Showing posts with label Castle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Castle. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'The Vampire Diaries' Tops List of Best TV Series with Worst First Episodes

Vampire Diaries Damon Salvatore Ian Somerhalder Bonnie Bennett Kat Graham photos pics premiere reviews

Some TV shows, like long-running series "Friends" and cult fave "Firefly," are captivating right out of the starting gate. (And yes, Joss Whedon's sci-fi western series was amazing whether you count the actual pilot or the later episode FOX aired first.) Many television shows operate on a slow burn, however, and take awhile to overcome a clunky pilot or even several episodes of their debut season. Considering the "good ratings or die" attitude of most TV networks, it's amazing some of these entertaining series survived after their dismal beginnings.

"The Vampire Diaries": This CW melodrama still has its flaws, but it's transformed from an eye roll extravaganza to a truly entertaining guilty pleasure. The pilot's problems were numerous, the big offender being obviously adult actors woodenly reciting chirpy Valley Girl "OMG!" dialogue about deep things like having a "kick-ass" school year. Moody, diary-writing vampire Stefan (Paul Wesley) came across as a dumb jock who would scrawl "Duh!" at the start of every entry, if in some universe a guy like that would actually keep a journal.

Luckily for this fledgling show, there was enough of an intriguing mystery buried in the plot, and "Lost" actor Ian Somerhalder showed up at the end of the pilot to add some smoldering, hypnotic bad boy goodness that female viewers were willing to tune in again for. As the season progressed, the writing tightened up and the acting appeared more natural. Wesley warmed up to his character, no pun intended, and Nina Dobrev upped her skills to give us two distinctive doppelgangers, Elena and Katherine. If we'd given up after the pilot, we never would have been able to enjoy the enticing vampire/human love triangles and suspenseful, angsty adventures of "The Vampire Diaries."

"Without a Trace": It was yet another cop show from CBS in 2002, and this one was really bad. The pilot episode tried way too hard to be hip and edgy, and dumped way too many "married to the job veteran detective" and "hothead Latino" stereotypes on us at once. Lead Anthony LaPaglia looked uncomfortable, and Poppy Montgomery's acting ranked right up there with Paris Hilton. The whole series seemed stilted with largely unlikable characters, and if CBS had killed it after a few episodes, it wouldn't have been missed.

The show's main advantage was its focus on tracking down missing persons, rather than uncovering murderers and violent offenders every week. The chance for a happy ending made "Without a Trace" stand out from its more depressing counterparts, and thankfully the series smoothed out into a solid drama with some truly standout episodes. Montgomery improved dramatically and LaPaglia turned in some of his finest acting performances, earning him both an Emmy nomination and Golden Globe win in 2004.

"Star Trek: The Next Generation": The pilot episode, "Encounter at Farpoint (Part I)," was a truly clunky start to what would become a beloved series amongst "Star Trek" fans. The most jarring element was that Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) was not only the anti-Kirk, but he was a rather unlikable jerk. The pilot episode also crumbled under the weight of combining a space plot, gratuitous CGI (including some less than stellar SFX) and introducing a parade of characters.

The entire cast seemed lost in space, searching for their characters' vibes and motivations, with Marina Sirtis (Troi) falling victim to the "shout out obvious things" role. Stewart himself later said that he had no idea how to portray his character at the start, and thought he would get fired.

Luckily for us, he didn't, and the series eventually found its stride. Picard retained his practical, intellectual, and cultured personality, but warmed considerably. The characters developed into a family, and "The Next Generation" successfully melded entertaining space adventures with forays into philosophical and forward-thinking debates that "Star Trek" fans have always loved.

"Doctor Who": The first "Doctor Who" TV series, like the original "Star Trek," had a rep for low budgets but intriguing sci-fi storylines and beloved characters that earned a rabid fanbase. With a 2005 reboot, excited viewers were hoping those good stories would now be accompanied by better effects and a little more sophistication. Instead, our new doctor and his future companion faced off in the pilot episode with an attacking mannequin arm--that mostly involved the actors holding a plastic arm and pretending to fight with it. Then there was the unbelievable scenario where our heroine's boyfriend turns into a mannequin, and she doesn't notice the difference.

