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