by “Harry Lime Jr.”
[Several of this fall’s comic book TV show pilots are floating around out there, and one of our informants got a copy and sent us their impressions. Here’s a look at CONSTANTINE which debuts on NBC this Fall.]
Out of DC Comics three new shows, Constantine might have the most uphill battle but not because of the quality of the show. The pilot episode is phenomenal, horror and the occult spiked with dark humor. In essence, it’s pure Hellblazer.
Since this is not an official review I’m strictly going to speak on my impressions from watching the pilot episode. The first thing you’ll notice is that the previous film is long gone here, whether that is good or bad is a matter of opinion. Here, NBC is getting John Constantine as the comic book fans know him. Matt Ryan IS the dirty blond Brit, whose self deprecating humor endears him to us within minutes.
The supporting group is set up to revolve around Constantine which is what you want when you name the show after your title character. Jeremy Davies (LOST), Lucy Griffiths (TRUE BLOOD), Harold Perrineau (The Matrix) all fit together so well as a cast they round out John Constantine’s character without stealing the focus.
Constantine’s look is a Vertigo comic brought to life combined with the necessary television aesthetic to be on a network like NBC. It’s a testament to how far the comics medium has come that a major network is willing to bet on a show that looks “comic booky” and that is far from a bad thing. For anyone concerned about getting a toned down version of the comic book series, rest easy now, while there will always be somethings you can’t get away with on over-the-air television, Constantine gives you the horror moments a show in this genre commands in suspense more than gore.
The pilot itself does a fine job of not being heavy on exposition, instead betting on developing a chemistry with the audience. Hellblazer was never a series I regularly followed, and have only read John Constantie’s JL Dark adventures, but I’m on board for this series. I’m excited for the potential setups we see in the first episode. It doesn’t spoil the story of the pilot but I will say at one point the Liv Aberdine character was holding the freakin Helmet of Fate in her hands. Constantine has a tremendous amount of potential. Hopefully, Goyer and his team will understand that a successful show based on a comic needs to bring in as much from the books as it can. With that being said, I want to see Swamp Thing and Deadman in this series at some point because they’d fit like a square peg in the square hole—perfectly.
Out of the three new DC shows, Constantine has the biggest challenge ahead because NBC has a different standard of what a successful show should do in ratings. While the show wouldn’t be out of place on the network, the broadcaster itself has had trouble with its identity in recent years and prematurely canceling good shows before they’ve had a chance to land an audience. Constantine could definitely bring together two audiences, those in and out of comics, if pushed right. With shows like Grimm already in their line up it would definitely be in good company. The big question is if Constantine can balance a show for the general television viewers while still keeping familiarity for the core audience.
Now that we’ve seen all three of the new pilots, it’s easy to see what DC is doing on TV that Marvel isn’t. DC isn’t putting their characters in second tier shows, they’re selling their characters into the genres different networks want on television. A dangerous risk but, judging by how great and unique Flash, Gotham, and Constantine have been, one they appear to be pulling off well.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.