"Who" fans aren't really afraid of a few corny scenarios, however, and Christopher Eccleston successfully combined charm and childlike whimsy with a mysteriously dangerous vibe to create a Doctor worth watching. Billie Piper added the fiery passion and heart to the duo, and each successive episode became richer in storytelling and presentation.

The series truly took flight when David Tennant took over as Doctor Number 10, and the series began to weave the individual episodes into larger, overarching plots that spanned one or more years. Though it started small, "Doctor Who" is now one of the finest, most thoughtful series on television.

"Castle": This series still isn't brain surgery by any means, but it's definitely upped its game since the first episode. With a pretty contrived scenario to base a series on, "Castle" immediately struggled to make the idea of a crime novelist helping out the police a believable one. It didn't help that Castle was a bit too much of a caricature, the sexual tension got ramped up to 11 from the moment he met Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), and the other guys in the police squad were merely a peanut gallery behind the two leads' banter.

The ridiculous amounts of charm Nathan Fillion possesses helped keep "Castle" on the air, hobbling along on good will until the series finally started to gel. The writing helped develop all of the characters into actual individuals we cared about, and the weekly mysteries became more intricate and less predictable. The series writers also found a way to better balance the macabre nature of a crime with the jokes that inevitably accompanied it.

Which of your favorite series had terrible pilots, or even terrible first years?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hot Guys, Hot Panels at Comic-Con

Nathan Fillion Comic Con Firefly Serenity Shiny Castle screencaps images photos pictures screencaps images screengrabs capturesComic-Con 2010 is going on right now in San Diego, a bonanza of geek girl and boy goodness no matter what genre you love. Checking out the schedule of offerings on the official Comic-Con International site is awe-inspiring. There are comic artist and writer panels, movie and TV series previews and Q&A sessions, artist spotlights, art tutorials, fanfiction forums, and plenty of geek fandom worship everywhere.

And there are lots of hot guys. Sure, girls can geek on fantasy plots, sci-fi glitches in logic, and thematic issues in manga, but just like the boys love Princess Leia in her slave girl outfit, geek girls love the handsome (and often buff) boy stars that turn up to pimp their latest and/or greatest works.

Nathan Fillion, of beloved Firefly and Serenity fame, is a favorite at Comic-Con. This year he's promoting crazy comic hero film Super as well as his current hit series Castle. The Comic-Con also has plenty of other hot boys whose characters include gladiators, powerful wizards, white collar criminals, male prostitutes, and of course, loads of vampires. Yum. You can read about the best of the best in full detail, in Hottest Guys, Hottest Panels at Comic-Con 2010.

PHOTO: Nathan Fillion at a Serenity convention, c2005 RavenU, Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Castle -- "Vampire Weekend"

Castle Nathan Fillion Richard Castle Mal Reynolds Firefly costume space cowboy Captain Tight Pants
Okay, Castle "Vampire Weekend" had three awesome things going for it tonight. This Halloween episode began with the strapping on of a very familiar gun and donning a brown coat and everyone at home is thinking "Ohnotheydidn't!" Well, they did. We got to see Richard Castle donning a Halloween costume he identified as "Space Cowboy"--a hilarious and cheer-worthy nod to Nathan Fillion's former role as Captain "Tight Pants" Reynolds in Firefly.

As an added punch, his daughter asked, "Didn't you wear that like five years ago?" Nice one.

The second nicely done portion of Castle tonight was the plot. The stake-in-the-heart murder of a pretend vampire was a case with plenty of twists and turns and real complexity. It's a big jump in quality from season one Castle, and the balance between humor and drama is getting a lot steadier.

The third truly admirable high scoring element of "Vampire Weekend" was an example of actual responsible parenting. I've always loved Castle's mature and clever daughter, and the nice relationship that they have. In this episode, he gives her permission to attend a senior party with the caveat that she call if anything starts to go a way she doesn't like.

Things go awry with a drunk friend, the daughter calls, and Castle behaves as a parent should--he rushes to her side, and calls the parents of the friend to let them know what's happened. It was refreshing to not see another "rebellious teen" angle that so many shows and films do now, and also no "cool parent" garbage where the kids get away with murder. Castle is still a cool and loving dad, and his daughter learns the benefits and the unfortunate peer struggles of being a responsible kid.

