I quite often say that returning shows have something to prove. Castle really doesn’t: by now you know what you’re going to get, and whether you like it or not. (I still do.) There are new showrunners, it should be said, but both were previously members of the show’s writing team, so I’m not expecting major changes. I wouldn’t be surprised were this to be the final season, mind you; ratings haven’t been great in America, and Stana Katic took a while to sign up this time round, which suggests that costs are getting high, and/or that at least one key member of the cast might be getting restless (tonight, Alibi, 9pm).
I’m not a fan of costume drama; at least, not if it’s set any earlier than the 1950s, so on one hand I’m probably not the target audience for BBC4’s new Scandi-import 1864. On the other hand, though, it’s made by DR, the Danish national broadcaster that gave us Forbrydelsen, Borgen, and The Bridge, and it stars just about everyone: Sidse Babett Knudsen (Birgitte in Borgen); Pilou Asbæk (Kasper in Borgen); Nicolas Bro (Buch in season 2 of Forbrydelsen); Søren Malling (Jan in Forbrydelsen and Torben in Borgen); Lars Mikkelson (the peerless Troels Hartmann in Forbrydelsen); and our very own Barbara Flynn. Plus millions of others.
It’s broadly about the Second Schleswig War between Denmark and Prussia, apparently an event of considerable significance to Danes. In fact, 1864 seems to have provided some controversy in Denmark, where it was shown last year, with critics on the right wing accusing DR of a revisionist and inaccurate retelling of the story. I realise that in saying this I’m opening myself up to – no doubt justified – accusations of philistinism, but I’m afraid that a hot take on a 150-year-old Danish/Prussian war isn’t my thing, and even if it were the BBC is showing it in those stupid double-bills (BBC4, Saturdays, 9pm, and on the iPlayer).
And not to be outdone, the BBC itself is showing its adaptation of the critically-acclaimed alternate-history 19th-century-set novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, with the always-watchable Eddie Marsan on board as Norrell. Our friend at @ShowStartUK drew our attention to the undoubtedly impressive trailer, but once again this doesn’t look like something for me (BBC 1, tonight, 9pm)
Castle, on the other hand, very much is my sort of thing; it’s hardly rewriting the rulebook for TV crime procedurals, but it’s amiable good fun, and it’s long been one of my favourite go-to shows when I don’t want to work too hard for an hour of TV enjoyment. I mean that very much as a compliment, incidentally. The UK is finally getting to see season 7 this week – with a further season renewal now confirmed – so it’s back to the day of the wedding and Castle’s disappearance. Cold feet? Probably not (Alibi, Wednesday 20 May, 9pm).
Now that some of the shows we’ve been week-by-weeking have finished – and, frankly, because I’m away on holiday and needed to stockpile – I’mma look back at some of the shows I’ve been watching but not writing about regularly. So let’s start with season 6 of Castle.
Perhaps the best episodes were at the start of the season, with the short-lived introduction of Lisa Edelstein – almost always a guarantee of quality – in as Beckett’s new Washington, D.C., partner, and Castle somewhat adrift in New York. I could have lived with Edelstein becoming a regular, but it wasn’t to be. Thereafter the show managed, more or less gracefully, to manage Castle and Beckett’s transition to regular couple; and might even, in the penultimate episode, have managed to finally knock the Beckett’s mom plot arc on the head. Moreover, the real life froideur I thought I had detected between the two leads seemed to have thawed out towards the end of the season. (I may, of course, have imagined it. That’s what I do.)
In fact, before watching this final episode I was going to say that at least the show didn’t insult our intelligence by contriving any number of silly ways to keep the OTP apart. But then Beckett turned out to be married to some dude she tied the knot with in Vegas like years ago and forgot about it, and Castle was hijacked on the way to the wedding by persons unknown, for reasons unknown, which at least gives us a cliffhanger for season 7, although I will not be happy if it means the resurrection of the Beckett’s mom arc. Either way, though, I’ll be back for more.
One of my favourite distractions returns this week, as UK viewers get season 6 of Castle. Now that Caskett is a thing, the writers need to find ways of making that more of a struggle than it should be (apart, of course, from the visibly diminishing chemistry between the two leads), so season 5 ended on some bobbins relationship cliffhanger, which presumably won’t be allowed to get in the way too much. You’ll probably know by now if it’s your sort of thing. It’s mine (Alibi, Thursday 9 January, 9pm).
