Why Was Constantine Cancelled and Can It Be Revived?

By | August 16, 2018

Our ongoing look back at sci fi / fantasy TV shows that were cancelled way too soon or pilots that never made it to series.

2014’s Constantine adapted the DC comic book Hellblazer to the small screen with a focus on John Constantine, a master of the occult who aids people facing supernatural crises.  The series also had an ongoing story arc as Constantine was tasked with warding off the ‘Rising Darkness” that was making evil magic more powerful in the world.  This show arrived on NBC’s schedule with high expectations and pretty quickly lived up to them with its good writing and strong performances, particularly from Matt Ryan in the lead role (though he also had a stand up supporting cast with Angélica Celaya, Charles Halford, Harold Perrineau, and more).  Critics and fans both applauded the show, though unfortunately that did not translate into strong ratings, likely because it was too dark and edgy for the broadcast networks.

At first glance, Constantine seemed to have a good pairing with solid performer Grimm on Friday nights, as both delivered supernatural-tinged drama.  But the veteran series saw a slip in its numbers in its fourth season and the new show pulled even lower ratings.  Through Fall, Constantine averaged lower numbers in the overnights than Dracula had in the same timeslot the prior year, and that show had already been cancelled.  NBC announced that they were suspending production on Constantine at thirteen episodes, though claimed that they were still considering the possibility of a second season.  However, the writing seemed to be on the wall, and when it returned from mid-season break (inexplicably moved to the Friday family-friendly 8 PM EST hour) its numbers dropped further.

NBC did give the producers the chance to pitch a second season prior to them setting their 2015-16 schedule, but likely they were just going through the motions.  They officially cancelled the show before the May upfronts (when the networks present their schedule to the sponsors), though the show’s studio Warner Bros. indicated that they would shop it around to other venues.  Nothing came from this, though, and in early June series showrunner Daniel Cerone announced “that the show is over” and the actors were released from their contracts.  Ultimately, Constantine‘s darker tone would have been a much better fit on one of the cable networks or streaming services, but apparently interest had waned (or the price tag was too high) by the time that the WB had shopped it around.

However, John Constantine has since found new life on The CW has he has been brought into the Arrow-verse shows, a move that makes sense considering he is also a DC character.  He first appeared on Arrow in the fourth season episode “Haunted” and then recurred on Legends of Tomorrow in its third season.  He has been elevated to a regular character on that show starting with its fourth season and CWSeed.com streamed an animated series, Constantine: The City of Demons, in which Matt Ryan voiced the character (the extended version gets its release on Blu-ray and DVD this Fall).

As to whether there could be a live-action revival for the character at some point, that remains in doubt.  The CW is adding Batwoman to the Arrow-verse line-up starting with the cross-over special this Fall and with plans to get her in her own series at some point next year.  Since the ratings have been on the decline in general for the network’s superhero shows, I’m thinking they are not interested in adding much more at the present time, especially a show that may only attract a cult audience.  However, if fans band together in a campaign to convince the network to bring Constantine back, perhaps The CW would consider a revival.  In the mean-time, though, he will be a regular on the Arrow-verse shows and could return in a few more animated movies.

Aired: NBC, 2014-15, 1 Season Totaling 13 Episodes

Developed By: Daniel Cerone, David S. Goyer

Starring: Matt Ryan, Angélica Celaya, Charles Halford, Harold Perrineau

Available from Amazon.com:

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