There are some TV episodes that are pretty near perfect and this was very much one of them.
For the uninitiated, I'll start with an explanation of the premise of this show, which is far more popular in the US than it is here - in the US it's a network show shown on ABC usually straight after Dancing with the Stars, whereas in the UK it's aired on cable network Alibi (personally, I feel that Channel 5 should buy this and give it a wider airing). So here we go:
Best-selling crime novelist and all round loveable rogue Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion, best known among Phoenixians for his role as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly) is shadowing NYPD detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic, who was a Russian vampire in one of the Librarian movies, I am informed and also turned up at the scene in Kazan at the end of Quantum of Solace. She was also in 24 season 5 for a bit, something I managed to completely forget... probably because it's the show's worst season...), a sensible-with-a-hint-of-wild woman who is still trying to solve the murder of her mother, the reason why she joined the force. Armed with her detective skills and his "arsenal of rapier wit", they and their team solve murders in the Big Apple, while Beckett and Castle fill the precinct with their sexual tension, as we wonder when and if they're going to hook up.
Think of it as a cross between Murder She Wrote and Moonlighting, except the crimes come to Castle through a telephone call rather than while he's on holiday somewhere.
Oh, we forgot to mention Castle lives with his actor mother, Martha and surprisingly smart teenage daughter, Alexis.
This is one of those shows that is way better than it sounds.
Anyhow, after killing off his previous literary lead, Derrick Storm, Castle decides to create a new lead based on Beckett, one Nikki Heat. As we approach this episode two novels starring Heat have been published ("Heat Wave" and "Naked Heat" - in a rather interesting tie-in move by ABC, you can buy the actual novels) and a film adaptation of the first has been commissioned.
As we start this episode, Castle is watching an audition tape of the actor chosen to play Heat, one Natalie Rhodes, who has the reputation of being a blonde bombshell appearing in schlocky exploitation horror movies, something which dismays Castle. When called by Beckett to the murder scene of a millionaire match-maker, Natalie arrives. Beckett has asked her to shadow her on a case as research...
Thus begins comedy gold.
The cases in this show are always pretty interesting, but you don't watch the show for that and I won't go into the case here (spoilers and all that). You watch it for the leads - and they both turn in great performances.
Rhodes, way smarter than she looks, decides to get into character by copying Beckett's mannerisms and vocal patterns, a move that throws the usually self-assured Kate completely off her game - and it's hilarious to watch, particularly once Natalie breaks out the brunette wig. Castle, who has enough problems keeping up with Beckett on a good day, finds himself as third fiddle for much of the time, although there's a great scene where Beckett is complaining about Rhodes and he seems to be very much in command, an unusual role reversal. Scenes with all three characters together are generally gems.
There's lots of great laugh-out-loud moments sprinkled in this, such as Alexis' "Natalie was great in this movie or so I heard" comments, Natalie wondering if Castle is gay and Natalie's spot-on imitation of Beckett. They'll all perfectly timed as well. The dialogue is brilliant as always (Castle has always been a very self-aware show), plus there's a lovely ending as well.
There are some minor flaws in this, mostly scenes without Rhodes and Beckett in the same room, so I can't quite give it a ten, so I'll give it a 9.
It's even better than "Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind", my previous favourite episode.
With a fourth season now ordered, this show could run and run.