I’ll admit it: I watched Castle entirely because Nathan “Tight Pants” Fillion stars. It certainly wasn’t because I was feeling a major lack of procedural crime dramas in my life. My Bones obsession not withstanding, I’m not really a huge fan of shows that center around a story-of-the-week murder. But let’s be honest, I’d probably watch the erst-while Malcolm Reynolds eat soap for an hour (especially if it was produced by Joss Whedon).
I wish I could say the Castle pilot was as good as Bones. That’s certainly what it’s aiming for, with its oddball chemistry (she’s a nose-to-the-grindstone cop with a sad story in her past, he’s a playboy crime author with writer’s block) and attempt to add levity to tales of murder and blood. The problem is, at least in the pilot, they’re far too reliant on Fillion’s (not unremarkable) charms to allow us to forgive the fact that he’s an incredibly selfish character. Not only doesn’t he care that some man out there is killing based on his books (in a similar storyline on Bones, Temperance was wracked with guilt), he doesn’t seem to care about the people who die at all, actually going so far as to ask for pictures of the dead bodies to show to his author friends (who cameo in a somewhat overly cute poker game). It’s not that I believe we can’t have reprehensible characters, but that’s not what they’re going for. We have to root for Castle at least a little (he’s the damn title character), and for that I think we need slightly more relatable motivations.
The bigger problem, though, is that they’ve yet to make me care at all about his female counterpart. They spent so much time giving Castle witty lines and sexual innuendos*, but they’ve barely written Kate Beckett. Also, the reason why Bones** will-they-or-wont-they works so well (or at least worked so well for the first three seasons) is because both characters know how inappropriate it would be for them to give in to their desires, and on top of that Brennan is incapable of admitting to her the extent of her feelings for Booth. This gives the show a built in tension. Castle and Kate really could get all sweaty if they desired, and I’m not convinced that Kate finds him annoying enough to not want to give he of the cute-butt a try.
All this being said, it’s a pilot. By their very definition, most pilots are painfully dragged down by exposition and attempts to present us with a snapshot of our characters. Since I’m yet to be a professional reviewers, and networks still don’t send me the first four episodes of a series by which to judge it, I’m holding off condemning. We can call it Firefly-effect, or the Joss-zone, but I am a sucker when it comes to shows starring ex-Whedoners. It’s lucky that Fillion has a gift for seeming like he’s hiding deeper pain underneath a wink. Despite the fact that the pilot doesn’t really given him any of these depths, you’re left with the assumption that there is more. Stana Katic, as Beckett, is no slouch, and I think if the writers take half the time they’ve taken with Castle, they can certainly beef her character up. On top of that, there’s potential in Castle’s family life: the oh-so-wise-beyond-her-years daughter (the only source of humanization for Castle in the pilot), the crazy, booze-hound mother, and the annoyed publisher/ex wife. So yes, I’ll be there next Monday (or two days later on my DVR) to see if Fillion and Katic can up the ante on what seems like an otherwise forgettable cop show.
*You know I’m a fan of sexual innuendos and bad boy smarm, but they’re definitely overplaying it here.
**I’m sorry for all the Bones comparisons, but the show is inviting them.