Tuned In: Charming "Castle"

Nathan Fillion stars in new ABC crime drama

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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 for "Castle," Fillion and other cast members make up for Beckett's lack of personality in the premiere episode.

Susan Sullivan (Greg's mom on "Dharma & 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 tomorrow'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."

Contact TV editor Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/t


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