Castle: Season One (US - DVD R1)
Gabe takes a ride-along with Nathan Fillion and his pet police detectives...
Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) is a famous mystery novelist, and he just killed off his most popular character. Quicker than you can say Misery someone starts committing bloody murder using the flamboyant M.O.s of Castle’s most popular novels. NYPD detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), a secret fan, calls Castle in to assist with the case. Castle relishes the experience, and soon signs on as a consultant, and begins a new series of novels based on his experiences, using Detective Becket as a model for his new main character. Meanwhile, Castle’s home life is complicated as his loving daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn) starts dating, and his wacky retired Broadway actress mother Martha (Susan Sullivan) moves in.
Castle isn’t going to win any awards for originality. In fact, if there were an award for the most blatantly unoriginal thing in the entire history of the known universe it’d probably be a nominee. I’m not sure where the ‘crime writer working with real cops trope’ started, but Murder She Wrote springs to mind, recently CBS found success with a similar formula for the equally unoriginal yet entertaining The Mentalist, and even my personal geek obsession Dario Argento did it once ( Tenebre). But originality isn’t necessarily important, especial if it’s taken into account, and used against expectations. Castle clearly understands it owes a bunch to a bunch of other projects, and is sure to let the audience know it’s in on the joke time and time again. Unfortunately the series is also entirely predictable. Well, that’s not fair, there’s a little bit of mystery to some of the standalone aspects of the show. I certainly didn’t guess every murderer correctly. Still, the super-story and the characters take no surprise turns, and I can’t imagine the situation will get any better in future seasons. This is funny because the whole point of Castle’s interest in shadowing the police comes out of his insistence on avoiding cop clichés. Either the clichés are real, or the series’ writers aren’t really into research themselves.
Yet, Castle is still a harmlessly entertaining series, and an easy watch. The lack of real continuity means I can see myself catching odd episodes on the tube when there’s nothing else on. The not-so-secret weapon is the cast, and their palpable as all hell chemistry. I’ll make it no secret that I was not sent this series to review by random, this was a case of my asking for a review copy, and I’ll give you one guess as to what made me interested in seeing the show. Did you guess Nathan Fillion? You were right! Fillion is a good enough reason to watch any film or television series once. I can’t think of a single time I regretted spending my time watching the guy. Fillion works pretty well with his pseudo-love interest Stana Katic, though he shares a lot more gleeful chemistry with his on-screen daughter and mother. The cop scenes are pretty by-the-numbers, and the opening act murder sites aren’t as stylistically impressive as they seem to think they are, but the extended family stuff works almost without exception. It’s not often one wishes that a show would get away from the bloody murder and cop-on-crook action, and get back to the main character playing a rousing round of laser tag with his 15 year old daughter.
Castle is presented in an anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen, and is relatively impressive even after weeks of watching high definition television in mind. The show is often shot with relatively high contrast, in relatively moody noir-ish lighting schemes, and the resulting contrast works in the transfer’s favour to cover up the fact that the DVD doesn’t have hi-def detail capabilities. It helps that black and white levels are often pretty perfectly pitched. The show is quite often colourful as well, and the frequency of the hues is pretty remarkable for up-scaled DVD. The details are really quite acceptable, but are not overwhelming. Often things are over-sharpened, and whites tend to bloom a bit. Line doubling also occurs, especially on the credit text, and edge-enhancement is a clear issue throughout. Compression noise and grain are pretty even and consistent, and major digital artefacts are a non-issue.
Castle comes fitted with a full but subtle Dolby Digital 5.1 track. It’s mostly a slightly better structured Pro-Logic track, but there are few complaints considering the show’s less than aggressive stance. There are very few directional effects, or even sound effects at all (moving traffic and thunder are the only ones I recall), but the discrete center channel is a big plus for the dialogue. Though always plenty clear the dialogue isn’t consistent in quality. Several times throughout the series the quality will obviously change mid sentence. It’s not a matter of the quality sounding worse, but it’s clearly different. The LFE channel doesn’t get much of a workout outside the musical score. Even the gunshots are pretty poppy. The show’s score and theme music is pleasant, appropriately light-hearted, and takes into account the show’s many referential elements. The surround and stereo representation of the music is the strongest in the collection, and the non-score music (which is mostly made up of obnoxious pop) is far and away the loudest thing on any of the episode mixes.
The extras start with disc one’s pilot episode commentary. Commentators include creator/executive producer Andrew Marlowe, executive producer Rob Bowman, and actors Fillion, Stana Katic, and Jon Huertas. This track sets up a lot of the series’ pre-history, and is well balanced in tone, content, and means of participant input. The commentators are also ready to admit to ‘homage’ throughout. Disc two features commentary on ‘A Chill Goes Through Her Veins’ with the same folks, plus actress Molly Quinn. This track explores the ins and outs of the characters, the series super-story, and the small details of the writing and production designs. Disc three features duel commentaries on ‘A Death in the Family, the first with the usual suspects, and the second with actors Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas. The first track is more of the same, but with a little more focus on wrapping-up the season, and an even more whimsical interaction. The second track is a bit superfluous, but silly fun if you want it.
The disc three featurettes start with ‘Whodunits: The Genesis of Castle’ (6:20), an EPK bit that fesses up to some of the non-originality, and talks up the show’s strong points. It’s really an ad, but it’s an informative enough one. ‘ Castle’s Godfather’ (7:15) concerns the impact of executive producer Stephen J. Cannell, who worked on one of the show’s forefathers The Rockford Files, and who had a relationship with Rob Bowman, which goes back to Bowman’s childhood. Also covered here is the process of getting the real life mystery writers together for the poker games on the series. ‘Write-Along with Nathan Fillion’ (9:00) is a tongue-in-cheek bit on method acting, featuring Fillion spending a pretend day with Channel. Things end with a blooper reel and some ABC sneak peeks.
The TVtropes.com Castle page starts with this telling quote from lead Nathan Fillion – “I often say that Castle is Moonlighting meets Murder She Wrote, having not really remembered Moonlighting and never seen Murder She Wrote." I personally couldn’t help but smell the ‘ Moonlighting Syndrome’ on the show myself. I’m pretty sure the second Castle and Beckett sleep together no one is going to watch this show again, assuming interest keeps the show floating through the full second season. It’s a perfectly harmless and entertaining show, but it’s not much to get excited about for anyone other than Fillion’s biggest fans. Personally I would’ve preferred Drive could’ve lasted a full season instead. This collection would do better on Blu-ray, but doesn’t look bad on regular DVD, and features some entertaining extras.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 22nd September 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Subtitles: French and Spanish
Extras: Cast and Crew Commentaries, Whodunit: The Genesis of Castle, Write-Along with Nathan Fillion, Castle's Godfather, Bloopers
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Stana Katic, Nathan Fillion, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jon Huertas, Seamus Dever
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Crime and Drama
Length: 430 minutes
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