Comic book tv shows

Constantine Not Returning: Why the show ultimately failed

constantine cancelled why it failed

So it’s official, even after all the #SaveConstantine campaigns, the first new comic book show to get the axe is Constantine. But the question is, what could Constantine have done as a show to improve itself, to gain a larger audience? Because whilst the show was enjoyable, it failed to reach it’s potential.

Constantine is a messed up a character. His moral compass is constantly skewed by his inherent selfishness. He’s not a superhero. He’s not a villain. He’s just Constantine. The world of Constantine is dark, eerie and atmospheric. And that’s something I feel the show failed to capture right.

Now many say because the show was on NBC, of course it wouldn’t be as dark or gritty as the comics. But NBC is currently the home of one of my favourite TV shows, and also one of the darkest TV shows, Hannibal. Now for those of you who like dark, psychological stuff and aren’t watching Hannibal, what are you doing? Seriously go watch it, it’s amazing.

hannibal eat the rude gif

Hannibal of course is about Hannibal Lecter. Hannibal Lecter is even more screwed up and dark than Constantine, and the show perfectly portrays that. It’s crazy that this show is on NBC because of how messed up things get in the show. But it is on NBC, so it’s not like NBC is against airing dark shows about morally questionable characters (or in this case outright psychopaths). 

So why didn’t Constantine take advantage of its source material properly? When you’re making a genre TV show, you have to differentiate yourself from other TV shows. Why watch Constantine when there’s 10 seasons of Supernatural to watch? Instead of focusing on serialised episodes, the show should have been more of an exploration of character.

constantine cancelled

Going back to the Hannibal example, the first half of season one of Hannibal was very procedural. However the procedural aspects were merely a backdrop for the exploration of Hannibal’s psyche. The show then moved away from the procedural aspects. Hannibal is an incredible example of a character driven drama. Constantine could have done this too, however by being too procedural in the beginning, it failed to grab the attention of the audience. 

Constantine needed to be more distinct. Both in story and visuals. Visually you could have done some really cool things with the setting of the show. Constantine could have created a distinct dark, mysterious and atmospheric show, but instead looked like many other supernatural shows out there. Story wise, the show could have had an interesting look at this morally flawed, reluctant individual, exploring his motives for engaging in the occult world. There were brief times they explored this side of the character, however most of the time he was being a hero. Which is fine, for a different character.

why constantine failed was cancelled
So maybe fans of the comic would be interested in the show, what’s to get people who don’t know about the character interested in the show? There’s nothing uniquely special to the show that compels people to watch Constantine over the other genre shows. I enjoyed the show, however it wasn’t a show that made me excited to watch it week by week.

Yeah it’s a shame Constantine was cancelled, I really, really wanted to see more of The Spectre. If another TV show surrounding the dark and magical side of the DC Universe is made, I’m hoping that is does a better job capturing the mood and dark intensity of these characters, and is a character driven story, rather than something that relies too heavily on the procedural aspects. Being on network TV doesn’t have to be a problem, the show just needs to know what it wants to be from the get go and stick with it.

 

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16 replies »

  1. Constantine the TV show was okayish, but I hated what the powers that be did to the character in the comics. He went from a fifty something, to a post 52 thirty something that existed in the same world as Superman and Batman.

    This show was about that Constantine, but it should have been the Hellblazer Constantine and stared Sean Bean.

    Graham

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    • Yeah I think there’s some need for them to emulate the New 52 comics in the live action universe, which isn’t necessary. If the Justice League Dark movie ever happens, hopefully they use Hellblazer as a reference point instead

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  2. I agree with a lot of what you said, Girl-on-Comicbook-World, but don’t be too quick to wish for more of the DC magical universe. Warner Brothers needs to learn their lesson first about how to hire writers who actually write good stories (and good approaches to those stories), and to judge by Lucifer, they haven’t learned it yet at all, and will need more than one hard lesson.

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    • Yeah Lucifer doesn’t look promising at all. There’s obviously limits for doing that side of the DC world on television, but I feel like because they are willing to go darker in the cinematic universe, with a good writer/director (like if Del Toro ever gets around to doing Justice League Dark) then we could get something really cool

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  3. I also think the pilot wasn’t compelling enough to hook casual viewers back for more. And the supporting cast needed development. Kind of disappointed Constantine won’t be back, I think they could have made improvements in the second season. 😦

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    • Yeah completely agree, the show wasn’t bad, it just needed work, which they could have done in season 2. They set up some cool story arcs that we will never get to see now

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  4. I’ll be honest, Constantine was an okay show. Matt Ryan was actually dead-on in his role, he got the look right, the mannerisms, the attitude, pretty much everything. I think that NBC just decided to make it too flashy rather than dark and horrifying like Hannibal (though I’ve yet to watch that, to be honest, but I hear great things about it). Maybe if it gets moved to another network like TNT, it could get the better treatment. Worked with Southland, didn’t it? Plus there’s talks of Constantine appearing in Arrowverse, which would be cool.

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    • Yeah Matt Ryan was pretty good. Well the showrunner pretty much said that he’s tried shopping it to other networks and stuff but it didn’t pan out, so it’s basically a confirmation of never seeing the show again, which is a shame.
      Also as long as you’re not squeamish you should definitely check out Hannibal, it’s amazing!

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      • I don’t think that the justice league dark movie will be made. If people can’t get invested in the Constantine character on tv for FREE, why would wb risk $150 mill on a rated R justice league dark movie?

        Mad max fury road has a budget of $150 mill and it’s rated R. That film is barely making back it’s money. No way in heck the suits at wb will green light a JLD film. And yes I know it would be a team up film and not just Constantine, but it’s still a risk.

        Most likely, they will make a $90 mill sandman movie but they might pass on that one to, who knows.

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      • If the DCCU becomes a success that the mass audience trusts, then later on they could do JLD, just like how Marvel did GOTG after they set up a successful universe.

        As for Mad Max, that movie went through development hell, which is why it has such a high budget. With a lower budget they could definitely have some success. But really it depends on the risk WB is willing to bet.

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    • Yeah that would be amazing, I mean he occasionally gives updates on the movie, but I feel like it’s never going to happen because it’s been in development for so long 😦

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  5. I get the comparisons with Hannibal, but the fact is that Hannibal doesn’t get great ratings either. Last week’s season premiere drew just a 0.7 rating and only 2.57-million viewers. The only network show to draw lower was the rerun of Elementary that aired against it. In actuality, Constantine’s least watched episode (s01e12, “Angels and Ministers of Grace”) drew more viewers than all but 5 episodes of Hannibal (s01e01-s01e03, s02e01, and s02e05). The difference is that it costs NBC basically nothing to air Hannibal because it’s funded by a third party.

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    • Oh I know Hannibal doesn’t have great ratings, and because it’s cheaper for NBC they are willing to let Hannibal be a niche show. However Constantine didn’t have to be as niche as Hannibal, it just needed to be a little bit more creative and unique to capture viewers. It was a tricky spot for Constantine that’s for sure

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  6. I liked Constantine but it was slow in developing for the 90% of those who were not familiar with the comic book character. As for Mad Max, it is hard for a remake to justify a huge budget at the box office.

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