Castle Series 3 PREVIEW

Main cast including Beckett and Castle (centre). Pics: Alibi

Rating ★★★½

Alibi, Wednesdays, 9pm, from 9 March 

The recent vogue in UK television has been for crime series to become distressingly grim. An episode of Taggart recently featured three child murders, while the opening episode of Silent Witness included the rather gratuitous rape and murder of a child.

The US series Castle is a descendant of a more light-hearted approach to the genre made popular in classic shows such as The Rockford Files and Moonlighting. The arrival of the third series of Castle (on Alibi in the UK) is a ray of sunshine after a winter of bleak cop shows and their bogus portrayals of realism.

Castle is certainly not realistic, but it is fun. Rick Castle is a mystery novelist who, after being called in to help NYPD find a killer using one of his books for copy-cat crimes, becomes interested in developing the detective on the case, Kate Beckett, into a fictional character of his own.

Nathan Fillion

‘Richard Castle, you’re under arrest for murder’
Pulling strings with the mayor’s office, he wangles permission to keep shadowing Beckett as she works on cases.

As season three begins, Castle is nowhere to be seen. Beckett and her team are investigating the murder of a woman called Chloe. In the window of a bookshop near the crime scene is a life-size cut-out of Castle, his research with Beckett apparently having paid off with a new bestseller.

Becket, Ryan and Esposito check an address connected to Chloe. They realise there’s an intruder in the apartment and draw their guns. In the bedroom, standing over another dead body is a mystery man with a gun.

It is, of course, Castle. Beckett slaps on the cuffs.

Stana Katic

Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic
Castle is played by Desperate Housewives‘ Nathan Fillion, who switches delightfully between blasé, vain, flirtatious and tender (in the scenes with his daughter).

The verbal ping-pong between Castle and Beckett – Canadian actress Stana Katic – is where the show’s magic lies, rather than in the sleuthing. ‘I thought you were being rough with cuffs for fun,’ he says innocently.

Referring to his second ex-wife and publisher, she says, ‘Does she make make you do everything on a deadline?’ Ouch.

Castle is often way ahead of the cops
Pulling off this kind of banter while making us care that the characters should eventually consummate their attritional flirting (which can last years) is the work of skilful screenwriters and actors. The BBC’s effort at this kind of thing – last summer’s Vexed with Toby Stephens – lacked the confidence and panache of Castle by a long way.

Would Castle really be allowed to sit on the questioning of murder case witnesses, or get involved in shootouts? Hardly, but none of this gets in the way of our enjoyment of the will-they-won’t-they relationship.

Part of the joke is also that Castle is often ahead of the cops, and is a lot smarter than Beckett’s lunkhead assistants, Esposito and Ryan.

How does the burlesque club figure in the murders?

The Lady from Shanghai
American writers have the knack of making TV shows work on several levels, and Castle has nice touches in Rick’s relationship with his daughter and mother, the sparks with Beckett, and the crime stuff.
Here they connect the victims with a shady burlesque club, and the climax is a pastiche of the hall of mirrors shootout from The Lady from Shanghai

Last month, ABC in America renewed Castle for a fourth series. Nice to know there’s still a cop show out there with a smile on its face.

Nathan Fillion (Richard Castle), Stana Katic (Kate Beckett), Jon Huertas (Javier Esposito), Seamus Dever (Kevin Ryan), Susan Sullivan (Martha Rodgers), Molly C Quinn (Alexis Castle), Tamala Jones (Lanie Parish), Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Captain Roy Montgomery)
• See why crimetimepreview interviewee and crime author Bill Crider finds Castle to be a guilty pleasure


Third Degree: Bill Crider

Award-winning Texan mystery novelist Bill Crider is hauled into crimetimepreview HQ to answer questions about his criminal viewing proclivities…

Your favourite British crime series or thriller on TV?
Is Z Cars still on? I even have a novelization of that one. But currently, it would be Sherlock.

Favourite US crime series or thriller on TV?
At the moment, Terriers, but only because Justified is on hiatus.

Top TV cop?
An easy one. Joe Friday [Dragnet], hands down.

Which unfilmed book/character should be made into a TV drama?
You mean aside from my books, right? Then I’d have to say Lee Child’s Jack Reacher should become a movie franchise for someone.

If one of your novels were filmed, who would you cast to be the hero?
I used to think James Garner would be great as Sheriff Dan Rhodes. Now, maybe Tommy Lee Jones.

What do you watch with a guilty conscience?
I hardly ever feel guilty about watching TV, but I do feel a bit that way about Castle.  I’m not fond of the mystery elements or the procedure, but I like Nathan Fillion and his mother and daughter. 

Least favourite cop show/thriller?
I’ve never been fond of any of the CSI franchise. I watched a couple of shows but couldn’t get interested.

Do you prefer The Wire or The Sopranos?
The Wire.

Marple/Poirot or Sherlock Holmes?
Holmes, but then I started reading him a few years before I discovered Christie.

US or British television crime dramas?
Mostly I watch the US shows if I watch at all.

Your favourite crime/thriller writers?
Far too many to name, but I love the old stuff by Hammett, Chandler, and Ross MacDonald. And then there are John D MacDonald, Harry Whittington, Gil Brewer, Day Keene, Donald Hamilton and don’t get me started. I could keep going for far too long.  Brits: Alistair MacLean, Eric Ambler, Dick Francis, Jack Higgins (especially the earlier books), and many more.

Favourite non-crime/thriller author
Again, too many to name.  I was an English major in college, and I love reading just about anything.  US writers: Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Joseph Heller, and on and on and on. Brits: Dickens would be at the top of the list, but I like Maugham, Forster, and a host of others.  More contemporary, George MacDonald Fraser.

Favourite crime movie or thriller?
Tough call.  If I had to name just one, it would probably be the Bogart’s The Big Sleep, but Chinatown is a close second.

You’ve been framed for murder. Which fictional detective/sleuth would you want to call up?
Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer. He’s the kind of guy who’d keep on digging until he found out the truth of the matter.

• Bill Crider’s 17th novel in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery series, Murder in the Air, is out now.

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