For the last year, my guilty pleasure TV has been Castle. For those of you who don't know, it's a police comedy-drama set in New York, about a snarky female homicide detective, Becket, and the easily distracted writer, Castle, who tags along on her cases for "research". It's light and goofy and plays fast and loose with forensics and police procedure, but I'm okay with that because it's fun. And it stars Nathan Fillion, of Firefly fame.
But. I've watched the show from its beginning and I've noticed this pattern with the B-plots that's really starting to bug me. See, Castle has a teenage daughter, Alexis. She's smart, pretty, outgoing, community active, and is involved in all kinds of extracurriculars. She's also grounded and take-charge, which comes from Castle's parenting techniques and from having to parent Castle in his more distracted moments. This saves her from being a Mary Sue, though it's still close sometimes.
The vast majority of B-plots focus on Alexis, and Castle's worries about whatever her activity du jour is. While this is cute and sweet, it's done enough that it's getting cloying, and, to top it off, the writers keep tying the Alexis stuff in with the homicide of the day. The case is about a stalker? Alexis gets a boyfriend for Castle to get paranoid about. The victim is a pop singer? She just happens to be Alexis' favourite. The case is about an actor, like it was on Monday? Alexis tries out for Grease. However, with a few exceptions where Alexis will provide fuel for Castle's eleventh hour realization, the B-plots never have an impact on the A-plot.
That's bad writing in my books. I may be fairly new to this writing thing, but I feel like two intertwined plots should have some kind of impact on each other at worst, and parallel each other to provide a deeper meaning at best. CSI does this pretty well, or did while I was watching it with any consistency. Supernatural does this well, with the B-plot normally being about family or the series arc, keeping the themes of the show alive. Even Bones has its moments with B-plots focusing around important issues like racism or battered women, though most of the time they're relationship plots that add comic relief.
Another bit of bad writing in Castle? I'm getting peeved that, while Alexis is doing all these cool activities, we never get any of them carried over to other episodes. If she becomes, say, the editor of her school paper, are we ever going to see her working on an issue at home, or going to interview someone? No. If she gets into painting, are we going to see her painting after that one episode? No, she's have conveniently decided not to pursue it as a hobby. And she's dating now, but we've only seen the guy once, and whatever happened to the guy she was with for the season premiere?
I actually watch Castle for the bad writing. And the one-liners. And the romantic tension between Becket and Castle. And Nathan Fillion. Like I said, it's a total guilty pleasure show. One hundred percent. So obviously I don't really mind the flaws, but I'm definitely aware of them and I want the writers to step up to the plate and try to blend the plots better. There's part of me that wants the Alexis plot to result in her being kidnapped or otherwise threatened by the criminal of the day. I think not only would that be one of the best written episodes, but it would also force the cast to act to a higher level. That can never be a bad thing.