As soon as I saw the trailer for the ABC new show Deception I thought of Castle. If you’ve ever watched that show it’s kind of impossible not to. This is not because Deception is “copying” Castle. I mean, let’s not get crazy about the Castle‘s “originality.” Deception is cut from the same procedural dramedy boilerplate that Castle, The Mentalist, Chuck, Bones, and Moonlighting stem from. That would be the 1982 through 1987 NBC show Remington Steele, which itself borrows from 1940’s screwball comedies.
These successful shows had actors and writers who could make trope characters stand out as unique individuals. That’s what gave them their unique flare. Still, each show is based on the idea of a mismatched crime-solving pairing On Castle Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), a famous and outlandish playboy mystery writer was paired with Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), a one-and-done, no-nonsense detective. Deception has a famous and outlandish master magician named Cameron Black/Jonathan Black (Jack Cutmore-Scott ). He’s paired Kay Daniels (Ilfenesh Hadera), a no-nonsense FBI agent who doesn’t like magic. (I’d say the odds are she’s really a fan….)
In theory the ABC new show Deception should be something that viewers of Castle would be interested in. However, it’s been a year since that show was cancelled and Castle fans still express anger and dismay on how the show ended. Some of them direct that blame at the ABC Television Network (ABC), which in retrospect isn’t where it should be directed.
What Happened to Castle and Why It Matters for Deception
In May of 2016, Castle, which was once a jewel in the ABC line-up, came to a bitter end. Fans had hung in there through a downward spiral that started with a crash at the end of its sixth season. By season eight the show’s lead characters had been crushed into nonsensical storylines that had sent the ratings falling harder than an anvil in a Roadrunner cartoon.
Still, the die-hards were willing to hope things would get better. They were willing – until ABC Studios – who produced the show – announced they were firing Katic and the supporting actress Tamala Jones, who played Beckett’s best friend. The reason given was “budget cuts.” That was the last straw.
Why is the show not just being cancelled? No Parish? No Beckett? With two key components gone, wouldn’t it be more prudent to just let the show go out on its own terms? Showrunners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter made it clear in an interview with TVGuide.com that a contingency plan was put in place should ABC not order a ninth season. Why is that contingency plan not just being enacted — unless their contingency plan was “break fans’ hearts?”
In the TV Guide statement is a small point that is easy to miss – and many did. ABC is not the same as ABC Studios. Viewers tend to think of the network and the studio as one entity. It’s a fair confusion because up until February 2016 the head of ABC Studios and the President of ABC Entertainment were the same person – Paul Lee.
ABC Studios – Not ABC – Wrecked Castle
In hindsight it’s obvious that Lee knew what was being planned for Katic and Jones and as the head of ABC Studios he would have had a hand in the show’s restructuring. He brought in the new show-runners Hawley and Winter. They were tasked to craft a storyline that would exit Katic and make Fillion the centerpiece.
Whether this was really about the budget or the rumored behind-the-scenes issues between Katic and Fillion is irrelevant. Continuing the show without both leads is something creator, Andrew Marlowe, would have never agreed with. Had the producers given real thought about the show’s audience they would have seen the truth. Staying on track with the story and wrapping the show was the far better option.
Instead, Lee and the ABC Studios decided to reset the show without Katic. That January Hawley and Winter blithely discussed the changes Castle had been going through and their plan to end the season with a cliffhanger. While they claimed to “hope” everyone was coming back, they were prepared to go on if that didn’t happen. They also said this while not too subtly criticizing Marlowe for being in a “similar situation” of not knowing about renewal and wrapping the ending too neatly.
There are only two conclusions one can draw from that interview. Either Hawley & Winter knew they were coming back, or they didn’t care about screwing over the fans by having the show end with a cliffhanger. I would guess the former. Why? There was no talk of shooting alternative endings to wrap up the show until after Lee was fired on February 17.
ABC’s New Management Steps in for the Fans
Channing Dungey was named the new President of ABC Entertainment at the same time Lee was fired. Thirty-seven days later the first reports start popping up about the alternative ending being shot. The optics of this is that Dungey looked at the possibility of continuing the show without Katic more skeptically than Lee did. She may have even suggested to the showrunners, and Patrick Moran – who at the time was ABC Studios Executive Vice-President in charge of daily operations – to shoot that alternative ending. That’s something we’ll never know, but it certainly wasn’t mentioned until she was at the helm.
Dungey couldn’t change the things that were already in motion. At the same time it wasn’t rocket science that what was being done was a bad idea. For a show that hinged on the relationship of the two leads, the move by ABC Studios made no sense.
Less than two weeks after news of the alternative ending surfaced came the news of Katic and Jones being fired for those “budget cuts.” The official announcement came from ABC, but the decision was made by ABC Studios. ABC was just the messenger – and they put that message out before the finale. This gave ABC and Dungey time to gauge just how badly this idea was going to go over.
Castle’s Last Weeks
The answer to how this move was going to be taken was, “very badly.” Maureen Ryan, the Chief TV Critic at Variety suggested that the firing was sexist. Furthermore, especially in Katic’s case, it showed a callous disregard for its viewership.
