It’s sweeps month! It’s sweeps month! Craziness will happen! Casting will be stunty! Networks will actually try!
Yes, Beatniks, it’s that magical time of year when whatever the actual televised content on procedurals—good or bad—it is highly unlikely to be indifferent. Those networks need our eyeballs, so if they want ’em, they’d better be willing to throw us a CSI triple crossover, resurrect long-lost castmembers, and double the Deschanel quotient! (Oh wait, no, Zooey’s not popping up on Bones till Dec. 10. Shoot. That’s one bit of holiday stunt casting I do approve of, mainly because we’ve waited for it just this side of forever.)
Maybe it was leftover Halloween madness, but Numb3rs already started getting down to sweepy business on Friday, with a straight-up strange episode about people getting zapped by lightning bolts directed by drones. (Or were they…aliens??! No—no, they were not.) But that wasn’t the weird part. Aside from a few throwaway references to Scooby Doo and The X-Files, the weirdness was in the person of John Michael Higgins, whom you might know from Arrested Development, Kath & Kim, or—and I didn’t know this till I looked him up—as the voice of Mentok the Mindtaker on Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. (Cool points tallied.) Higgins played Floyd Mayborne, an agent from “Dept. 44,” which we are led to believe is some sort of double super-secret background black ops crew. Floyd seems to have an invisible cell phone, crazy deep sourcing throughout the fed farm, and a spooky ability to materialize anywhere. He was also a bit dippy. I’m not sure Floyd was as successful onscreen as the character must have looked on the page, but it was still nice to see Numb3rs go for humor—they tend to do a creditable job when they try.
And hey, look, it must be catching, because even Law & Order tried a joke Friday night. Yes, just one—that’s how they do. In an interesting take on web-commenter insanity, a creepy photographer was found murdered in his apartment in a kinky scene that, yes, looked ripped from certain Thai headlines involving a certain American actor. Only his murder had nothing to do with the shutterbug’s nasty habit of preying on young women. It turns out he texts while driving, a crime so evil a crazy lady posting to a vigilante website went and made him dead. At least the long-absent Dr. Olivet (Carolyn McCormick) thought she was crazy, so we concur. At any rate, in order to identify the commenter nutjobs, the cops needed to bait them online, and guess who their juicy hooked worm was? Det. Bernard (Anthony Anderson). Then came the joke: Why him, he wanted to know? “Lupo’s juicy!” Okay, it’s not much of a joke, but the reason I bring it up is that we haven’t really talked about the chemistry between Anderson and Jeremy Sisto. This is a pair that proves that timing and repartee between two leads actually can build. Sisto and Anderson didn’t entirely click in the beginning, but now they are the show’s best pair since our beloved Jerry Orbach parted company with the mother ship and Jesse L. Martin, shortly before he passed away—and that was five years ago. The point of all this is that knowing that it really does happen, that chemistry really does grow, should give us all hope that LL Cool J. and Chris O’Donnell can grow into the kind of buddy pairing we like to see lead these shows. So keep the faith, NCIS: LA watchers. It can happen.
The rest of the episode, featuring Daily Show vet Rob Corddry as the vigilante in chief (doing a lovely job being hateful), struck a nerve with me, I have to admit. We’ve all had some sort of experience with people getting funky online, and even when it doesn’t rise to the level of violence, it’s evil. It robs you of something and makes you want to engage less with the world. The show did a nice job (as it often does) of pointing out where the law has failed to keep up with technology, but a better one, I thought, of holding up a mirror to show us how unnecessary online nastiness is, and how quickly it morphs into the kind of beast that no one can control. And that’s one to grow on.
Ooh, this is self-serving—just after ranting about making nice on the internet box, I’m about to say something you’ll hate. So here goes: Castle was not great last night. I know, I know. I could’ve smacked your kid, kicked your dog, and dissed your momma’s mac and cheese before I said nary a nice word about Castle. Hey, I love the show too—you know that—but something was off last night. The show felt like it was trying too hard from the opening moments, with Castle (Nathan Fillion) writhing around playing rock god, the actor doing his best to make do with a tired trope. (Laser Tag? Awesome! Running lines with mom? Sweet! Going full Risky Business by one’s lonesome? A touch too much.)
It got weirder still after Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) informed her dad that her favorite pop star was dead. Our darling little grind, our practically-perfect-in-every-way little mystery scion, Alexis, actually skipped class to pop up at the police station to follow the case. Yes, it was her favorite singer, but still. I know I’m harsh, but it didn’t ring true to me. Nor did the eye roll Beckett (Stana Katic) gave Esposito (Jon Huertas) when she said Castle was killing her patience. I know these are nitpicky things, but Castle is all about the nitpicky things, the little moments between the characters that make this show so much more fun than it has to be. So when you add up the slightly off moments, the sluggish pacing, the characters behaving close to themselves, but not quite close enough, it makes a difference. I’m not saying it was a total bust, though, since there were three awesome moments of the night (all Fillion’s, of course). First, there was the throwaway comment to Beckett, “Makes you want me, right?” The answer to that is obviously “yes, a thousand times, you fool!” But then he picked up his game, admitting that he was utterly clueless as to who possibly could have killed the singer and hung her upside down on a fire escape. The butler did it, he posited. Or, no, wait! “How about Alexis? …She’s perfect! She’s peripheral to the case; we don’t suspect her; she has no alibi!” Way to go, pops, fake-implicating your kid. Funny, though. But the best exchange of the night was Castle’s with Beckett, trying to puzzle through the singer’s lyrics, looking for clues. She’s afraid of death, they thought. Or rather, says, Beckett, “she wasn’t hiding from death, she was hiding from change.” Without a beat, there was Castle: “She hated Obama!” Whatever your politics, that mess is hilarious.
Okay, Coppers, sock it to me. Am I too hard on Castle? You getting psyched for next week’s triple CSI crossover? Are you happy that Numb3rs snuck in a line about Larry (Peter MacNicol) returning eventually, or are you too thrilled that TNT actually did pick up Southland to care? Hit me back. And remember, let’s be careful out there.