Saturday, May 14, 2016

Opinion — Bye, Bye Castle

I enjoyed the first season.  “Castle” had an interesting premise, at least for me.  A mystery writer who ends up involved in real cases. The writer and the cop were both enjoyable characters, each having a bearable lightness of being. I also enjoyed those moments when Castle played poker with real life writers — mixing realities.  But I was in for a surprise.  I went to what was a great mystery bookstore in San Mateo, just South of San Francisco.  I saw a stack of books written by the imaginary Richard Castle at the checkout counter.

I had two reactions.  I’m not sure which one dominated.  With a background in marketing and advertising, I was impressed with the whole idea of a fictional crime writer writing crime fiction. This was an ingenious and consistent publicity ploy with ties back to the poker games. It was also, as marketers will boast, “added value” to both products.  Part of me said, “why not?” I’d do it.

The second reaction was one of those stomach sinks. Selfishly I wondered how we (I flatter myself) midlist writers could compete with this strategy and the media giants who have the power to implement it.  Many of us are still trying to survive amidst the requirement that we must be best selling authors. One more nail in our coffins.

Elmore Leonard said at one of the mystery writer’s conventions that once a writer gets on The New York Times “Best Selling list, the author would have to write a lot of crap (I’m paraphrasing here) to get off it.  Yet, he or she keeps selling.

All right.  Life isn’t always fair.  Get over it.  Move on.

Well, the ax fell on “Castle.”  But it fell not because it wasn’t a good idea.  It ceased to be interesting. It outlived its premise.  I won’t forget my favorite comedy series.  When Niles Crane married Daphne on “Frasier,” half the premise for humor disappeared. The dynamics fell apart.  When Castle married the smart, beautiful and tough Kate Beckett, and he became the typically dumb husband, the show lost its edge.  Now, I’m not suggesting that marriage spoils everything, though I’d keep in mind, Nick never married Nora. At least they never acted as if they actually tied the knot.  What I’m suggesting is that the writers lost track of what was making the show entertaining in the first place. It even happened to “I Love Lucy.” The last few years were yawns.  It seems to me when the writers got tired of coming up with new plots for the small New York apartment, they took the show to Hollywood where guest appearances by William Holden and John Wayne were supposed to keep the momentum going.  The success of the show was never about stars, it was about people like us in silly situations and engaging the characters we grew to love.

There are two ways to deal with the problem of a series (TV shows or books) having run its course. One is to keep padding and patching with the hope that the series can ride on its past glory.  The other is to shut it down. The talented Stana Katic’s departure was a good thing, bringing a once promising show to a merciful end.


Kim Messick said...

Nice piece, Ronald. I confess I never could get into this show, even though I'm a big fan of Nathan Fillion. I'm not sure what held me back; maybe it was the "Murder She Wrote" whiff coming off the basic premise, or simply the fact that Beckett, supposedly a working detective, was also movie star gorgeous. I know, I know--- pretty people make for better ratings, but it's possible to cast roles with attractive people whom one can imagine bumping into on the street. One of my favorite procedurals from recent decades, Canada's "Da Vinci's Inquest," managed to pull this off with its own detectives, who were good-looking without crossing into Greek God territory.

Like you, I did enjoy the visits from real writers, especially the late great Steve Cannell.

Hope you're all settled into the new digs and all is well for you and yours!

Ronald Tierney said...

I agree completely on Da Vlnci Inquest. I loved that show. The dialogue was natural, even ordinary in the best possible way.

Nicely settled in here and working on some short stories set in the area.

Thank you for checking in. Always glad to hear from you. Hope all is going well with you as well.


Kim Messick said...

All is well here, thanks. I loved the naturalism of "Da Vinci" too-- the hand-held camera work; the way narratives (and characters) would flourish, subside, then reappear, much as they do in real life; and (as you say) the hardboiled plainsong of the dialogue. The acting, led by Nicholas Campbell in the title role, was uniformly superb. Great show.

Watched three of my favorite neo-noirs from the '70s over the weekend--- "The Driver," "Night Moves," and "The Friends of Eddie Coyle." Robert Mitchum gives a heart-breaking performance in "Coyle"; they broke the mold when they made that guy.

All the best!

Ronald Tierney said...

Agree completely on Eddie Coyle. Will check out the other two. I'll try to catch up with the other two. On my list.