In the words of the Joker, let’s wind the clocks back a year. In the midst of the great Comic Book TV Show Blitz of 2014, NBC joined the CW and Fox in bringing a DC Comics property to life as a television series. While Fox drew on the notion of a pre-Batman universe with Gotham and the CW spun off the successful Arrow into The Flash, NBC arguably took the biggest risk by bringing the fan-beloved Hellblazer series to life with Constantine.
Casual fans had only the 2005 film starring Keanu Reeves to reference, and while many people liked the movie, it deviated wildly from the source material, causing hardcore fans to dismiss it out of hand. Constantine executive producer Daniel Cerone took pains to cast actual (dyed) blonde Welshman Matt Ryan as “dabbler in the dark arts” John Constantine, but fan and critical reception remained mixed, the show’s ratings declined steadily, and NBC chose not to renew the show for a second season.
While there was talk that SyFy could pick up the show and rename it Hellblazer and some of Constantine‘s more high profile admirers – like Arrow star Stephen Amell – professed a desire to see it continue, Daniel Cerone has now released a statement (via CBM) which confirms the official death of Constantine. Read it below – and weep, if you’re a fan.
I promised I’d share news when I had it — sadly, that news is not good. The cast and writers of Constantine are being released from their contracts. The studio tried to find a new home for the show, for which we’re forever grateful, but those efforts didn’t pan out. I’m sorry, I wasn’t provided any information on the attempts to sell the show elsewhere. All I can report is that the show is over.
Many ingredients went into this TV series. From the dedicated cast that breathed these characters to life, led by Matt Ryan as the comic-made-flesh embodiment of John Constantine, to the exceptionality talented crew that put unreal images on screen, to the original Hellblazer writers and artists who gifted us a universe.
As a general principle, writers don’t choose a writing career to achieve stardom. Whatever demons or insecurities drove them to find freedom of expression through written words generally keeps writers comfortably obscure behind their words. Nor do people choose writing as a means to financial freedom. I’d venture to guess that most who set out to write professionally never receive a paycheck for their hopeful scribbles or key strokes.
In fact, nobody I know ever chose a writing career — it chose them. You write because that’s what you do. Like breathing, it just happens and you have to do it and you just hope that someday somebody out there notices what you’re trying to say.
If that’s the dream of writers, than the writers of ‘Constantine’ lived the dream, because we’re leaving behind wild and passionate fans who believe in and were moved by what we tried to do. To leave such a significant, dedicated and active fan base on the table — that’s the real sadness. You all deserve many years of the series we set out to make, and we’re disappointed that we couldn’t deliver that to you. The good news is that ‘Constantine’ will live on for years in many more forms. But our time as caretakers has ended.
Thank you for letting us in.
This statement from Cerone is essentially the last nail in Constantine’s coffin, and caps a one-season run of a show which had a small, rabid fanbase, and yet it suffered from uneven writing and a format which was accused of aping monster-of-the-week shows like Supernatural rather than drawing from the less cut-and-dry comic book.
NBC’s midseason admission that they leapt aboard the comic book TV bandwagon sounded cynical at the time and was the first clear signal that the network was not looking to throw its weight behind the show, a horror-themed entry airing on Fridays, which already had Hannibal and Grimm, the former a proven critical darling and the latter a consistent ratings success.
While Gotham and The Flash found their narrative footing early on (albeit with plenty of rookie season snags along the way), Constantine recast a key role after the series’ pilot was shot and was still finding a groove when the finale aired, the end of a prematurely shortened season. Star Matt Ryan has continually expressed a desire to reprise the role of John Constantine on the big screen, potentially within DC’s inter-connected movie universe, but this always felt more like wishful thinking than anything truly possible.
Still, Crimson Peak director Guillermo del Toro still periodically talks up his long-gestating Dark Universe project – based on DC’s Justice League Dark universe – and has commented that he’d like to see Ryan play Constantine. The show may be dead and gone, but could Ryan’s version of the character live on as part of a larger ensemble? That might actually be for the best.
Constantine will officially no longer air on NBC.