Is ‘Take Two’ a ‘Castle’ redux, or modern-day Nick and Nora Charles fun?
“Take Two,” which premiered Thursday on ABC, is a likable new series from Terri Edda Miller and Andrew W. Marlowe, late of that network’s “Castle,” which Marlowe created and for which Miller wrote and produced. Briefly put, it is “Castle” on Opposites Day.
Each series is about a crime-fighting pro reluctantly teamed with an enthusiastic goofball amateur. But where “Castle” concerned a male mystery writer solving crimes with a female NYPD detective, “Take Two” is about an actress, who has played a cop on TV, working alongside an L.A. private eye. (Oddly, though “Castle” had Los Angeles stand in for New York City, the L.A.-set “Take Two” is shot in Vancouver. Television!)
I wouldn’t go so far as to say, in the familiar promotional language, “If you loved ‘Castle,’ you’ll love ‘Take Two,'” much of the former show’s appeal being specific to its stars, Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion. But you might.
Rachel Bilson (from “The O.C.” and “Hart of Dixie”) plays Samantha Swift, undone by the one-two punch of a broken engagement and a canceled television series — her claim of 200 episodes of “Hot Suspect” would put its run at something close to a decade — leading to an episode of inebriated public disgrace (“hashtag no underwear, hashtag no dignity, hashtag no memory”). As “Take Two” begins, Sam has emerged from rehab with the promise of a role as a private detective in a prestigious indie film; for research, she attaches herself to Eddie Valetik (Eddie Cibrian, “Rosewood”), who owes her agent a favor.
Sam tells Eddie that she wants to “get to know how you think, how you work — crawl under your skin.”
“My skin is already crawling,” grumbles Eddie.
She will realize that she likes the work, that “for the first time in a long long time I felt something real . like what I was doing mattered.” He will see, grudgingly, that she is good at it and not the entitled tourist he first takes her for and that her acting skills have practical applications. Of course, they’ll need each other — Eddie too is at a career low, having crossed the Wrong People — though how much and in what way are matters for later episodes, if not seasons.
Meanwhile, he is an exasperated German shepherd to her excitable Jack Russell terrier.
“Stay here,” Eddie tells Sam as he goes to do something dangerous.
“Have you met me?” she asks, getting out of the car.
“Take Two” is a lighter proposition than “Castle” eventually became — but Bilson and Cibrian are airier presences than their predecessors, and a lack of gravitas suits them. I fear for the day when they will have to look deeply and seriously into each other’s eyes over some dark secret or because they are about to be parted forever, temporarily. Nick and Nora Charles never looked deeply and seriously into each other’s eyes, though they frequently made faces at each other. And they started the whole Love as Sleuthing thing.
Like “Castle,” it features fictional characters talking about how real life is not like fiction. Richard Castle wrote novels that featured a character based on Katic’s Kate Beckett, named Nikki Heat – one of which was adapted within a “Castle” episode for a movie that went straight to video after the actress playing her went to rehab – see paragraph four, above. (On top of that, several Nikki Heat novels were published, under Castle’s name, in the real world, where you can still buy them.)
Him: “You do know you weren’t a real cop.”
Her: “And yet I was voted Most Trusted Cop in America by People magazine, two years running.”
Also like “Castle,” “Take Two” builds diversity through its supporting players, some of whom don’t arrive until after the pilot. Xavier DeGuzman plays Berto, Eddie’s tech-savvy right hand, while Alice Lee’s Monica, Sam’s ultra-deadpan assistant, has tech actually in her hands. (She’s a biohacking “grinder,” a self-described cyborg.) Aliyah O’Brien plays LAPD Det. Christine Rollins, the Inspector Lestrade of the story, with the difference that Lestrade never slept with Sherlock Holmes, as Christine casually does with Eddie. Lamont Thompson plays Zeus, a security consultant who also owns a bar; and Jordan Gavaris is Mick English, the resident comical medical examiner, who is also Sam’s biggest fan.
“Castle” is a series I watched through thick and thin and annoying long arcs that got in the way of the more important, and more fun, business of solving a murder each week. The show could be predictable – the culprit was reliably a character who appeared within the first five or 10 minutes and promptly disappeared until the final five or 10, and you could set your watch by Ryan or Esposito walking in to say that the alibi of the suspect Beckett had been haranguing in the previous scene checked out.
But predictability was a feature of “Castle,” not a bug, and “Take Two,” on the evidence of its first two episodes at least, seems happy to aim for something similar. There is a kind of mystery you drift along with, as on an amusement park ride, commenting to the person next to you on what looks totally fake or sort of cool, getting an actual shock when something pops out of the dark. “Take Two” promises to be just that sort of enjoyable show. If it brings nothing new to the table, that is the meal we have come for. To make too great claims for it would be in a way to insult its not-untasty flavor.
Robert Lloyd is Los Angeles Times (TNS) writer.