Pop culture Q&A

Pop culture Q&A

By Rich Heldenfels

Q. Is Nathan Fillion actually Richard Castle the author, or is his picture just used in the “Nikki Heat” books? I like the show and the books, but the books have Nathan Fillion’s picture as Richard Castle.

A. It’s a bit of show-biz gimmickry, not unlike the mystery novels that appeared under the name Jessica Fletcher — the fictional writer played by Angela Lansbury on “Murder, She Wrote,” with Lansbury’s picture on the cover. Since Fillion is the face of the fictional novelist Richard Castle, it’s his image you see on the books, which include “Naked Heat,” “Heat Rises,” “Heat Wave” and “Frozen Heat.” Fillion has also appeared at book signings for the Castle novels, but reports from those signings say he appears as himself, not in character as Richard Castle.

That being said, it’s not clear who actually writes the novels. The book publisher, Hyperion, has a comical biography of Castle online and has not revealed a real-life writer. Real-life novelists such as James Patterson, Michael Connelly and the late Stephen J. Cannell played themselves as friends of Castle’s on the show, so some readers have speculated one of them wrote the “Heat” novels. I prefer another theory, that Castle’s books are written by author Tom Straw; the Hyperion biography says Castle won the “Nom DePlume Society’s prestigious Tom Straw Award for Mystery Literature,” and nom de plume is another way of saying “pen name.”

Q. Was “The Finder” renewed? What will happen now that Michael Clarke Duncan has passed away?

A. The Fox series, which co-starred Duncan, was canceled in May, after a single season on the air. Duncan, also known for the movie “The Green Mile,” died in September.

Q. Is the TV show “Mockingbird Lane” with Jerry O’Connell going to be airing new episodes?

A. So far, the reboot of “The Munsters” consists only of the pilot, which NBC aired Oct. 26 as a Halloween-themed special. It drew a reported 5.4 million viewers, did relatively well with young adults and helped draw viewers to NBC’s “Grimm.” But at this writing, the network has not ordered more episodes.

Q. When I was a child (I am now 64), there were two Christmas specials that we couldn’t miss every year. They were marionette presentations of the birth of Christ, quoting the Scripture from Luke for the storyline, and of the poem “The Night Before Christmas.” Do you know if they are available on DVD?

A. You are looking for a special called “The Spirit of Christmas,” which included both the Nativity story and Clement Moore’s poem as performed by marionettes. Mabel Beaton, in conjunction with her husband, Leslie, was responsible for the program, which aired often on TV beginning in the ’50s.

According to a 2001 obituary for Mabel at CapeCodOnline.com, she “sculpted more than 200 lifelike heads for the marionettes that were seen in films made for the Council of Churches, for television and for schools and libraries.” The Beatons also wrote a book about marionettes. Leslie died in 1965. In 1999, Mabel received the Puppeteers of America’s George Latshaw Award for “accomplishments in writing and publishing in the field of puppetry.”

“The Spirit of Christmas” seems to be a favorite in Philadelphia, so much that the DVD release is called “The Spirit of Christmas: The Philadelphia Holiday Classic.” If your local retailer does not have it, I’ve seen it for sale on Amazon.com and Moviesunlimited.com. You can see the segments on YouTube.

Do you have a question or comment for the mailbag? Write to the Akron Beacon Journal, 44 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH 44309 or rheldenfelsthebeaconjournal.com. Please mark the email or envelope with “mailbag.” Letters may be edited for publication. Please do not phone in questions. Individual replies cannot be guaranteed.

2012 Akron Beacon Journal

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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