Friday, April 09, 2010

Crime writer tv show

I'm wondering if anyone else caught the first episode of a new US import called 'Castle' the other night? It was tucked away at 9pm on the Alibi channel so I'll forgive you if you say no, but you missed a treat.

We weren't optimistic at first. Yet another US crime drama. Yawn. Yet another series with the hero's name as the title of the show. Double yawn, step aside House and Dexter. Yet another series where a civilian with an unusual speciality helps the police. Hmm. Haven't we seen that idea before somewhere?

But Castle turned out to be much better than we expected. Nathan Fillion (of Firefly) was excellent in the title role and Stana Katic was equally good as his 'will they won't they' love interest/colleague. The script was a joy, chock full of witty one-liners that had us laughing out loud. And best of all, Castle's unusual angle was that he's a successful crime novelist.

Too often in movies and tv series, writers are shown as dippy floaty artistic types who drink lots of coffee, bang away on an ancient typewriter and talk to the walls. Castle was different, because he was intelligent and because he truly understood his craft. In order to write successful crime novels (possibly more than any other genre) a writer has to understand the motivations of his characters - why they would do something, or why they wouldn't. This was used to great effect in the first episode where several times Castle changed the direction of the police investigation because the motives didn't fit. Of course, it was a little hard to believe trained detectives could be quite that thick, but it was nice to see a writer genuinely using his craft to untangle the foibles of human nature.

Pilot episodes aren't always a good indication of the rest of the series but we're hoping the intelligence continues - and we'll definitely be watching episode two to find out.


Bill Kirton said...

I'm not a great watcher of anything much on telly but I like what you say about Castle's focus on motives. I recently wrote a murder mystery for a charity evening and warned the teams who'd paid to solve the mystery that they should think carefully about motives and about how extreme something would need to be to provoke a murder. Only one of the 10 teams saw past their knee-jerk hunches (excuse the mixed metaphor) and realised that it wasn't a murder, but a mistake.

fiona glass said...

Motivation bothers me much more since I became a writer. I quite often yell at the telly (or a book for that matter) because there's no way the character would have *done* that...

Your mystery sounds intriguing!