Make no bones about--Nathan Fillion is a television star waiting to happen. But his new ABC series, CASTLE, ain't it.
When I first began seeing the ABC promos, I jokingly called it "BONES 2." Although it is a complete ripoff of BONES, it probably wants to have more in common with MOONLIGHTING (to be fair, BONES also is highly influenced by MOONLIGHTING). And while co-star Stana Katic capably fills Cybill Shepherd's shoes as a stick-in-the-mud female always trying to ruin a guy's fun, Fillion is no Bruce Willis. That's no slam on Fillion, because nobody is as good as Willis was on MOONLIGHTING.
Looking at CASTLE on its own terms, eh, it still isn't much. Fillion is a brash best-selling author of mystery novels named Rick Castle, who lives with his overly precocious 15-year-old daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn) and his oversexed ex-actress mother Martha (Susan Sullivan). So already the cliches are mounting.
Katic is Kate Beckett, an implausibly attractive NYPD homicide detective who, in last week's pilot, is investigating the bizarre murder of a social worker found covered in rose petals. Being a Castle fan, she recognizes the tableau from one of Castle's more obscure books and seeks the author's advice. Castle, attracted to Beckett and stuck for a good story for his next book, pulls some strings with the mayor's office and gets a green light to accompany the detective as a consultant (Castle's knack for deductive reasoning and his partnership with a grouchy brunette cop also reveals the show's debt to CBS' THE MENTALIST).
Creator/writer Andrew Marlowe, whose screenplays for END OF DAYS, HOLLOW MAN, and AIR FORCE ONE aren't exactly renowned for their depth or originality, strikes out here too. CASTLE's premiere, "Flowers for Your Grave," presents a mystery that you hardly need a "master of macabre" to solve, since the killer's identity couldn't possibly be more obvious. The awkward insertion of real-life mystery writers James Patterson and Stephen J. Cannell into the story as Castle's poker buddies is a decent idea badly handled. And the banter between Fillion and Katic is very forced. These two performers just don't have any chemistry together.
As bad an actress as Cybill Shepherd is, and as much as she and Willis despised one another, there's no denying they sparked on-screen. Perhaps the two CASTLE stars should throw more fits in their trailers. I'd be all for it if it helped this limp retread.