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Dull Castle built on cliched foundation

It had to happen sooner or later. After the glorious run of good luck we've enjoyed with American drama in recent years, it was inevitable that the tide would eventually turn and that TV would begin cannibalising its own past.

Last year we had the ridiculous and unfortunately-named The Mentalist, which conjured up the spirit of Bill Bixby's 70s hit The Magician, but with slightly better hairstyles and clothes.

This year, we have the equally silly Castle, which is a comedy-drama about a bestselling murder-mystery writer named Richard Castle, who's called by the NYPD to help when someone starts bumping off people in the style of the killings in one of his novels.

As a veteran newspaper editor I used to work for liked to say, 'it's a story so old it's got hairs growing out of it'.

But, as if this wasn't one clanging cliche too many, Castle -- who's played with perma-stubbled smugness by Nathan Fillion -- is paired with a sexy, spiky ladycop called Kate Beckett (Stana Katic). They bicker, they banter -- but underneath it all they have the hots for one another, don't you know?

Castle is a self-conscious throwback to Remington Steel, Scarecrow and Mrs King, Moonlighting and every other piece of disposable 80s fluff about a mismatched couple up to their armpits in simmering sexual tension.

Despite an absolute lack of originality, plus a sense that Castle's makers can't stop smirking at their own post-modern cleverness, it's become a sizeable hit in the US. But, then, so have plenty of other series we never get to see. Castle, lazily lodged in a late-night Saturday slot on RTE1, demonstrates why we never get to see them.

"I don't mind being saddled all the time," loopy Tory MP and devout Catholic Ann Widdecombe told an incandescent Stephen Fry in The Bible: A History. Stop sniggering at the back, you dirty-minded beasts!

Widdecombe was responding to claims by Fry, an atheist, that the Ten Commandments are largely "silly" and have saddled society with constricting and ultimately destructive burdens. "How dare you command!" he fumed at her.

This was more of a reaction than the one Widdecombe got from Fry's fellow atheist Christopher Hitchens, who seemed so revolted by her preachy, condescending tone that he stood up and walked away from the interview after 30 seconds.

The Bible: A History gives various well-known and not so well-known faces the opportunity to interpret aspects of the world's bestselling book. Widdecombe got the Commandments -- or rather she took the Commandments.

In fact, she's been taking Moses's tablets for years. "I loved them as a child and they've been the moral compass of my life," she said, huffing and puffing her way up Mount Sinai.

In Widdecombe's unshakeable view, all society's ills -- "illegitimate children", teenage gangs, drunkenness, lack of respect for elders -- would vanish if we all followed her own prescription.

There are no grey areas with Widdecombe. She's a woman not for turning. It would be fun to roll her down Mount Sinai, though.

TOMORROW: Pat reviews Hook in Haiti (RTE1) and gets locked up in the Tower Block of Commons (C4)

Stacey's Stars

Castle *

The Bible: A History **


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