Monday was a bit of crazy around our house, so we missed the two premieres we were waiting for. To be fair, we were going to miss one of them, anyway, since they were both on at 10PM and I was not staying up until midnite…not on a school night.
But last night, we caught up with both “Castle” and “The Blacklist.”
Warning: there will be some mild spoilers in this post.
The family favorite “Castle” returned for its sixth season (sixth? lord, where does the time go?) and though it had its trademark mixture of fun and games, banter and repartee, it was, as season openers go, a wee jump-the-sharkish.
The characters are still strong, the multiple interactions between work and family, crime and backstory, were all tight and delightfully off-beat, but the “A” Plotline was a bit too Jack Bauerish. Okay. A lot too Jack Bauerish.
Thankfully, I don’t watch “Castle” for the procedurals or crime-solving whodunnitness. I watch it to see a 21st-century Nick and Nora breeze from perp to perp, weaving jokes, romance, and teasing banter into every scene. The show had that, in spades, so I was not disappointed until we got to the ticking clock at the end of the episode.
So, overall, a fun hour. Plus, I won five shekels in a bet with my friend who was sure they wouldn’t remain a couple into season six.
Second up was James Spader’s new Vehicle of Droll, “The Blacklist.”
I liked James Spader well enough as a young actor. His raffish looks and his imperial hauteur usually landed him in roles as the callow, silver-spoon-fed youth whose moral ambiguity dropped him off on the downside of any plot, and he owned those roles. As he grew up, though, I came to like him even more. “Boston Legal” was one of the finest mixtures of drama and comedy of the past decade, and the Spader/Shatner combination was impossible to beat. Sadly, all I have left of that show is my “Crane Poole & Schmidt” baseball cap, so when I heard that Spader had landed a lead role in “The Blacklist,” I was determined to give it a try.
The setup, in which Spader walks into the FBI, identifies himself, and then calmly folds his jacket while he waits for Security to realize he’s one of the FBI’s Most Wanted, at which point they descend upon him, guns drawn and klaxons blaring, is a beautiful piece of theatre.
Spader is in fine fettle here, and is delivered like it was written with him in mind (it wasn’t; they originally wanted Kiefer Sutherland in the role…go figure). Lines like “I smell the stench of your cologne, Agent Cooper. Smells like…hubris.” are wonderful and too rare in American television. So rare, in fact, that they went unappreciated by the director and editor, who walked over that line and others like it with extraneous sounds and background chatter that filled the show, making it at times nearly incomprehensible.
“The Blacklist” is a fun ride, but unlike the “Castle” premiere, it’s so chock-a-block with action and intrigue, cliché and trope, that it’s hard to get emotionally dialed in. If you diagrammed the plots of these two episodes and overlaid one on the other, they’d be hard to tell apart. Twists, turns, sudden escapes, unpunished criminal actions committed by law enforcement, unrealistic leaps of non-logic, and always the ticking clock (literally, in the case of “The Blacklist”).
But between the two, “Castle” is the clear winner. The writing and plotting were tighter, leaner, and the characters were more believable. True, it fell down in the last 4 minutes of the episode, but aside from that it was pretty strong.
On the other hand, “The Blacklist” was thoroughly over-the-top, derivative, and predictable. If it weren’t for Spader, I’d have given up halfway through. He’s too much fun to give up on so easily, though, and so I’ll stick with it just to watch a little more of his deadpan “Oh, you silly mortals” delivery. Something tells me, though, that at least one DVR slot will be opening up in pretty soon.