Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reader mail: Show respect to Rick Castle, and more

Another reader mailbag column today, with readers wanting more attention paid to some of their favorite procedural crime shows, and another question about what NBC should have done to fill the 10 o'clock hour once Jay Leno was sent back to latenight.

34 comments:

lambertman said...

I watch and enjoy "Castle", but I have to wonder how many of those letterwriters would still care if those two shows didn't happen to be headlined by Whedonverse actors.

meopta said...

Well, who would care about Late Night if it wasn't hosted by a Hoosier weatherman?

There's a push to ensure Castle's survival. I get it, I like the show (probably my favorite popular program) but what is there to say about it? I can't imagine trying to get a regular column going on it. (Bones is just awful.)

Maura said...

In the fall, it will have more new shows to play with. It's just a question of how deep a hole the network dug with the failed Leno experiment.

Every time I watch, or see a commercial for, Southland on TNT, I wonder what's going through the minds of NBC executives.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I watch and enjoy "Castle", but I have to wonder how many of those letterwriters would still care if those two shows didn't happen to be headlined by Whedonverse actors.

Based on the demographics of the typical Star-Ledger reader/letter-writer, I would guess most of them are barely aware that the Whedonverse exists. They like Bones or Castle (or Monk, or L&O, etc.) because those are the kinds of shows they like. By far the biggest percentage of letters I get are about mystery shows.

Billiam said...

I don't really understand "Why don't you love the exact same things that I love?" complaints. And since we're talking about your newspaper columns, rather than just recaps, it's not like there really is much to say about Castle.

Anonymous said...

Every time I watch, or see a commercial for, Southland on TNT, I wonder what's going through the minds of NBC executives.

That by its sixth episode it was pulling "Trauma"-like ratings and that they shouldn't have jumped the gun on renewing it in the first place. Or so I'd imagine.

Carrie said...

Speaking of Southland, does anyone know how its ratings have been on TNT so far?

justine said...

Alan,

I really think you are mis-categorizing Bones. To dismiss it due to its format as a procedural, is mis-categorizing its format. Hart Hanson himself has said the show isn't serialized in its overall story arcs, using self contained cases (which at first look gets it lumped into "procedural") almost as a mcguffin; however, he categorizes it has a romantic comedy with a serialized set of relationships. I'm not saying this as some crazy-shipper (you have enough of those on your case). I'm saying this as someone who feels throwing a show into the "procedural" category is as lazy as using the term jump the shark. One-hour television has become very complex storytelling. And there will always be the big ticket critical shows, but there will always be those shows that often sit right below that bar, that are just as compelling and demanding an experience for its audience.

I'm not asking you to start watching Bones, but what I am asking, is to maybe spend more than one episode here-and-there on it, so you can properly give your argument for not watching. What Hart Hanson and his group of writers and producers have done is create a space where they are able to examine modern male-female relationships where men and women are changing what it means to be masculine and feminine at fundamental levels.

There is nothing procedural about that.

Finally, I highly, HIGHLY recommend reading this transcript of a speech Hart Hanson gave on tv storytelling. If anything, I think you will enjoy the great story he told about Shawn Ryan and The Wire. Here is a link: http://todoom.dreamwidth.org/729.html

njames said...

Very great responses to those mailbag questions. I would just add one thing:

Another reason that NBC airing USA hits isn't a great idea is because that doesn't ALWAYS translate to great ratings. You hint at that, but you don't give any examples.

During the writers' strike, NBC aired Monk & Psych as a way to offer different programming instead of all reruns. Even against repeats, Monk & Psych couldn't find a decent sized audience to keep in on NBC. Same with Dexter on CBS.

Carrie said...

Justine: Your words about Bones are very thoughtful and heartfelt, but I would have to respectfully agree with Alan. Bones is a procedural. Yes, it does spend more time than most on the interpersonal relationships between the characters, but any show that spends 75% of its story each week on a "case-of-the-week" type story is a procedural.

Just because something is a procedural doesn't mean it is bad or less worthy. I actually quite liked Bones until the end of last season when some of the writing choices started to really rub me the wrong way. I will probably catch up someday on TNT.

NinjaEditor said...

