So I’ve decided to start another series that’s been swirling in my head for a couple of months that will profile various TV shows that I personally loved but feel they were cancelled way too soon. And at the head of that list is the NBC show Constantine.
Based on DC’s super-popular Hellblazer comics, the show follows John Constantine (Matt Ryan), his best friend Chaz and a mysterious woman with psychic powers named Zed, as they work to stop the “Rising Darkness” from destroying the world. Constantine has some supernatural help in the form of an angel named Manny (more on him later), and a sometimes ally/sometimes nemesis in the form of Papa Midnite, a Voodoo witch doctor who communes with the Hell-bound spirit of his dead sister for information. Along the way, Constantine must also deal with the consequences of some reckless behavior from years before, behavior that ultimately caused a young girl’s soul to be dragged to Hell (something Constantine has never forgiven himself for).
I’d never read Hellblazer before watching this show, and I was initially going to ignore it, but I decided to try it out. Almost instantly, I was hooked! I discovered later (after speed-reading a few digital comics) that Matt Ryan absolutely NAILED Constantine’s character. He’s the type of actor you dream about; the kind who can embody a role so completely you have no trouble believing he IS that person.
From the beginning though, there were hints that the show was going to be in trouble. First of all, look up at the poster, see what day and time it was set to premiere? Yeah, Fridays at 10pm isn’t exactly the best slot to give a new TV show (they don’t call Friday nights the “kill slot” for nothing). Second, because the pilot wasn’t exactly well-received, NBC refused to give the show a full season of 26 episodes, instead leaving them with only 13 (that’s NEVER a good sign for the future of any show). And third (as I remember it), they kept screwing around with the show’s schedule, one week the new episodes would air, then it would skip a week, and so on. And there would be almost no notice given of these changes. It’s almost like they wanted this show to fail….
Despite these issues, the show quickly gathered a cult following, as the story grew better with every episode. It became clear that SOMEONE had to be manipulating the Rising Darkness, and Constantine needed to figure out who it was so he could stop it. And then the last episode came…remember I mentioned Manny the angel? From day one he’d represented himself as one of the “good” angels, one who served in Heaven (and apparently also served as an Angel of Death, as he was present when one of Constantine’s friends was dying and also personally escorted a soul to the afterlife in a really cool sequence) and (at times begrudgingly) helped Constantine solve a particular mystery. Well, in the last episode, at the very end, Manny reveals to another character that HE has been manipulating the Rising Darkness this entire time, and Constantine doesn’t know it. It was a tormenting cliffhanger because there was no guarantee the show was going to continue, and ultimately, it didn’t. Despite a very vocal petition from the fans and pleas for ANY other network to pick up the show, Constantine was cancelled and remained so, meaning we would never find out Manny’s motives or whether or not Constantine was ultimately successful in stopping him.
The cancellation of Constantine led to me abandoning NBC for good (I’d already been burned once with Dracula); no matter how good the show sounds, if it’s on NBC, I won’t tune in. If there’s one thing I can’t do, it’s emotionally invest in a show only to have it ripped away after only one season or less.
If you’d like to see the show, I have great news: the Warner Archive is (finally!!!) producing Constantine: The Complete Series as an On-Demand Title, meaning you order it and they’ll make one and send it to you, you can find it on wbshop.com, I know I’m going to get a copy as soon as possible. And as far as I know, the CW is still streaming the full series on their online streaming app. Be warned though, once you start, you will get hooked!
Thankfully, this is not the last we will see of Matt Ryan as John Constantine: he already did a guest spot in season 4 of Arrow and he will be reprising the character in the upcoming animated film Justice League Dark (adapting another comic series that features Constantine).
Did you watch Constantine while it was on the air? If you did, did you like it? Wish there was more of it? Let me know in the comments below, and have a great day! -Becky