So once again Castle succeeds in being a nice fluffy entertainment show that actually has quality and value. Not a bad combination. And Fillion still wears the space cowboy look well.

Watch Castle on ABC, Monday nights at 10/9c.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Castle Premiere

Nathan Fillion Richard Castle porn cop police women girls Deep in Death screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs capturesSo, Castle starts with its usual cheesiness and has Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) posing for a magazine article with two porn cop girls. Whatever. The episode, "Deep in Death" also includes Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) stripping down outside a police van to don a sweater-as-dress so that she can pretend to be a loose woman with a bad Russian accent, going quickly undercover into a Russion mob poker game to rescue Castle. What-ever.

The good news is, Castle does seem to be a little tighter and more riveting than the episodes I caught last season. The murder mystery was a lot more suspenseful, and wasn't just a barely-thought-out backdrop for Castle and Beckett's banter. As per usual, Fillion is a joy to watch. He makes inappropriate jokes at crime scenes that Law & Order's Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) would be proud of, and turns on his cocky and reckless charm as he tries to bluff his way through a game of poker with tattooed mobsters.

Once again Castle gives us great rapport between Castle and his mom and lovely daughter. I find myself in the same place I was last year--Katic just doesn't cut it for me. Sure, some of the writing is cheesy, but a more skilled actress could make it work better. But when I'm constantly aware of Katic's ever-changing hair styles and inner-lid eyeliner, I'm thinking something must be lacking in the performance.

Katic is fine in quieter moments, and small doses. I wish Castle would change tack, and make the show all about Castle himself. We could see him on his travels as he tries to do research for his books, flirting with women, schmoozing unsavory types, and getting himself into trouble. He could occasionally cross paths with Beckett, who would bail him out of jams--or he could assist on random cases.

This would greatly improve Castle, I think, by focusing on its strengths--Fillion and the gals that make up Castle's family. It would also avoid all of the awkward wrangling they keep doing with the plot to make it feasible that a mystery author would be continually working on police cases.

I'll keep watching for Fillion, but I suspect Castle won't take on the "must-see" spot in my schedule. If something more intriguing comes along in that timeslot, I'll probably be watching that and will catch Castle in reruns--or maybe online. Right now it's an enjoyable piece of fluff, and if they keep the investigative aspect interesting and cut back on the cheesecake a little (and Katic's distracting eyeliner), I'll be happy to tune in every Monday.

Watch Castle on ABC Monday nights, at 10/9c.

PHOTO: Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle, with friends, Castle "Deep in Death" screencap, c2009 ABC Studios.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cold Case In, The Unusuals Out: Renewed and Canceled Shows Update

News keeps rolling in about renewed and canceled shows, with confirmation coming at tomorrow's upfronts. Recent word was that Without a Trace and Cold Case were both in danger of getting the boot due to the high costs of location shoots and cast salaries. now reports, however, that Cold Case is in the clear, renewed for the fall. The fate of Without a Trace remains to be seen. My only hope is that Kathryn Morris, a wonderful actress and the heart of the show, can find a way to regain a few pounds and the luminous glow she had in previous seasons.

Unsurprising to me, who could only get through 12 minutes of the pilot episode, The Unusuals has apparently been shelved. I'm a little frightened that ABC seems to be doing things right (after canning four excellent dramas this season) by renewing Castle and Better Off Ted and letting go of The Unusuals. Sadly, I fear they will not mind my wishes about Cupid, and I'm holding my breath until tomorrow when the Castle and Better Off Ted news will be confirmed for sure. Cross your fingers with me, folks.

In other news, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is definitely gone. Bones has been renewed for two seasons, despite some shaky plot decisions that have been annoying longtime fans of the show. The Big Bang Theory, one of the funniest comedy shows in recent history, has been renewed for two seasons. Two and a Half Men, one of the most sexist shows in modern history, has been renewed for three.

According to, Law & Order and Law & Order: CI are still up in the air, but Law & Order: SVU is returning. Supernatural and Gossip Girl are renewed, and Reaper's fate is yet to be determined.