It wasn’t just Variety noting these things. Aside from perhaps The Hollywood Reporter (THR) you’d be hard pressed to find any major television reviewer or industry pundit having good things to say about the situation. Meanwhile, THR’s poll asking viewers if they would continue to watch the show without Katic. It ran consistently with about 80 percent of the respondents saying “no.”
The fans themselves started a petition for the show to be canceled. An online campaign to “cancel Castle” began regularly trending on twitter. Articles were popping up about the fact that this sexist move had created the unprecedented event of a show’s fanbase calling for their show’s cancellation. One week before ABC’s presentation at the 2016 Upfronts Dungey announced that Castle was cancelled.
Why Viewers Should Give ABC’s new show Deception a Shot
1. Channing Dungey
After the show’s cancellation Robert Lloyd from the LA Times stated what Paul Lee and ABC Studios obviously had forgotten.
…a popular entertainment like “Castle” owes something to its fans — no show lasts eight years without them. Of all the contracts under discussion, here and across the medium, the one between a program and its viewers is not the least meaningful.
Dungey cancelling Castle suggests that she at least understands what Lloyd was talking about. Judging by the changes for the next season of Once Upon a Time, ABC Studios may not quite have. They must have learned a little though because the producers did a much better job in exiting favorite characters.
Castle fans got an all-over-the-place story for the series finale. Had the show been renewed it would have killed Beckett and the show’s core dynamic. That would have been horrible for loyal viewers.
However, with the cancellation a 30-second happy ending was badly tacked on. That wasn’t just because it was last minute. Had ABC Studios cut the last scene of the original finale the new scene would have fit perfectly. They could have even shot more of the family montage.
Instead the showrunners and studio chose to have viewers suffer through an illogical “twist.” That last story turn left Castle and Beckett apparently bleeding out on the floor. Hence the 30 second tacked-on scene got more positive feedback from the fans than the entire eighth season
With Dungey heading up ABC, it’s less likely viewers will suffer through last minute sloppy endings. In a January article Deadline gave the reasons Disney/ABC had for wanting to keep the show. They also interviewed Dungey about it. She mentioned having already sat down with the Once Upon a Time producers.
There was some interesting stuff, we gave them some feedback, and they are now working and are going to come back and sit with me in a couple of weeks. I think that, having had worked on Lost, they have a very good sense of the engagement with fans and wanting to end the story in the right way.
Sure enough, the Once Upon a Time season six ending could work as a happy series ending with closure for everyone or as a way to reboot the series with some new characters. Dungey is not into shafting loyal viewership. That’s one less thing any viewers of the new ABC show Deception has to worry about.
2. The ABC new show Deception Isn’t Made By ABC Studios
Honestly, if this were an ABC Studios show I wouldn’t be tuning in. Deception is not the kind of show I’d trust them with. Deception isn’t their show though. It’s being produced under the umbrella of Warner Brothers Television. Here are the official production stats:
The series is from writer/executive producer Chris Fedak (Chuck) and executive producers Greg Berlanti, Martin Gero and Sarah Schechter. Illusionist David Kwong (Now You See Me) will co-produce. (…)
Really, I could have stopped with Chris Fedak from Chuck – one of the few shows to handle this genre nearly perfectly (Check out The Top 10 Will-They Won’t They Shows of All Time). However, Chuck was also produced by Warner Brothers Television. Deception is also under their umbrella. Some other shows Warner Brothers currently produce are: Arrow, Blindspot (Martin Gero is the creator), Shameless, Major Crimes, I-Zombie, Supergirl, oh, and Lucifer. In other words, a show like Deception is definitely in their wheelhouse.
Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter have been executive producers on just about all the CW comic book shows – including Arrow and Supergirl. Berlanti was also a writer and executive producer for ABC’s critically acclaimed Brothers and Sisters. He’s the creator and executive producer of the lovely 2002-2006 drama Everwood. Last but not least: he also worked as an executive producer on Dawson’s Creek. This is a man who understands how to do television relationships!
The Wrap Up – No, It’s Not Castle, but it Might be Pretty Good
The ABC new show Deception can’t replace what Castle was for its fans. At the same time, Castle can’t be resuscitated. Anyone thinking that needs to let it go. For one thing, Castle and Beckett, that is Fillion and Katic, have moved on. Fillion has a recurring role on ABC’s Modern Family. Katic is starring in the Sony Television’s new high-end television series Absentia.
Besides, Castle would have eventually ended regardless. Yes, it was done badly, but Paul Lee is gone. On top of that, ABC isn’t using ABC Studios for Deception. Instead they went with the same studio that does Blindspot and Lucifer.
That last fact certainly is a sign that the ABC new show Deception is worth a look. Both of the above mentioned shows have picked up some former Castle viewers. Maybe Deception will be as enjoyable as those? There’s no guarantee. Catching lighting in a bottle isn’t easy. However, the people behind Deception have a good track record.
Besides, Deception has magic. Whether that magic will transfer to the leads we’ll have to see. Still, who doesn’t like a little magic? That’s got to be worth checking out the first episode or two.