Today’s going to be a little bit off topic.
A few years ago, I was introduced to the TV show Castle, which is about to wrap up its fifth season. For those unfamiliar, the premise is this:
Richard Castle, best-selling mystery writer, had recently killed off his main character, bored and wanting to write something else for a change (kinda sounds like the opening of Misery, doesn’t it).While dealing with his writer’s block, he’s brought in by the NYPD to consult on a case; turns out someone is recreating murder scenes from his books, complete with real victims. As he works with the lead detective on the case, Kate Beckett, he begins to have the seeds for a new series, featuring the smart and savvy detective, Nikki Heat… and to get closer to his new muse, Castle uses his connections to arrange to shadow Beckett full-time.
The rest of this post is very light on spoilers, but it’s nearly impossible to discuss a show that’s gone on for five seasons without giving a little bit away. If it’s something you’re interested in watching and you don’t know anything about it yet, proceed at your own risk.
For most viewers, the excitement of the show comes from two things: the case of the week, and the sexual tension between Castle and Beckett. For me, equally fun — and somewhat(?) relevant to the blog — are the references to Castle’s being a writer, and getting to see that world. Granted, Castle’s life is not the average writer’s life. Probably not even the average bestseller’s life, though I guess I don’t really know. But, glamorized or not, it’s fun.Some of my favorite scenes early on are Castle’s poker games with other big-name writers, including James Patterson and the late Stephen J. Cannell. Usually they’d be discussing Castle’s current case, but in the context of writing it as part of a novel. This is something that Castle often does, even without the help of his poker buddies. It’s an interesting twist on the evidence-based investigations, which can otherwise feel like any other police procedural show. His focus on creating the “story” behind the crime (though often taken to ridiculous extremes) often turns out to be helpful… and when he gets stuck, he turns to his fellow writers.
Unfortunately for me, getting to see real life writers, and seeing Castle as one of them, the references to the books he’s writing, and even a movie deal… all these elements have pretty much been dropped from the show.
In one third-season episode, Castle’s mother asks him why he’s still shadowing Beckett. She hates that he’s often putting himself in harm’s way, supposedly in the name of research. “You’ve written twenty-two novels before you met her,” she says, “and you didn’t need to spend every day at a police station in order to finish them.” To which Castle replies, “It’s not about the books anymore.”
And that really kind of sums up the direction the show has taken. It’s not about the books anymore. The past few seasons, it’s become increasingly focused on the evolving relationship between the two characters. In the beginning, it was all about Castle’s enthusiasm and Beckett’s reluctance to have him along. But the dynamic shifts as they actually become friends, and later dealing with the fact that they have real feelings for each other.
And I do enjoy that part of it too. It’s not that it’s not still a good show. There’ve been a few episodes this season which would probably make my top ten. But I can’t help but feel like it’s missing something… something that, early on, really made the show stand out.
What TV shows do you watch? Do you tend to watch things that are similar to what you read, or does your entertainment of choice vary based on the medium?