Five Reasons NBC's Constantine Will Be Great (And Five Reasons It's Doomed)
NBC announced its fall lineup last weekend, and among the "no duhs" (two nights a week for The Voice) and head scratchers (Katherine Heigl's getting another shot?), was a show that raised few eyebrows outside of the comic book community: Constantine.
John Constantine never needs a lighter.
Based on the long-running (300 issues in 25 years) DC Comics title Hellblazer, the TV series looks to be a significant improvement over the 2005 Keanu Reeves misfire. As a big fan of the comic book, I'm encouraged by the trailer and clip that have been released so far. As a realist and someone who's been watching/disappointed by TV my entire life, I'm trying to ready myself for the inevitable crushing heartbreak to come.
Now then, let's get to the ...
REASONS THE SHOW WILL BE GREAT:
5. Stay the Source
Actor Matt Ryan is from Wales, which -- while it isn't quite the Liverpool where Constantine grew up -- it's light years closer to the character than Reeves' take on the character, which I can best describe as "hungover Orange County stockbroker." He's also blond, sports the requisite trench coat and suit ensemble (could do with a little more rumpling, however), and plays a pretty decent asshole.
4. No Shia LaBeouf
I'll give it six episodes for that alone.
3. Welcome to Ravenscar
Ravenscar Psychiatric Hospital (here the "Ravenscar Psychiatric Facility for the Mentally Deranged") figures prominently in the trailer, which is encouraging because it played a huge part in John Constantine's life (he spends several years there as a result of a botched demon summoning, an event also depicted). So it looks like NBC isn't just filing off the numbers like the movie did.
1. The Marshall Plan
The Descent and Game of Thrones director Neil Marshall is helming the pilot, which promises plenty of action and the potential for some disturbing visuals. Two great tastes that taste as good coming up as they did going down.
But enough of the good news, now for the ...
REASONS THE SHOW IS DOOMED:
5. Who Are These People?
There is, admittedly, not a lot of star power here. I'd never heard of Ryan or Lucy Griffiths before this. And Harold Perrineau (who looks like he's playing an angel named ... "Manny?") is probably most recognizable as "that guy from Lost."
And I'm glad we've got an age appropriate Chas (played by Charles "Reggie Ledoux" Halford) this time around, but based solely on the trailer, it sure looks like he eats it in the first episode.
4. What The Hell is a "Hellblazer?"
It was nice of NBC to call Hellblazer a "wildly popular DC Comics series" without mentioning it was canceled last year (the character was rebooted as part of DC's "New 52," with ... mixed results). But as big a fan I was of the title, it's a stupid name, and only used because Clive Barker got the jump on Hellraiser with the movies.
Let's just say you're not going to steal a lot of the Blue Bloods audience with that.
3. No Smoking?
The cover to "Hellblazer" #200.
I realize we live in a world where the simple act of lighting a cigarette on film has some pushing for an 'R' rating, but chain smoking is as integral to the character of John Constantine as James Bond's Walther PPK or Dirty Harry's casual fascism (it's also integral to one of the comic's greatest storylines). I don't know if I'm prepared for a Silk Cut-free JC.
2. Redemption Song
John Constantine is many things: a magus, a con man, a cynic, and above all, a reluctant protagonist. Most of his adventures are a result of him falling bass-ackwards into trouble, or being dragged kicking and screaming to help somebody.
As I mentioned, Constantine spent several years in Ravenscar after screwing up a demon summoning. The demon -- Nergal -- appears to be the horned figure in the trailer dragging the doomed girl -- Astra -- to hell. This haunted Constantine for years in the comics, but didn't constantly guide his actions, as appears to be the case in the trailer. NBC has a tough sell, because comic book Constantine is a difficult character to root for, and even a made-for-TV version might have a hard time gaining an audience.
Speaking of ...
1. Friday Night Is A Soul-Stealing Vortex Of TV Doom Even John Constantine Would Be Hard Pressed To Escape
The barely watched Hannibal has been renewed for a third season thanks to critical plaudits and helped by recognizable source material. Don't expect the same treatment for Constantine if viewers don't show up.
One suggestion: he should have to correct someone on the pronunciation of his name at least once per episode (it's "ConstantĪne," not "ConstantEEn").