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Room for improvement on both "Deception" and "Castle"

January 8, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Through the magic of, I managed to watch both NBC's "Deception" and ABC's "Castle" even though they aired at the same time this evening.

"Deception" is a soap/thriller I could see myself watching again, though it wasn't the best show I've ever seen. So far the cast doesn't seem to have much chemistry together and the scenes shifted from one to another a little too abruptly.

Even though there's a lot of room for improvement, there's also a lot of good raw material. The show starts with the death of wealthy heiress Vivian Bowers, who had a drug habit. Was it an overdose or did one of the many family secrets come back to bite her? Her childhood best friend, the daughter of the former family maid, is now a police detective. The detective Joanna (Meagan Good) is asked to go undercover and find out what really happened because the FBI has its suspicions. The suspects all hang on the family tree. Top of my suspect list would be the victim's wealthy father (played by Victor Garber, late of "Alias") or her brother Julian (the detective's old flame) who has developed a cancer drug that is about to be approved even though it killed a couple of dozen people in the human trials. Other suspects look a bit too obvious: her older brother Edward, who was once suspected of raping and strangling a woman to death, or her stepmother, who was tired of cleaning up the party girl's messes. There's also a teenage sister who has her own prescription drug addiction and the revelation that the wealthy heiress was pregnant when she died (revealed on a hidden sex tape found by the detective.) The heiress had also been sent to a home for unwed mothers as a teenager and her child had the same birthdate as her young "sister."

Throw in Joanna's FBI ex-boyfriend and former police partner, with whom she has rekindled a relationship, and you have some romantic tension. FBI boyfriend Will is jealous when he finds out that Julian still likes Joanna. At that point he begins to think Joanna should quit and it is looking dangerous, especially after the murder of a tabloid reporter whom the heiress contacted just before her death about a big story. Stir to boiling point. All the show needs is to have some of its rough edges rubbed smooth and it could be a very entertaining hour of television.


I watched "Deception" on Hulu and "Castle" in real-time. "Castle," a show in its fifth season, has no problem at all with the chemistry between the actors or an entertaining plot. The murder victim of the week was a divorce attorney and there was a wonderful War of the Roses type fight between two divorcing spouses. The scorned wife was played by General Hospital's Nancy Lee Grahn, whom I have enjoyed watching on that show since the mid-1990s. Jack Wagner, another "General Hospital" alum, played another of the murder suspects. "Castle" frequently has guest stars who were once regulars on soaps, perhaps because lead Nathan Fillion got his start on the soap "One Life to Live."

On the home front, Castle (Fillion) was left squirming when all of the women in his life ended up staying under the same roof: his colorful actress mother, his college-age daughter, who has mono; his scheming first ex-wife, Meredith (Darby Stanchfield), who claims she's there to take care of their daughter but really wants to stir up trouble; and his current girlfriend, police detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic). Castle didn't seem to know whether it was worse when Beckett was angry with him for letting the ex stay over or when his ex-wife and Beckett made up and went out to dinner together and shared stories about him.

The episode was highly entertaining, but it also felt a touch dishonest. Castle the famous ladies man shouldn't have been so clueless as to let his ex-wife stay over or so spineless that he couldn't say "no" to her. The writers are in danger of making him look weak, which probably isn't what they have in mind for the series' title character.

After five seasons, Beckett shouldn't be quite so insecure about Castle either. Meredith claimed it didn't work out with her and Castle because Castle never really let her get to know him. That appeared to set Beckett to thinking she doesn't know him either, even though in earlier seasons Castle confided in her constantly. Since the show established early on that Castle divorced Meredith after she cheated on him with her director, that retro con didn't ring entirely true either. On this show, which remains one of the most entertaining on television, I'd like to see a little more depth in the relationship between the leads and fewer cheap laughs.


Article Comments



Jan-12-13 3:15 PM

As a writer, it is "good exercise" for you to notice all the subtleties and nuances of the script/character development. Maybe you could start a screenplay (or novel) to work on occasionally, for grins or a future use.

I believe any type of writing (even any genre in reading) can and should be analyzed by those who write. Those activities help to hone one's craft. JMO


Jan-12-13 2:14 PM

Because I'm a writer, I think I end up watching the show AS a writer more than just a fan. I pay attention to the dialogue, the characterization, the plot and where I think the writer might be taking it and where I would take it if I were writing the show. It can be frustrating if the dialogue isn't as sharp as it once was or the characterizations seem inconsistent. That's been the case with Castle in some of the episodes I've seen in the last two seasons. On the other hand, I'm not a scriptwriter and it's not my show. All I can do is stop watching if the show stops being entertaining.


Jan-11-13 12:42 PM

Good review, Andrea.

Even though I haven't watched "Castle," I've watched other series in their progression. It is a difficult writing chore to keep a character's initial integrity intact, especially if the character is placed into very trying or implausible circumstances.

A relevant point: real life has times of boredom, doldrums, listlessness, all of which wouldn't make it in TV life.


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