I wrote a piece before the television season began about whether or not Constantine and Gotham would succeed on network television. Although, I didn’t think there was enough going on in Constantine to warrant a weekly One Line Review, I thought there was enough substance in Gotham to warrant a weekly review. However, life got in the way and I was unable to write more One Line Reviews. However, I did manage to watch every episode of both series. Now that Constantine has finished its initial season and Gotham is on its mid-winter hiatus, I thought it would be the perfect time to take a quick look back and see how both series fared.
We knew from the start Constantine was going to be horror light. “Non Est Asylum,” with its scurrying bugs, a possessed demon, an angel appearing out of nowhere, and a flashback to Newcastle was a scary as the episode and the season would get. The episode “Rage of Caliban” was mildly creepy, but kids are already pretty creepy. In general, nothing happened in the series that would send anyone running from the room or force them to change channels mid-scene. The series never strayed from the feel or the tone established in the first episode. But, hey, that’s okay.
Constantine was never meant to be a “chiller.” It was never trying to be Penny Dreadful or American Horror Story. Would I have liked an adaptation of Hellblazer on a network like HBO or Showtime? Sure, a network with lesser restrictions on what can and cannot be aired would have been great. For example, the story line for “Feast of Friends” was much bloodier in the comic. However, the limitations placed on the show did not stop the series creators from delivering an episode that captured the feeling of the source material. Constantine excelled at network frights much like Supernatural does every week. That’s not a bad thing for a Friday night escapism.
As a reader of the Hellblazer comic, I appreciated the small nods to the comic book. Viewers that have never read an issue of Hellblazer would have missed the Easter eggs scattered throughout the episodes. However, you don’t need to know Dr. Fate’s helmet appeared in the first episode, or on the shelf in Constantine’s sanctum is Psycho Pirate’s mask. Viewers don’t need to know Jim Corrigan, the police officer in “Danse Vaudou, ” becomes the Spectre and viewers don’t need to know the asylum John is in when we first meeet him is the same asylum his comic book counterpart was committed to during the series run. Viewers don’t even need to know Newcastle played a pivotal role during much of the Hellblazer series. Viewers don’t need to know a lot of things that were or were not in the comic book to enjoy the series. However, it’s these small touches that have endeared the show to comic book readers and proved to me the creators are trying their best to make a good show.
Constantine is not 100% true to the comic book adaptation. If you were looking for that you’re going to have to stick with the comic book. Again, this is not totally a bad thing and does not lessen Constantine as a series. The original characters and the “cases” fit into this supernatural world without changing the things most comic book readers liked about the character of John Constantine. The series respects the source material, even when it deviates from it, and you can’t ask for too much more than than from network television.
If, reports from NBC are to be believed, the series has not been cancelled. According to NBC, ratings information was not available in time to for head honchos to make a decision on whether or not to order a full season. NBC’s decision makes sense from a purely business standpoint. Why invest in a product if you’re not sure you will get a return on your investment? From a fan standpoint, NBC and other networks have made some full season stinkers and ended up burning the episodes off. You can go to Hulu.com and watch unaired episodes of Selfie. So, why didn’t NBC commit to a full season right out of the gate? I don’t have an answer for that question. It would seem if NBC marketed the series to fans of Grimm and Sleepy Hollow it would have had a decent hit on their hands. Add in the handful of Hellblazer fans and viewership would only go up; viewership goes up, ad revenue increases, and everyone is happy.
As I have mentioned, Constantine does remind me a lot of Supernatural, but that’s not a bad show to emulate. However, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if NBC didn’t renew Constantine and would only lament the fact that another show with potential was scrapped too early by a network.
Overall Grade: B
(UPDATE) The website Comicsbeat.com is reporting Constantine will return January 16th at 8:00 pm (EST). Only the last 5 episodes will be aired.