A huge surprise to me is that Scrubs will be coming back. The new season will no doubt focus on the new interns. Zach Braff is set to return for a partial season to transition the show into its new format.

Tomorrow we should have confirmation on all those on the bubble shows, and find out if our favorites have been renewed or canceled. There are also some new shows to look into, including a new vehicle for Moonlight hottie Alex O'Loughlin.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chuck, Better Off Ted, Castle, and Dollhouse Renewed for New Season

Chuck Versus the Suburbs Zachary Levi Renewed Shows screencaps suit pictures photos images screengrabs stills
NBC heard your pleas, Chuck fans: our favorite geek spy Chuck is back for another 13 episodes starting this fall. The Hollywood Reporter conjectures that Chuck may have been saved due to fan support that included patronizing the sponsor Subway (good move, fans) and Zachary Levi's own support of the network by fulfilling all his publicity and PSA duties. Whatever the reason, it's good to see this smart, funny, action comedy has been renewed.

In other good news, ABC has renewed the wickedly absurd corporate parody show Better Off Ted. Perhaps the modern sitcom isn't dead yet. The ensemble cast of Better Off Ted each week takes the Scrubs-like off the wall humor and runs with it. The show writers aren't afraid of any issue, as illustrated by the Better Off Ted episode that dealt with the new motion sensors in the office not registering black people. It wasn't considered "cost-effective" to replace the sensors, so corporate policy instead decided to install separate drinking fountains, and then hired white people to follow the black employees around the office to set off the door, elevator, and fountain sensors. Both horrifyingly funny and a terrifyingly accurate jab at corporate inanity, Better Off Ted doesn't pull any punches.

For all you Nathan Fillion fans, the good news keeps coming. Castle has also been renewed for another season, hopefully boosted by the last couple weeks' lead-in from Dancing With the Stars. While still a bit rough around the edges, Castle has its charms, most of them in the form of Fillion himself. Here's hoping they can tighten up some of the supporting cast.

Dollhouse Echo Eliza Dushku renewed screencaps pictures photos images screengrabs stills capsThe biggest surprise thus far, even to Joss Whedon himself, is that FOX has renewed Dollhouse for another season. While I wasn't a fan of this show, word is that it improved as the season progressed. The big news is that FOX actually listened to what fans of all niche shows have been saying for years--they looked at DVR, streaming vid and iTunes downloads numbers and realized there were actually a fair number of viewers tuning in. The Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan questions if this means the end of Nielsen ratings dominance, and I hope it does. I'm glad that FOX took a chance on an independent and unique show, but I sure wish they'd gotten their act together for Firefly instead.

Stay tuned to TV News and Reviews for more info on the upfronts. Confirmation of these renewals should come on Tuesday when many of the networks announce their full fall schedules.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Castle Bumps Surviving Suburbia Into Cancellation?

Nathan Fillion Richard Castle Stana Katic Kate Beckett detective author Castle screencaps images photos pictures screengrabs caps stills
Last week ABC put the Bob Saget sitcom Surviving Suburbia on hiatus, giving the Nathan Fillion/Stana Katic dramedy Castle the benefit of the Dancing with the Stars lead-in. While Surviving Suburbia has had pretty impressive numbers in comparison to other primetime TV shows, apparently it was losing a lot of its lead-in from DWTS. After Castle's jump in the ratings last week, ABC kept Surviving Suburbia on hiatus this week for Castle's season finale.

A schedule shuffle isn't necessarily a kiss of death for Surviving Suburbia, but it's probably not a good sign that the rest of the season will air between May 27-July 1, leaving a couple of episodes left over that ABC as yet has no plans to show. It seems kind of crazy to kill a show with good ratings, but this is ABC we're talking about, so I can't even muster the energy to register surprise at this point.

The good news is that Castle's jump in numbers, and Nathan Fillion's ridiculous amounts of fan love (and critic love), definitely adds some points to the column in favor of renewing the series. Let's hope ABC doesn't ruin every single one of our primetime TV hopes this year, and gives a few of these series a fighting chance to gain their footing.

Read more on Castle and Surviving Suburbia at, TV by the Numbers, and TV Series Finale.

PHOTO: Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle and Stana Katic as Kate Beckett, Castle screencap, c2009 ABC Studios.


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