Before that, we get our first look at The CW’s sci-fi drama The Tomorrow People, about teenagers who have evolved supernatural powers. It stars Jacob from Lost, Nina Myers from 24, Peyton List (Roger Sterling’s second wife in Mad Men), someone off of Home and Away, and a few others. It’s co-created by Greg Berlanti (Eli Stone, No Ordinary Family, Arrow), Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries) and Phil Klemmer (Chuck), with all three exec producing alongside Danny Cannon of the CSI stable. And it’s a remake of a fondly-remembered (by those who saw it, which doesn’t include me) 70’s UK teen drama. So on the face of things it has a lot going for it, but the critical response in America was lukewarm at best, and ratings have been nothing special either. Unpopcult isn’t bothering, unless CJ has a change of heart (E4, Wednesday 8 January, 9pm).
And, belatedly, we should note The 7.39, a two-part drama about a man (David Morrissey) and woman (Sheridan Smith), both in committed relationships, who meet on a commuter train and fall for each other. The first episode, which was enjoyed by at least one friend of Unpopcult, was broadcast last night, and is on the iPlayer; the finale is tonight. Now, let it be said right here and now that I am entirely in favour of scenarios in which attractive younger women fall for older married men. As, presumably, is the writer of The 7.39, David (One Day) Nicholls, who is 47 and married. Perhaps David Morrissey, who is 49 and married, is too. I can’t help but think, though, that The 7.39 would be a more interesting proposition if the gender roles were reversed. Or if it had been written by a woman. Or if one of the leads hadn’t been quite as good-looking. Or… something (BBC1, 9pm).
Also starting: NCIS season 11 (Fox, Friday 10 January, 9pm); Grey’s Anatomy season 10 (Sky Living, Wednesday 8 January, 10pm); and Longmire’s first appearance on Freeview (5USA, tonight, 9pm), about which I’m not going to say anything in case we get accused again of not doing our homework. And Hostages, also coming soon, will have its own PSA later in the week.
Something old and something new: we’re several months behind America with season 5 of Castle, but it doesn’t matter quite as much with this show. Castle is well-made, amiable tosh, with just enough inventiveness in the plotting to make it ideal end-of-a-hard-day viewing. And in Nathan Fillion it has a genuine star, albeit one operating well within his comfort zone. This season, presumably, with added Caskett. Squee. (Wednesday 20 March, Alibi, 9pm)
And the kind-of-new: Boss has already been cancelled in America after only two seasons, but the advance word is that the show is significantly better than its ratings would suggest. Kelsey “Frasier” Grammar won a Golden Globe, for what that’s worth, as Tom Kane, a mayor of Chicago, diagnosed with a neurological disorder which he keeps secret. Very probably worth a look. (Thursday 21 March, More4, 11pm.)
Finally, I haven’t been watching BBC3’s Bluestone 42, so I’ve no idea whether it’s any good or not, but Borgen completists might like to know that Katrine is in it tonight.
The season finale; I’ll get to the squeeing in a minute.
Firstly, though, it being a Castle season-ender or starter we have to address the issue of who killed Mom Beckett, and the investigation of what looks like the routine killing of a former gang member leads, inevitably, to the ever-larger conspiracy against the Beckett family. I kind of feel as if Castle has fallen into the same trap as The Mentalist – your show keeps getting renewed, so your Big Bad has to grow extra limbs and become bigger and badder. Thus Red John is no longer a lone wolf serial killer with an unusual line in interior design, but the centre of RJ LLC. Equally, the current face of the anti-Beckett family network – Maddox (Tahmoh Penikett), as of this week – is just one small part of it; there are people in shadows, people making deals, people hiding evidence from others.
What it yields is Castle having to ‘fess up to the deal he made to keep Beckett alive – Beckett, predictably, is furious, although for once Castle gets angry with her (something which, as far as I can tell, most fans of the show would like to happen a little more often). He tells her he loves her and walks away. Meantime, the relationship between Esposito and Ryan – which, at times, has looked likely to be consummated before anything happens with Beckett and Castle – is put under strain, as Ryan rats Beckett and Espo out for working behind everyone’s backs. They’ll make up, I’m pretty sure. And Maddox vows to put Kate down once and for all.
But, in the end, I don’t really care about that and nor, I suspect, do most Castle fans. What we’re here for is the Caskett and, finally, we get it, the writers really having run out of excuses to keep them apart. SQUEE! SQUEE! SQUEE!
UK viewers can now see any number of seasons of Castle in any number of places, but for those following at cable TV pace it’s back for season 4 this week. Picking up from the shooting of Beckett and Castle’s ensuing declaration of love, I suspect we’re in for a further season of the two of them failing to do it on a weekly basis, with some standard but fun procedurals going on around them. I reviewed the first episode of this season last year – it’s available on iTunes in the UK closer to American transmission – and as might be expected it’s unusually serious, but none the worse for that (Wednesday 7 March, Alibi, 9pm).