And the first season lived up to expectations. Chuck was endearing, inept, and as he used his special skills (High scorer on Chopper Command and Asteroids, a savant's knowledge of the movie TRON, and a genius's ability with computers) to aid his spy buddies in circumventing evil all while trying to hide the fact from his family and co-workers, he became even more endearing.
However, season two began, and there was a subtle shift in Chuck's motivations. In season one, he just wanted to figure out how to get the 'Intersect' out of his head and return to his normal life. In season two, he kind of decided he likes the whole spy thing, and he wanted to become a fully sanctioned US Spy. By season three, he's got spy-game. Gone are his bumbling attempts, his fear, and most of the fun of the show. Now, in season four (the final season,) we aren't even watching anymore. Sad. Because we used to enjoy the show so much. (In an aside, the network has shown they have little interest in the show Chuck - it's been on life-support for the past two seasons- and I think that has something to do with the show's decline in ratings as well.)
And like Chuck, season one lived up to the premise and more. LOVE! I was even happier to see that season two maintained the same chemistry, the same wit and intelligence, and the same character motivations. Then season three arrived. The first half of the season = terrific. Then the character's motivations changed. Instead of focusing on the weekly puzzle of solving the crime and the amazing push-pull of the Castle-Beckett-will-they-won't-they relationship, the show shifted gears. The mystery of the murder of Beckett's mother several years before became the ongoing focus. The show got darker, lost its humor, and I found myself saddened, praying the show wouldn't go the way of Chuck.
I think the writers and producers must've listened to audience feedback, because the first show of season four was the WORST ever tv show example of telling, not showing, and reeling in the Beckett back-story and returning to the show's basic premise that all it's success had been built on. Episode 4.1 was dreadful. In one hour, they covered three months of story time, had Castle tell Beckett to back-burner the search for her mother's killer and focus on current cases, and had Beckett agreeing. Basically, they informed the viewers that the next week would be business as usual and no more weird stuff.
Though the episode was terrible from a viewers and writer's point of view, it was so necessary to the future success of the show. If season four had picked right up where season three had left off, the death-knell for Castle would've been ringing steadily.
So, how does this relate to writing fiction? Think of the best multi-book series characters in history. Sherlock Holmes. Miss Marple. Inspector Monk. Cadfael. What makes these long series work is that the main characters are consistent. If they do change, it is slowly and in ways that don't fundamentally alter the character. What would the Miss Marple mysteries have been like if halfway through the series, Miss Marple decided to she didn't want to live in St. Mary Mead anymore and knit mufflers and attend teas, rather that she wanted to become a fisherman on the high seas? What if Cadfael abandoned life in the monastery and embraced the religion of the Druids? What if Sherlock Holmes abandoned his search for intellectual fulfillment, settled down in the country, got married, and fathered a passel of little Sherlocks?
Answer, I'd have quit reading those series. Like I stopped watching Chuck. Chuck has broken faith with the viewers by changing Chuck so radically, he doesn't resemble the initial character at all. He wants such radically different things, he behaves so differently, it's like a different show.
Castle nearly made the same mistake, but the writers were able to pull it back from the precipice in time. And boy am I glad. :)
Are you a Castle fan? Do you read a long series with a single main character?