I adore Castle, and I'm of the opinion that the show works better as a character drama (or dramedy) than as a procedural. But it's still based on that procedural formula, and as such there's not much to say about it from week to week. That said, I'm always happy when someone mentions it. I suspect that's where the letter writers are coming from--they aren't looking for an analysis worthy of BSG, Lost, Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, etc. They just want to see someone else recognize that Fillion is charming and the cases are quirky.

Anonymous said...

Sadly I thought last weeks Castle was pretty weak (mainly due to plot holes). But still a staple for me, watching Fillion be a scamp should be a whole network on its own.

EmeraldLiz

medrawt said...

Interesting transcript of Hart Hanson, though I disagree with a lot of what he says about art and entertainment. My biggest issue with Bones these days is the inconsistent characterization of Brennan, which I guess is better, and a smaller issue, than the early days, when the show seemed to have a very curious attitude towards the personality of highly intelligent people. From week to week Brennan does or doesn't get stuff as needed, even when it makes no sense (like the week when a prominent anthropologist seemed ignorant of the cultural phenomenon of sexual jealousy). That said, there *is* a lot more going on interpersonally from week to week on Bones than there is on other shows that might be called procedural, but I think it'd be hard to write about if you weren't directly focused on the romantic progression of the characters.

"This week Hodgins seemed more hung up on Angela than last week. Brennan really opened up to Booth at the end." etc.

BigTed said...

"Castle" is basically a wish-fulfillment show (everyone is rich, great-looking, or both; the civilian gets to help the cops solve crimes on the flimsiest of pretexts; the father-daughter relationship couldn't be more idealized). The crimes themselves are pretty much beside the point, which is why the writers don't seem to put any effort into them.

"Bones" has a lot more depth, both in regard to the relationships and as a crime procedural. What I don't understand is the almost pornographic focus on gross, decaying bodies in every episode. (I understand that's what the scientists work on, but we in the audience are not those scientists and wouldn't want to be.)

Craig Ranapia said...

I watch and enjoy "Castle", but I have to wonder how many of those letterwriters would still care if those two shows didn't happen to be headlined by Whedonverse actors.

What Alan said -- and in addition, I don't think there's an automatic buy-in among Whedon fans for anything with a Firefly/Buffy/Angel alumni in the cast list. Otherwise, I think we'd be speculating about what's in store for season three of 'Dollhouse'.

Ingrid said...

I love Castle, and enjoy the character interactions very much, but I agree that it would be hard to find something to review every week. The show is deliberately not deep; watching it is like eating a candy bar, delicious but with little nutritional value.

As for the Whedon factor, I loved Buffy and Angel, but I never watched Firefly and did not even know who Nathan Fillion was prior to Castle.

Bix said...

Ingrid-

Fillion was on Buffy.

As far as the actual letters column, after reading that, I now believe that the letters that USA Weekend and TV Vue get are from real people, horrifyingly enough.

Joel said...

I understand why you, Alan, don't write about procedurals, mostly because I don't watch them and when I do, it's mostly casual and afterwards there isn't really a lot to say about them. I do watch Bones, however, and Criminal Minds. Criminal Minds is really the only compelling and thrilling procedural out there (although sometimes more than others) and I never really heard you say anything about it. Some thoughts would be nice, just to see what you think and what your insights about it are.

Matt said...

In their strongest ratings seasons, Buffy had 5.4M viewers, Angel 4.9M, Firefly 4.4M, and Dollhouse 4.6M. Last season, Castle averaged 10.2M viewers. Crediting it to Whedon fans ain't an explanation. Its success is partially due to decent ABC leadins, and partially due to the immense suck hole that is 10 PM Monday on the other networks (David Caruso's Sunglasses of Justice must die!).

Diana Frost said...

Get rid of the female lead who is very annoying on Castle and I'll watch the show. Nathan is a great actor and doesn't need a co-lead.

For some great tv the hulu station is showing The Rockford Files. James Garner was so good in that show.

lambertman said...

Whoa, Matt. Nowhere did I suggest the entirety of the shows' viewing audiences were Whedon fans. I suggested an indeterminate number of the letter-writers on this subject may have been such.

Beat me up for the comments I actually do say, thanks :)

GabbyD said...

what about the good wife? no love for that show?

i think the good wife is a pretty good legal procedural with a nice overall arc.

