ABC’s ‘Castle’ season 8: Should fans be worried by the ratings?

Castle -Commercially, it’s felt as though “Castle” was on the decline in the ratings for a little while now. Season 7 as the first time since the early days of the show in which we wondered whether or not it would be brought back; we were fairly optimistic, but at the same time realized that Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic’s contracts were expiring, and anytime you start to bring a show around longer than seven seasons, the cost can rise to a level that makes doing the show unreasonable.

Now that we are five episodes into season 8, that mild concern has transformed into worry. Monday night’s new episode “The Nose” drew a 1.1 rating in the 18-49 demographic, and while there are some excuses you can make (NFL football / the new “Star Wars” trailer), the rating is not really that different than for any other episode this season. The high is a 1.2, and that is still four-tenths down in the season average from season 7 (1.6). The numbers are even worse when you look at the average rating for season 6 (1.9).

There are some caveats with this data: We’re talking only about the demo as opposed to total viewers, and we’re only looking at live + same-day ratings in an era where many shows are dependent on DVR viewing. However, the reality is that networks still look at viewers 18-49 first and foremost, and live ratings will always matter more than recordings. We’re not really in the business of sugar-coating, and we don’t want to give false hope for a fan base that is already having a tough time with the direction of the story at the moment. If the live ratings in the demo don’t change, the show could be in trouble.

What’s the reason for the drop? – Blaming it on the Castle / Beckett twist would be a misnomer. The ratings really have only dropped around 5% or so since the twist in “XX,” and that’s the expected decline you would see as a show moves on into its season. So all of those people threatening to not watch the show anymore … well, that’s not really happening.

The real problem seems to be that for some reason, viewers either bailed on the show in the spring and didn’t return, or just decided to stop watching / DVR the show this summer. “Blindspot” is competition on Monday nights, and so is Monday Night Football. Also, you’ve got a billion other programming options to watch … which is the same problem that every show has at the moment. “Castle” is far from the only show with a huge drop over the past two years; its is only more noticeable because it has put the show into dangerous territory. It’s now losing a big chunk of its “Dancing with the Stars” lead-in, and only “Blood & Oil” (soon to be canceled, most likely) and “Nashville” are posting similar numbers in the Sunday – Thursday lineup among dramas. (As of this writing, “Wicked City” has yet to premiere.)

What can be done? – It’s really so simple as watching live, and encouraging all of your friends / family to do the same. It’s hard to really do much else. We do think the show could benefit from a few creative tweaks here and there, with the biggest one being either a couple of notable guest stars or simply an interesting episode content that gets casual fans watching again. Really, they need to bring in more of the humor, establish the Castle / Beckett relationship people love (over time), and hope that some people rediscover the show.

In the end, there’s no reason to be gloom-and-doom over “Castle’s” future just yet, but with that said, you do have to brace for the possibility that this could be the final season. If it ends up being the case, we can only hope the writers are told in enough time to craft a proper ending.

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