Sep 23, 13

Is ‘Castle’ the Best Drama on Television?

Forget the Emmys. Forget all of the lists that place cable dramas like “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” among the best TV programs of all time. “Castle,” a light and fun network procedural that has never won a single major award, may be the best of them all.

No, seriously. And the “Castle” Season 6 premiere makes an excellent case for this rather unusual statement. The rest of the series isn’t so bad either.

Fun TV can be good TV

One thing that most “Best TV Shows” lists have in common is that they are kind of depressing. And by kind of depressing, I mean really depressing. If you don’t hate humanity or yourself after watching “The Wire,” for example, that’s a problem in itself.

Your average “great show” therefore may be brilliant, but it’s kind of a downer at the same time.

“Castle” has neither this problem nor this distinction. Sure, there’s a tense episode from time to time, but the overall attitude on this show about murder is a positive one. “Castle” has fun and mostly serves to make people happy.

Does this make a show somehow inferior to the dark and depressing programming that gets all of the awards? Logically, most would say no. But in reality, that’s often how it shakes out.

Shows like “Castle” suffer as a result. That’s too bad when you think about how consistently entertaining and well-written/acted that show is.

The Golden Age of Hollywood translated onto the small screen

At its best, “Castle” resembles nothing more than the screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s. Think Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and movies like “His Girl Friday.” They’re classics for a reason, and “Castle” brings back that entertainment well.

Witty banter is, after all, a hallmark of “Castle,” as is the oft-tempestuous relationship between Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Kate Beckett (Stana Katic). They’re just as good as those old-time stars any day.

The art of the “whodunit”

Mysteries are deceptively tough to do right on television. Even the best procedurals often rely on expertise not shown on-screen — scientific investigations, CSI teams and crazy geniuses often take care of that part.

But good, old-fashioned “whodunit” mysteries are much harder to come by. Do any current television programs do it better than “Castle”?

What “Moonlighting” curse?

While the so-called “Moonlighting” curse is totally overrated, it is fair to say that it’s usually problematic to bring together two halves of a love-hate couple. Most shows stumble a bit.

“Castle” didn’t. And it doesn’t in Season 6 — despite an out-of-the-blue marriage proposal.

And speaking of Season 6 …

It only gets better with the first episode of the new season. A great conclusion to last season’s cliffhanger leads straight into new mysteries, comedy craziness and serious peril.

“Castle” easily has the best season premiere of the fall.

It’s just so darn watchable!

Here’s the thing: I have been happily marathoning “Breaking Bad” all summer. It really is a very good show. However, when I want to really enjoy TV, this dark show would not be my first pick. I also wouldn’t sit down for a “fun” re-watch of “The Wire.”

There’s something to be said for a show that can be watched in any mood and at any time. I can’t help but think that “Castle” is one such show — even old reruns make for an entertaining hour.