August 25, 2014

THE SKED Fall Pilot Report: NBC’s “Constantine”


CONSTANTINE:  Friday 10PM on NBC starting October 24 – If Nothing Else is On… (but also Incomplete)

Disclaimer: Network pilots now in circulation aren’t necessarily in their final form. It’s not unusual for pilots to be reedited and re-scored, and in some cases even recast or reshot, before hitting the air. Consider these reports to be guides to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.

PLAYERS:  DC Comics.  Series creators Daniel Cerrone (a showrunner, although not creator, of Dexter) and David S. Goyer (of DaVinci’s Demons and the Dark Knight movies).  Pilot director Neil Marshall, who’s best known for directing the “Blackwater” episode of Game of Thrones  Star Matt Ryan.  Warner Bros Television (a corporate relative of DC).

PREMISE:  John Constantine (Ryan) is a wise-cracking, cynical exorcist and foe of demons, who’s fighting for humanity in an attempt to win back his soul.

PILOT:  Constantine has undergone a major change not just of casting but of concept since its pilot was shot, so this summary will be briefer and more tentative than most.  (However, the original pilot will reportedly be aired with only minor reshoots before the series moves into its new direction with episode 2.)  The pilot set up its central storyline as the relationship between Constantine and Liv (Lucy Griffiths)–she was just discovering her own supernatural powers, and would have served as his apprentice, with the hint that she was going to play a part in a larger mythology.  All of that (including Griffiths) is now gone, and a new character played by Angelica Celaya will become the new female lead.

It’s unlikely, though, that the general tone of Constantine will change, which is that of a slightly edgy comic-book spectacle, considerably less lugubrious than the 2005 Keanu Reeves feature film version of the story.  As with The Flash and Gotham, it’s clear that DC/Warners spent an enormous amount of money on the pilot, and that level of production value is unlikely to be a regular feature of weekly series episodes.  Marshall is one of the more visceral TV directors, and he’s designed striking CG sequences that include a mental patient spewing insects and a citywide blackout.  Ryan is a likable lead, but his characterization in the pilot is slim; he spends most of his time quipping when he’s not actually driving out demons.  The only other continuing regular with much of a role is Harold Perrineau as the enigmatic angel Manny, who offers enigmatic advice about what’s happening in heaven and hell.  The development of Constantine as a character, and his relationship with the co-lead we haven’t met yet, will be crucial to the series.

PROSPECTS:  Constantine has the ideal spot on NBC’s schedule for its brand of mystical action-adventure, following Grimm on Friday nights.  It will almost certainly do better than the much darker and more violent Dracula and Hannibal in that hour (let alone Crossbones).  The only thing keeping it from being a sure thing is a business issue:  since it’s a standard US series and not an international co-production like those other shows, NBC is probably paying a considerably higher license fee for it, so to justify its investment, Constantine will need to be a substantially bigger hit than those two.  Assuming the series can get its act together during its initial run of episodes, that shouldn’t require supernatural intercession.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."