There’s absolutely no arguing about it: comic book properties have begun to dominate the airwaves. Whether from Marvel or DC (or elsewhere), everything from superheroes to anti-heroes have done an effective job of carving out more than a niche for themselves on numerous television networks. But just because these comic book-related series have found success doesn’t mean the recipe is guaranteed to work one hundred percent of the time.
Case in point: NBC’s Constantine failed to make a strong impression with audiences — lasting only 13 episodes in all — and executive producer David Goyer thinks he’s figured out why.
During a recent interview with Variety, Goyer opened up about the failure of the occult series that developed a small yet loyal fanbase during its run, explaining that the collapse of Constantine lies not in the show itself, but in the choice of network:
“I loved Constantine. In retrospect, I don’t think it should have been on NBC. I think it was the wrong channel and I’m sure they probably agree with that as well.”
Although NBC made a show like Hannibal (a series that really should have been far, far away from any broadcast network) work for nearly three seasons, and it has managed to turn a genre show like Grimm into a solid series for several years, Constantine just didn’t click. Perhaps it is as Goyer says, that the network just wasn’t the right place for the character, but it is not as though NBC was unfamiliar with handling that sort of material.
On paper, a show about John Constantine should have worked, though. The Hellblazer comics upon which the series was based have a strong cult following, and comic book properties — especially those from DC — have thrived on TV over the last few years. And while some would say that a cable network would have been better suited to handling the show’s darker material, it is more likely the show’s failure comes down to the difference in ratings expectations between a broadcast network and a basic cable channel.
As Goyer mentioned in the interview, Constantine saw a significant increase in delayed viewings, a factor he believes would have saved the series had it been somewhere other than a broadcast network.
“We almost doubled our numbers in DVR numbers, but they weren’t quite there in network television in counting those metrics. If it had been on a basic cable channel, it could still be on.”
Goyer is probably right about DVR metrics playing a more significant role in deciding a show’s fate on cable channels versus broadcast networks. Then again, one has to wonder if it might also have been an issue of perception, with fans of the comic not tuning in because the series wasn’t on a network with more of a reputation for delivering the sort of dark, edgy material they felt the show needed in order to be a successful adaptation.
Still, if John Constantine’s upcoming appearance on Arrow proves a ratings hit, it may suggest the character is enough of a draw that another network will take interest. It is unlikely, but in this day and age where no television series is ever truly dead, nothing is out of the realm of possibility. At any rate, Matt Ryan will don Constantine’s trench coat at least one more time when he appears on The CW’s Arrow this season.