abc happy endings

4

It doesn’t matter where I run, I come back to where I’m running from…

Castle - Checkmate

I started watching Castle in 2009. Not only did I love the show, but as someone who had spent years in mainstream publishing, I admired how ABC had created a network of content for Castle, with the TV show, the best selling Nikki Heat novels by ‘Richard Castle’, and later the Derrick Storm comic books.

In 2010 when I decided to leave my job to explore new areas of publishing and content technology, I fortuitously came across Castle fanfiction. I found in it, the intersection of all those interests, the most astonishing writers and an online community that showed the way for what I believed (and believe) is the future of publishing. Castle and its fans had a significant effect on my professional and social life. The Castle fans showed how fan support and a vibrant and active online community could bolster and sustain a creative enterprise, with Castle fan power in particular bolstering a TV show that initially had not had much traction. So I have been a superfan of the show and its supporting fan community for many years.

I was thus devastated to hear that Stana Katic had not been invited to renew her contract for Season 9.

Until I read Nathan Fillion’s response to the news that Stana Katic was leaving Castle, I had chosen not to believe the rumours of BTS tensions between the two leads. Fillion’s response ticked all the boxes for ABC: it mentioned his creative delight in being involved with Castle; it supported the continuation of Castle; it acknowledged Katic’s contribution; it was courteous. However, even the most cursory linguistic analysis reveals that the sentiments were once removed, and his support for Castle continuing for years to come (without Katic) indicates that at least some of the rumours about onset tension might be true.

Stars not getting along must be common in show business, and I imagine it must be difficult to spend 14 hours a day for years on end with someone one doesn’t particularly like. But the decision by a network to continue with a new season after 8 years without one of the co-leads, and for the other lead to support the decision, seems unusual. In this social media world, this has huge impact and is disrespectful to a co-lead such as Stana Katic, who has supported the show more than almost any other cast member, who has interacted with fans, and who has worked so hard for the show over the years.

Giving budgetary issues as the reason is insulting to everyone. What other show has not renewed a lead’s contract for budgetary reasons? (And has there ever been a male co-lead who has been disposed of in this way when it has not been their choice?) As others have pointed out elsewhere, there are a myriad of ways to cut costs that don’t involve writing off one of the core, beloved characters.

That Katic was not asked to renew her contract for S9, but it appears Fillion and others in the cast were, seems to indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the show’s appeal. This was a slow-burn love story, using the police procedural as a foil for the witty, sexy and entertaining banter of the two leads. While the star power of Nathan Fillion brought the fans to the show, it was the electric connection between the characters as well as the flawed, human and inspiring character of Kate Beckett that kept them there. There truly is no Castle without Beckett. How could ABC, and indeed, Fillion himself, seemingly have got it so wrong? Did they think that the majority of fans were still there mainly for Castle himself and the cases; did they not realise that some of the most passionate fans were women (young and old) who were there for Beckett and Caskett?

Then one has to pause and think: would a large network with presumably a vast amount of data at their disposal and who has got it right in the past (at least until Season 7) really not have run the numbers and taken what they believed was the best calculated risk? If the rumours of onset tension were true, perhaps they took the path of least resistance and compared the social and industry power of the two leads. They looked at Fillion’s 3.5 million Twitter followers, considered his power in the industry, particularly with his social and work connections with some of the most creative and powerful people in Hollywood, his huge fan base due to Firefly and now ConMan, and his drawing power and frequent attendance at Comic Cons, albeit not for Castle. Then they considered Katic’s lower number of Twitter followers, her more introverted nature, her more alternative, indie sensibilities, her connections to creative but not necessarily powerful people in the industry, and if a choice had to made, they followed the money and they thought, the fans.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why ABC felt the need to continue with S9 at all, unless they thought Fillion’s star power would bring new viewers to the show and that the addition of new cast members would widen the fan base. Perhaps they are right. Fillion is loved, well respected, and is charismatic. The new cast members are good too.

Either way though, the decision to even consider continuing with S9 without Katic rather than end the series happily in S8 is disrespectful to the actress, the original creators Andrew Marlowe and Terri Edda, and Castle fans. This is compounded by the way the news was released, as if the decision not to hire Katic were as meaningful (or less) as any other cast decision at the end of a season. If Castle had ended at S8 with the wished for happy ending, ABC could have won the long game. Fillion and the other cast members could have appeared in the Castle PI spin-off and the fans would have been unhappy but would have accepted it. Everyone knows that Stana Katic is exceptionally intelligent, beautiful, has a creative spirit, and international appeal and will do well, so there would have been some sadness but not pain.

As it is, we are left with the bitter taste that power, expediency and purely commercial decisions bring. So while ABC’s decision may indeed turn out to be the ‘right’ one from a commercial point of view, they have lost a lot of love, they have alienated a core audience, and they have shown themselves to be insensitive. This may yet come back to haunt them.

As for me, the Season 7 finale is now, retrospectively, the perfect end to a TV show that will always be close to my heart. Without Beckett, there can be no Castle.

Anna