillion when he played the self-righteous and oh-so-twisted devil's disciple, Caleb, in the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now Fillion gets to headline another series, one that I believe will have some staying power thanks to the chemistry between Fillion and co-star Stana Katic.

The new series is Castle, named for Fillion's character, Richard Castle, a wildly successful mystery novelist who loves the partying, the women, and the adoring fans but is bored with his work. He mystifies his agent (who is also his ex-wife), his colleagues, and his readers when, in his latest book, he kills off his central character, thereby ending his series. Castle sees this as an opportunity to start anew. But too much freedom, it seems, has given him a serious case of writer's block.

Detective Kate Beckett (Katic) is one of Castle's readers. When she recognizes a lavish murder scene as a re-creation from one of Castle's books, she contacts the writer, thinking maybe the murderer is a fan gone amok. It's a move she instantly regrets, as he plainly gets on her nerves. Castle fancies himself something of an honorary detective, since he's written so much about police work, which irritates the no-nonsense Beckett, who paid her dues on the streets. On top of that, Castle is a terrible flirt. Beckett might be attracted to the writer, but she's still nursing past wounds. She's happy when the case ends. But that's where the real headache begins. Because of his connections, Castle gets permission to glom on to Beckett (research for his next blockbuster) for an indefinite time – to shadow her, second-guess her, ask too many questions, and generally drive her up the wall. It's a match made in TV heaven.

Richard Bowman is Castle's executive producer. A former producer for The X Files, he is well versed in the opposites-attract premise. But Castle is more quick-witted than the X and less daffy than Moonlighting, another inspiration. And unlike Murder, She Wrote (the 1984 series featuring Angela Lansbury's crime-solving writer), Castle seems entirely plausible. Murder, She Wrote was set in itty-bitty Cabot Cove, Maine – which had more murders per capita than Wasilla, Alaska, has meth labs. Murder was eventually moved to New York (where Castle is set), but that could not save the musty series.

Castle is anything but musty. Snappy dialogue, sexual tension between two appealing characters, a big city backdrop, and what do you know – a decent murder mystery, as well. All of it with charmed casting. Supporting roles include Susan Sullivan (Dharma & Greg) as Castle's flamboyant mother and Texas-born newcomer Molly Quinn as his level-headed daughter, Alexis (who lights up the screen). And then there's the real chemistry between Fillion and Katic (Quantum of Solace). Perfectly matched, attractive, and smart, they bring new life to familiar roles, delivering witty dialogue as easily as tossed confetti. Katic is especially intriguing as Beckett – private, cool, professional, yet wounded. As the peacock of the pair, Fillion manages to make Castle enormously likeable. And maybe we'll learn that there's more to that rascal than meets the eye. The good news is, Castle makes you entirely curious to tune in and find out.

Castle premieres Monday, March 9, 9pm on ABC.


What Else Is On?

Will Ferrell: You're Welcome America: A Final Night With George W. Bush. The presentation of the live performance from the Cort Theatre in New York (where Ferrell has been performing his solo show to sold-out audiences) debuts March 14, 8pm, on HBO.

End of life: The quirky police drama Life on Mars (ABC) will not be renewed. Unlike prior cancellations on the alphabet network (Eli Stone, Dirty Sexy Money), Life on Mars' writers will have a chance to end the series with dignity.

As always, stay tuned.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Castle, Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Richard Bowman, Susan Sullivan, Molly Quinn

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