“Castle”
Mondays at 10 p.m.
ABC

Courtesy of ABC

2.5 out of 5 stars

It’s hard not to cringe when hearing the phrase “crime drama.” The words conjure images of urban settings, choppy editing, cheesy one-liners, melodramatic music, poor acting and plots no one cares about or understands.

ABC’s “Castle” is a crime drama with all the fixings, but its unique premise may just be powerful enough to set it apart from the tired genre.

Crime fiction novelist Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion, “Waitress”) is a successful, arrogant womanizer suffering from writer’s block. When a series of murders pop up that are imitations of the murders in his novels, he is enlisted by the smart, no-nonsense NYPD detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic, “Feast of Love”) for help in the investigation.

Though Beckett prefers to work without interference or distractions, Castle can’t help but give his input — whether or not it’s desired. When Castle’s sense of narrative helps him discover the police have arrested the wrong guy, Beckett is convinced to put aside her differences with him. Once she does, the duo works wonderfully together and manages to bring down the real imitator. In the process, Castle gets inspiration for a new character based on Beckett, and he’ll spend the rest of the season working with her as “research” for his book.

The show’s most nauseatingly conventional element is Beckett and Castle’s relationship. He flirts shamelessly and makes blatant advances while she turns him down with snide and witty retorts. Yet she’s a fan of his books, and it’s obvious she has a soft spot for him when the camera catches her staring at him all the time. Some subtlety and originality would’ve been useful.

Fortunately, Castle’s relationship with the rest of the cast is refreshingly unique. His mother, Martha Rodgers (Susan Sullivan, “The Nine”), is a lively retiree who chases men as though she were 40 years younger. Serving as a foil to Castle and his mother’s carefree attitude, Castle’s teenage daughter Alexis (newcomer Molly C. Quinn) is grounded and sensible even with her less-than-ideal role models.

Despite disapproving of their ways, Alexis still maintains a loving relationship with her guardians. Because of these mixed-up roles, there’s virtually no hierarchy in the Castle family. With three different generations of Castle treating one another as peers, the interactions are refreshingly colorful.

With that in mind, there should’ve been more screen time devoted to these unique supporting characters. Instead, “Castle” focuses on the police force, where it rehashes the stereotypical detective roles complete with obnoxiously cheesy writing — bad one-liners are the most common form of dialogue in the hour-long program. The NYPD detectives make unnecessary jokes at every occasion, especially crime scenes. But thankfully, while this type of conventional crime drama humor dominates the show, there are still a few genuinely funny and original moments. Just not enough.

“Castle” is a crime drama, and it embraces all the conventions the genre has become infamous for — but it still has a chance to succeed. Though its romantic sub-plot is too prominent and the writing is often contrived, the show still has potential. The upcoming episodes need to focus more on Castle’s writing career and the refreshing supporting cast if “Castle” is to be saved from the worn-out genre.

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