Snowed in for Snowmaggedon here in the DC/Baltimore area, I spent the weekend catching on some of my "second tier" shows -- shows that I like and enjoy but don't necessarily watch on a week-to-week basis. Every once in awhile they pile up on my DVR or they start expiring on hulu.com so I have to clean house.
Castle: I know my first review of this show was lukewarm but against all odds it's started to grow on me. Over the summer I mused on why I like British mystery shows but not American ones and it seems that I just had to find the right formula and I think Castle has it.
A big part of it is definitely Nathan Fillion, who I really love and who fits perfectly into the role of Rick Castle. I think the show does a nice job balancing his family life (his mother is a hoot and Alexis is one of the sweetest, least annoying teenagers on television) with the murder-of-the-week. I like the second-banana detectives, Esposito and Ryan, who have this funny sort of buddy-cop thing going, and Beckett has probably grown on me the most. She and Castle are of the classic will-they-won't-they dynamic but I'm not in any hurry to see them get together. The murders can get kind of quirky and outlandish, but somehow with the premise that Castle is a mystery writer, i find it all easier to swallow.
Bones: I know, another procedural? I've been lying all this time when I said I couldn't watch them! But actually I've been a fan of Bones for awhile. Again, it's murder mysteries, and while I guess the science-y stuff kind of appeals to me, it's really the characters that drive this show, not the mysteries. They actually have kind of a meta joke about it, with Edison, one of the rotating interns, always getting uncomfortable with the team being so open about their personal lives at work. But that's really the fun part. Cam and Angela and Hodgins and Sweets are all really fun and while I hated how Zack got written out of the show, I actually do really like all the rotating interns and how we're getting bits and pieces of their personal lives too (Wendell's my favorite though...because he's cute and I'm shallow).
Again though, we have a will-they-won't-they partnership at the center of the show with Brennan and Booth. As the show has gone on, you can see how the partnership has changed both their characters. They obviously have feelings for each other but who knows how long they're going to stretch out the sexual tension (hey, they did it for almost 10 years with Mulder and Scully on The X-files). It's funny though, my all-time favorite TV show is Buffy and David Boreanaz should be Angel in my head, but actually I think Booth is a much better role for him. He gets to be a bit more humorous, which he's actually pretty good at.
The Vampire Diaries: At first I didn't really like this. I'm kind of wary of all this new-wave vampire stuff (I obviously have issues with Twilight and True Blood is too gory for me), I was predisposed to not like Elena because Nina Dobrev annoyed the heck out of me on Degrassi and I thought the first two episodes were kind of boring. But my brother of all people told me that he was actually really liking it so I decided to give it another shot, and he was right. It's a pretty interesting little show. Yes, there's a doomed vampire-human romance at the center of it (Elena/Stefan), but it's not nearly as annoying as Bella/Edward, mostly because, to my surprise, Elena's kind of level-headed. Also, Damon, Stefan's brother, also a vampire, is the ambiguously evil foil to Stefan (the "good" vampire) that kind of keeps the audience guessing.
The side characters have also been improving. I could probably do without Caroline, one of Elena's friends, who was caught up in some gross stuff with Damon and now is dating Matt, Elena's ex-boyfriend, and Jenna, Elena's aunt, who just seems to be a a ditz who gets attracted to ALL the wrong guys in town. But Bonnie, Elena's best friend, comes from a line of witches, which is cool, and I've liked Jeremy (Elena's younger brother) and his arc, especially with Vicki dead.
The history/folklore angle is also kind of interesting. The town they live in, Mystic Falls, has a history of vampires and the townspeople knowing about it and fighting back. Elena herself is a look-alike of a vampire that Stefan and Damon knew (and fell in love with) in the 1860s when they were both "turned." The period flashbacks are kind of cheesy but the actors are obviously have fun with it.
Oh, and Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley are really pretty. I'll take them over Robert Pattinson any day!