David Slays Goliath: ABC Has Canceled Castle! The How & Why of It.

David Slays Goliath: ABC Has Canceled Castle! The How & Why of It.

Castle Canceled /pic from season 6 copyright ABC

Honestly, I’m in shock as I’m writing – but it’s a happy shock. David has slayed Goliath.  In a move many said was never going to happen ABC has decided to cancel its romantic dramedy Castle!   Castle season 8 has been a season that was clearly being built for a spin-off.  After the shocking firing of leading lady Stana Katic and actress Tamala Jones  she played the medical examiner and BFF of Detective/Captain Kate Beckett (Katic’s character) many in the business thought ABC was making a mistake – but that they would go through with it.  Add to the news that ABC had resigned Nathan Fillion who has the title role of writer Richard Castle, plus the actors Seamus Dever & Jon Huertas, well, the bets were that there were going to be a lot of unhappy fans this Monday.  No one expected to see on a Thursday night the words, “Castle Canceled” floating down their Twitter feed.

(FYI, the exact opposite of the above prediction happened. Castle and Nashville are gone and The Catch has been renewed.)

What ABC underestimated was the reaction to the firing of Katic. The fans of this eight year veteran show said, “enough is enough!”  On social media they began a campaign to, of all things, get their once favorite show, canceled!  Understand that Castle fans have a reputation of being a fan base that puts the “fan” in fanatic.  They had propelled the show and it’s co-stars to numerous People Choice Awards and the romantic duo Caskett to several TV Guide Fan Favorite wins.  For these fans to turn around and beg ABC to cancel their show was not a small thing.  In fact,  as many pundits have noted, it’s unprecedented.  It did not, however, come out of nowhere.

Things had been rocky with Castle since the blown up wedding of 6 x 23.  Viewers weren’t thrilled with the new Richard Castle mythology, nor the reduced screen time of Castle and Beckett, aka “Caskett,” being together.  The final ratings drop for season seven hit with the introduction of Castle as a private investigator. The ratings took a definite hit in season seven.  However, fans noted that the second half of seven had more of Beckett, who had been somewhat marginalized in the season, and more Caskett scenes, and many were hopeful that the show had moved back in the direction that creator Andrew Marlowe had set up in the first six seasons before that disastrous wedding.

Instead, Marlowe and his wife and creative partner Terri Edda Miller left the show entirely, (As the creator, Marlowe had a name-only consultant credit) and new showrunners were appointed: Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter. For a majority of fans, things then proceeded to go from bad to worse. In the second episode of season eight, Castle and Beckett who had finally gotten married in season seven were broken up! There’s really no point in going over how bad the storyline was – you can read the reviews – but frankly a lot of Castle season 8 has had fans and critics wondering what was going on over at Castle ABC. Then the news came down that ABC had fired Katic and Jones – and that a Castle season nine would continue the show – without the beloved character of Kate Beckett.  It meant the destruction of eight seasons  (some might argue 7) of a love story that had been the heart of the show from day one.

Adding insult to injury, is that the show had brought in a couple of new characters, including series regular, Toks Olagundoye.  She played a woman named Hayley Shipton, that fans, for various reasons having nothing to do with the actress, simply could not get invested in.  When the second half of the season began to increase the time Hayley spent with Castle, the rumors of the obvious spin-off plans became much more concrete and dismaying.

The final straw for the fans was that the official reason given for the firing of Katic was budget cuts.  A level of rage hit social media that I’m not sure ABC was prepared for.  Hearing that, to save money, ABC thought they could fire the female co-lead and toss out the story they’d invested their time and money in (Castle has been a heavily merchandised show) and seemingly just replace Beckett with some other woman was such a sexist idea that even Variety made note of it.

The sexism wasn’t just about the choosing to keep Fillion and replacing Katic with a cheaper version.  It was the idea that a strong, smart, iconic character could be tossed aside and most would be fine with just having the male lead be the center of the story with the new woman as more of a prop than character.  (The best example of this is the episode, The G.D.S.. )

This was a big part of the Castle season 8 story.  The showrunners had been trying to make Beckett seem less relevant and Castle more so.  (Obviously, it didn’t work – because Castle had been a show about two different, but equally important characters, judging by the commentary online, all the changes did was upset viewers.)

As for the love story, well, the thinking seems to have been that people would just get over it, because the Hollywood way of thinking is that action trumps romance. Only, as ABC discovered, not always. The chant on social media had gotten louder by the day ever since the announcement – and it wasn’t just the fans.

Forbes.com put out a blistering indictment of Hollywood’s tendency to discount actresses and the characters they play, and included ABC’s Castle in list of injustices raining down on women in Hollywood.

When you’re a woman in Hollywood, no matter your stature, no matter your billing, and no matter your importance to the television show or film franchise in which you appear, you may well always have a target on your back. At the end of the day, the only indisposable part of the franchise or the hit television show is the guy. Even starring as Snow White in Snow White and the Huntsman wasn’t enough. And nor was being the co-lead in shows like Sleepy Hollow or Castle. No matter how much the fans love you, those in charge love your male co-star that much more.

Well, on May 12th, 2016, something changed in Hollywood.  With Castle canceled a major network has realized you can’t just dump the female costar that’s been a part of a show for multiple seasons and expect the viewers to just go along with it.

You would think this would be obvious because doing otherwise amounts to trying to do a bait-and-switch with fans. They invested their time and money into a love story about two extraordinary people. A phrase that Katic used in a season seven interview regarding continuing the show has been used a lot in the fans campaign. Here’s one rendition of it.

Art over fiance, as in tell the story your set out to tell. Regardless of the reasons why ABC felt that Caskett formula needed to end you don’t destroy the central story by getting rid of the actress. (Aside from the financials, The Hollywood Reporter alluded to personality clashes between Fillion and Katic as being a factor.) Cut your losses and wrap the story, because in truth the, “art” is a better investment. Brand loyalty is hard to get and even harder to get back when you’ve lost it. Trashing the Castle/ABC brand to have 13 extra episodes for syndication made little sense.  With Castle canceled ABC has made a smart decision for the network – and it’s a win for majority of the show’s viewers.

The Castle Series Finale will air this Monday at 10pm on ABC.

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