June 25, 2011

Summer TV Countdown #17: Castle

I'm a huge fan of Nathan Fillion. We're both big fans of Firefly (of course), and we also loved Dr. Horrible. So the prospect of Fillion as a wise-cracking mystery writer hanging out with some homicide police sounded like it would be fun. And it is an enjoyable show, generally.

Here's a basic rundown of the show. Castle is a best-selling mystery writer who uses his clout with the mayor's office to attach himself to Kate Beckett, a hot shot (and also hot) ace homicide detective who is to be the inspiration for a new series of mystery novels. There are a few other supporting characters on the show, who are generally pretty good. Most notable are Ryan and Esposito, two other homocide detectives who generally serve as the comic relief in the series, though thankfully not through the "incompetent cops" trope - they're both good at their jobs. Even better are Castle's family. He lives in a big apartment with his hilarious former Broadway star mother Martha and his teenage daughter Alexis, from one of his previous marriages. All three of them have fantastic chemistry - especially Castle and Alexis, who is smart and does a great job grounding him.

Most of the time it's a fun show - there's some case of the week, they solve it, Castle cracks some jokes, and a good time is had by all. The show also does a decent job with the UST between Castle and Beckett, though it's not nearly as thick as it was between Mal and Inara on Firefly. They have some good capers - my favorite might be the one where they go through secret tunnels in the sewers while investigating some Prohibition era related crime.

However, the show does have a few problems. Whenever it verges into Serious Territory (especially in any of the episodes that focus on the hunt for Beckett's mother's killer) the show is not as good - I often find myself rolling my eyes at some of the cliched Hard Boiled Cops lines in their interrogations etc. I was also extremely annoyed by the season finale (SPOILERS COMING, IF YOU CARE). It gave some resolution to the Beckett's mother storyline...by revealing that Beckett's police captain, who is a regular on the show and is a great guy and great police, has been involved in the coverup for years and is blackmailed in to protect his co-conspirators. He eventually betrays his conspirators and is killed in a firefight protecting Beckett. It pissed me off because it felt completely manufactured by the showrunners who needed to ratchet up the tension for ratings, rather than for any particular plan or character arc on their part. Even more annoyingly, they gave us a "cliffhanger" where Beckett was shot while speaking at his funeral, but where's the suspense there? They're not going to kill off the co-main character and main love interest - this show just doesn't have the kind of balls to do that.

That pretty much sums up my main problem with the show - it's a fun show from week to week when they all run around and solve mysteries. Everyone has great chemistry with everyone else (it's Nathan Fillion's gift), but whenever they try to move away from their basic formula it generally falls on its face.

June 19, 2011

Summer project

I'm still plugging along with my Cubs series previews over at Obstructed View, but it's only a matter of time before my apathy with the AAA product on the field overwhelms me.

Luckily, there's a lot of great tv (and great TV criticism) out there. Now that the "main" TV season is more or less over and the award season is beginning it's been a good time to reflect back on the last year in TV. Last week on TV On The Internet, my favorite new podcast, TV critic Todd Van Der Werff and hilarious co-host Libby Hill along with two other AV Club writers break down their top thirty shows of the last season. You can find the list they cooked up here . I haven't watched half these shows but they make good cases for all of them.

I'd like to do something similar this summer on the blog, but I'm not going to use such restrictive criteria. Their list was based only on the shows' most recent season, though of course characters, goodwill, etc., built up from previous seasons do obviously affect people's subjective rankings.

Instead, I'm going to base my list on the following things:

  1. Show that I have watched several episodes of in the last year. That includes shows that I watch on DVD, either for the first time or for the 37th time.
  2. Shows that are fresh on my mind right now. There are a lot of shows that I love that either won't make or should be higher on this list, but I just haven't necessarily been in the mood for lately (most Whedon shows apply here).

Some shows on the list may be more spoiler-alerty than others so if you haven't watched them (I'm thinking specifically of Game of Thrones) I'll try to put spoiler alerts where necessary.

Anyway, without further ado here's my list. I thought about counting down to number one over the course of the summer but I'd rather just choose them more or less at random, as I have a lot more to say about some shows than I do others and don't want to wait (laughing). I reserve the right to change the order of any of these (or insert stuff) as I think about them/watch more things.

  • 17. Castle
  • 16. Saturday Night Live
  • 15. True Blood
  • 14. Dexter
  • 13. The Office
  • 12. Archer
  • 11. Kids in the Hall
  • 10. Good Eats
  • 9. How I Met Your Mother
  • 8. Breaking Bad
  • 7. Mad Men
  • 6. Game of Thrones
  • 5. Community
  • 4. The Wire
  • 3. Firefly
  • 2. Parks and Recreation
  • 1. 30 Rock