Monday, April 18, 2011

Toying With The Fourth Wall

I've always enjoyed theatre or other media that experiments with the fourth wall (ie, plays in postmodernism and meta-humour). In particular, I've quite enjoyed the various ways in which the television show Castle continually crosses over and toys with the fourth wall in various yet subtle manners.

Because we missed the first half of the first season of the show, Francine and I recently bought the DVD of Season One, which we very quickly devoured.

Going back to the series beginning, we're seeing that it has been a good show with some crafty and charming writing, right from the beginning. So good, in fact, that I'm surprised it continues to be renewed. (Yes, Francine and I regularly have the luck of finding shows we really enjoy don't get renewed, so this is one of those fine exceptions)

The writing of the show is top notch crime thriller stuff. The mystery is always intriguing and contains a good number of complex twists. The humour is also really well done. The obvious and expected love interest between the two main characters, Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), the NYC detective Castle shadows is carried out quite effectively, and the growing friendship between the two is wonderfully developed - something I attribute to a combination of great writing and acting.

There is a playful interaction between all of the cast members from the 12th precinct during each investigation, as is the relationship between Castle and his daughter, as well as his mother. Another example of fine writing and acting combined beautifully. Each scene contains subtle yet important nuances that reveal both characters as well as the relationships between them that make the show much richer.

In a nutshell, the actors, casting, writers and directors of this show deserve a lot of credit for pulling off an otherwise unreleastic scenario (a mystery writer being allowed to shadow a police detective that closely and work that intimately on various cases). The writers even have fun with the fourth wall, such as Castle playing poker with real-life mystery writers and the scene from the first season where Castle is sitting in Beckett's car (stuck there because he isn't allowed to go into a building with Beckett and her team during a bust) and like a big kid pretends to be driving the parked car and chasing bad guys -- all the while humming a haunting familiar tune: The theme music to the show.

And the producers have also done something phenomenal in the real world release of books under the name Richard Castle. As Castle is writing a new series of novels featuring a fictional NYC detective named Nikki Heat which is based on and inspired by Beckett (much to Beckett's chagrin), Hyperion books has been releasing novels with the same titles and based on the fictional setting. The "Castle" character in the novels is a journalist called Jameson Rook, a cute "Castle" reference in and of itself. On top of that wonderfully executed fourth wall element, actor Nathan Fillion even toured real life bookstores playing the role of Castle.

I picked up Heat Wave, the first of the books, because after seeing so many mentions of it, and loving the writing of the show, I just couldn't resist.  I was delighted that the novel was as well written as one of the episodes of the show, and it even explored the back story of the characters (such as the murder of Beckett's mother) quite wonderfully, the way only novels can. I'm not sure if it was written by a single ghost writer or a combination of writers from the television series. But at just over 200 pages, it was a good thriller and played nicely upon all the same relationship dynamics (not just Beckett and Castle, but all the other characters) that appear in the television episodes. I definitely plan on picking up and reading the second book, Naked Heat, and see that a third book, Heat Rises is slated to be released in September 2011.

As mentioned earlier, one of the fascinating crossovers that happens are the occasional scenes in the show when Rick Castle plays poker with a bunch of writer buddies. Those scenes feature real life mystery/thriller writers. Last week's episode, which included a poker game scene featured Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane and included a beautiful nod to the late Stephen J. Cannell where a newbie to the game is told he can't sit in Stephen's seat, which is left vacant for a year after a member's death.

Again, this isn't just a show that wonderfully toys with the fourth wall, but a brilliant example of transmedia storytelling. I'll not only be picking up the next novel in the series, but also buying Season Two, Three and Four. Not a bad run for a show that began as a mid-series replacement.


Andrea said...

They also changed when he mentioned changing it on the show. We're hooked as well!

Mark Leslie said...

That's so cool, Andrea, thanks for sharing. Oh, BTW, I just HAD to go check out, which was a pretty cool site and adds more dimension to the fictional character.

From there I started following "Rick's" twitter feed, noticed other twitter accounts from several of the actors on the show - am now following them.

Just call me a big giant fanboy of the entire enterprise. :)