Craig Ranapia said...

GabbyD:
i think the good wife is a pretty good legal procedural with a nice overall arc.

I'd agree with you, but to be fair to Alan "pretty good" is pretty damn hard to hang a column off, let along ongoing blog coverage. I call shows like The Good Wife and Castle comfort food TV. If I miss an episode, I'm not going to get too torn up about it, but when I do I seldom come out the other end cursing the hour of my life I'll never get back.

Ingrid said...

Bix, I missed him completely. In what season(s) he appeared and what character was he?

Anthony Foglia said...

Fillion was the evil preacher working with the First in the final episodes of the series.

Taleena said...

Wow, Hart Hanson seems to really dislike American audiences. Good golly, I like Bones (and Castle) because they are good laundry folding shows. I can fold laundry, put it away and come back to the show without feeling like I missed anything critical.

I appreciate Bones for having opposing viewpoints with the leads without making the Christian into the huge dummy and the atheist into a closed minded know it all.

I am glad that Hanson is savvy enough to write for his audience but I wish that he wouldn't talk about slipping things past an audience when he shares the channel with the likes of Family Guy, which is much more irreverent than he is. Psst, you are not as clever as you think.

Anonymous said...

Ingrid, just to add to Anthony's info on Nathan in Buffy, the priest's name was Caleb and he was in the last five episodes of the series.

Btw, It's nice to come to a place where people can comment, disagree, and be respectful about it. Not many places like that in the cyber-lands anymore. :-)

drbristol said...

"Castle" is the 21st century Moonlighting without the ham - a combination of a quirky mystery with a good ensemble. And as much as this red blooded male appreciates having Stana Katic to look at, it's Fillion's charm that is the key to the show.

And yes, the father/daughter dynamic might be idealized, but there isn't a better female teenager character on TV right now.

Where Bones fails for me, in this regard, is where most* cop/lawyer/doctor shows fail - the biggest emphasis is that every main character either is (or wants to) sleeping with each other. Yawn.

Maura said...

drbristol said: And yes, the father/daughter dynamic might be idealized, but there isn't a better female teenager character on TV right now.

Yes! Alexis is a terrific character. She's not sullen and miserable all the time. She's smart and actually engaged with the world around her. It's such a relief to see a father/daughter relationship that's not fraught with angst and bitterness.

Nicole said...

Castle and the Good Wife are good shows, but not great and not particularly complex, so there really isn't much to say about either them, especially Castle.

Cameron Hughes said...

Bones is somebody's favorite show? How sad.

Cameron Hughes said...

And before anyone says anything, I like Bones, specifically Boreneaz on it, but its lighter than air.

Kate said...

I'm coming late to the comments. I don't come here much any more because I find that the shows Alan's reviewing these days are ones I don't watch so there's little I care to read about and less to comment on.

But I had to comment on this. I love Castle, it's become my favourite show because of the combination of acting, writing and especially the care that everyone on the show takes to make it consistent and believable within the unbelievable constraints of the premise.

I didn't follow Nathan Fillion from Whedonverse, I just fell in love with the spark and intelligence of the pilot and I've been completely hooked since.

I don't have the chance to watch much TV because like most people, I've got a job and a family and limited recreational time so when I watch TV, I want something that will satisfy me rather than have me throwing things at the TV set.

I used to like Bones but it's running on cutesy contrivances these days and ridiculous plots to keep the couples apart. It's a good example of why stalling character development can be more risky than trying to grow the characters.

House used to be my favorite show but the writing has been dropping since season 3 and now most of it these days is so sloppy watching means a huge rise in my blood pressure. I gave up when Cameron left.

The Good Wife is pure soap opera. The acting is great but the writing is so clunky it's a melodrama. The "Poor Alicia" plot lines are severely limiting my enjoyment.

Maybe there's not that much to review about Castle (although I could certainly come up with two or three paragraphs each episode). But I'm not interested in reading about shows like Big Love, 30 Rock, Cougar Town, Human Target or Burn Notice when I'm not even interested enough in them to watch them in the first place.

Kate said...

I just wanted to add that I don't get the channels you have to pay extra for so shows on reviews/comment on show on those channels are lost to me.