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Published: Saturday, 3/7/2009

Story is tired, but good cast elevates crime drama 'Castle'

BY ROB OWEN
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE
Nathan Fillion portrays mystery novelist Richard Castle. Nathan Fillion portrays mystery novelist Richard Castle.
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There's nothing in ABC's Castle viewers haven't seen a million times before, but the cast elevates the pedestrian material.

Nathan Fillion brings the rakish charm he displayed in Firefly to this procedural crime drama. He plays a celebrated mystery novelist, Richard Castle, who gets dragged into a murder investigation when NYPD Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) recognizes real-life crime scenes that copy scenes in Castle's books.

Castle and Beckett assume roles in the relationship that are pretty standard: She's the no-nonsense, by-the-book, disapproving type. He's the party boy who likes to antagonize her. She looks for the evidence in a crime scene; he seeks out a story that helps the crime make sense.

"A control freak like you with something you can't control?" says one of Beckett's squad-room colleagues of her pairing with Castle. "That's gonna be like Shark Week."

Katic's Beckett is necessarily stiff, but unnecessarily bland. Fortunately, Fillion and other cast members make up for Beckett's lack of personality in the premiere episode at 10 p.m. Monday, locally on WTVG-TV, Channel 13.

Susan Sullivan (Greg's mom on Dharma and Greg) whoops it up as Castle's Broadway-diva mother who trolls his book-launch party looking for a new beau.

"I just got a hit on my graydar," she says, eyeing an older gentleman. "Stand back, kids. Momma's going fishing."

Castle also benefits from the presence of young actress Molly Quinn as Castle's precocious and more grounded teen daughter. And the pilot has an enjoyable scene of Castle playing poker with real-life novelists James Patterson and Stephen J. Cannell, who also worked as a TV producer (Rockford Files, The A-Team) and is the real-life godfather of Castle executive producer/director Rob Bowman.

On first glance, Castle seems more suited to a one-shot film rather than an ongoing series - how many killers could possibly imitate scenes from one author's books? - but Monday's premiere addresses that in its final moments, setting up a reason for Castle and Beckett to squabble and continue their love-hate (ultimately love, no doubt) relationship on a weekly basis. It's a tired premise, but if the writers can give Beckett more personality - and if Katic can imbue the role with more dimensions - Castle might be a palatable program for viewers who tune in after Dancing with the Stars.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen is the TV editor for the Post-Gazette.

Contact him at:

rowen@post-gazette.com



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