I don’t ask you for much. Really I don’t. I mean, sure I bitch and complain a lot, but I never really ask for anything. But this is important. So just this once, I’m asking you for this favor… Please don’t try to save Constantine.
For those of you who don’t know. It’s Upfront season! That’s pretty exciting if you’re a big TV nerd like me. The Upfronts are that time of year when the network executives look over the TV landscape and they decide who shall stay and who shall go. Like the mighty Claw!
I haven’t really seen that many surprises this year. Honestly, the network television landscape is a barren wasteland these days, particularly for dramas, but also for comedy. Cable television and their lack of regulation has created kind of a second golden age of TV. Internet TV (Read: Netflix) has made this even better in the last couple years. I don’t want to get off on too much of a tangent here, so I’ll save my thought on why FCC regulation of the airwaves needs to be killed for another time, but for now, i highly recommend the book The Revolution Was Televised by Alan Sepinwall for an explanation of how cable changed the TV landscape in the 21st century (yes, I read scholarly texts on television for fun… I’m a nerd, leave me alone…)
Anyway, like I said, I was browsing the internet, looking at the cancellations and renewals coming down the pipeline and I didn’t see too many surprises. I got to NBC and that was kind of exciting. NBC literally cancelled their entire sitcom lineup except for one show. Luckily, it was my favorite show in the bunch, Undateable. I’m not going to say Undateable is a good show. It’s not. It’s a goofy guilty pleasure. It’s kind of a throwback to the 80s sitcom. Literally NO THOUGHT is required to watch it. I enjoy it. There’s even a rumor going around that next season is going to be all live episodes, based on the success of their live episode they did last week. I kind of hope not, it was kind of a train wreck. Unlike the cast of Roc, who famously and brilliantly produced a whole live season of episodes back in 1992, the cast is full of stand-up comedians who are not trained actors. So, the fun of watching the Undateable live episode was watching how bad the cast was at it — watching them break and fall apart. It was actually quite adorable and I even watched the West Coast feed on Hulu to see the differences. It was fun for a one-time thing, but trying to base the whole season on it would kill the show. Of course, as a summer burn-off show last season that was never supposed to see a season 2, I guess anything they can out of a season 3 is gravy. But still, the fact that NBC… Must See TV. The House that Cosby, Seinfeld and Friends built would cancel (almost) their entire sitcom lineup in one season is pretty much crazy.
Anyway, then I got to NBC drama cancellations and I saw it. Finally, after speculation that it would (should?) be since the very first episode, Constantine has been cancelled. I started worrying as soon as I saw the headline. I knew what was to come. And sure enough, there was already a tweet from the show runner, David Cerone, asking fans to stay tuned as he tries to shop it around to other networks. He even tossed in hashtag, #SaveConstantine to try to drum up some grassroots support:
— Daniel Cerone (@DanielVCerone) May 8, 2015
No! NONONONONONONONO!!! NO!!!!!
For the love of all that is holy. For the good of the comic book subculture. In the name of all geek programming currently on the air and that might be in the future, Constantine must die!!!!
Do you see those 1500 retweets that Cerone got? Those are all the people on the planet who are still watching Constantine! Ok, not quite. Those are the 1500 people who care. As I type this, I know that that number will never go about 3000. It actually is getting about 3million viewers a show. That’s not the worst show on the air, but its pretty bad. For context, it’s season (well, now series) finale pulled 3.3M. That finished third in its times slot after Undercover Boss (8.53M) and a forty year old rerun of Be My Valentine Charlie Brown (4.5M).
So back in October I posted this thing where I started worrying about the networks being overrun with superhero and comic book shows. Its actually getting worse. Supergirl has officially been greenlit to series by CBS. AMC is picking up Preacher. CW has another Arrow spinoff called Legends of Tomorrow. Heroes is returning to NBC after five years off the air. SHIELD, Agent Carter, Gotham, Arrow, The Flash, iZombie and the Walking Dead are all slated to return. Netflix also has renewed Daredevil, is yet to release Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Defenders and they’ve hinted that they’re interested in other future Marvel properties (rumor is Punisher). There’s a few other things in preproduction or pilot phase, but as of now, the 2015-6 season is expected to have no less than 16 comic book shows on the air.
Do you know what superhero shows geeks were watching in 1983? Automan and Manimal. I know because I was there. I watched every single episode of both Automan and Manimal. I loved them. It’s not that I thought they were good. They weren’t. But with the cancellation of the Greatest American Hero, there were just no other options. If you were a comic book fan, you best be watching Manimal. It probably won’t make it past this season, and you don’t know when you’re going to get another show. (Spoiler Alert, Manimal and Automan were both cancelled after one season).
The point is, we would have loved to have one even mediocre show based on an actual Marvel or DC comic on the air in 1983. Just one! It wouldn’t have had to even been good. Just mediocre. Watchable. That would have been great. If you’d told me that in 2015, there’d be 16 comic book shows on the air I would have said you’d lost your mind. Then you’d start going down the list: “well, lets see, there’s a show about Green Arrow and one about the Flash and they’re making one about Supergirl next year.” and I’d go “wow, that’s cool. There could be neat stuff done there. What else?” and you’d say “there’s a Batman show” and I’d say “ok, I guess that makes sense… Batman is popular” and you’d say “well, Batman isn’t really in it, it’s more about a young Commissioner Gordon. Every once in a while you see a kid Bruce Wayne, but he won’t be Batman for years.” and I’d go “Whaaaaaa?!?!?” and then you’d say “oh, and there’s this whole show about the Agents of SHIELD” and I’d say “shut the fuck up!” Because I was 9 and I knew how to swear. “There’s no SHIELD tv show because no one but huge comic book nerds know who SHIELD is.” and you’d say “well, they know them from the movies. SHIELD is part of the supporting cast of all the Avengers movies. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and so on… in the future, superheroes are in all of the biggest movies ever made. They make like a billion dollars because everyone wants to see them all” and my head would explode.
See, that’s the thing. Geeks…. WE’VE WON! We’re mainstream now. Take a bow. People actually respect comic books. Do you know how huge that is? But in order to make this thing last, I need your help. I’m sure that pretty soon you’re going to start seeing campaigns to “#SaveConstantine” There will be petitions. There will be requests for retweets. People will ask you to mail some token show of support to random network execs at NBC or prospective other networks. DON’T DO IT!
Constantine must be allowed to die.
Look, I’m sure a few of you out there actually like the show. There has to be like one or two of you, right? But most of you… you just watched it because it’s a comic book show. And you think you must show your support. I get it. I watched Birds of Prey.
But when you’re mainstream, the rules change. See, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that popular culture is cyclical. Especially when it comes to Network TV shows. Let me explain: in 1958, eight of the top ten shows on the air were westerns. In the early 80s, it was all about the nighttime soaps (Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest) but then by the late 80s it was the family sitcom (Cosby, Growing Pains, Roseanne, Married With Children, Full House, Family Matters, Step by Step and a million shows just like them). Do you remember what was on the air in the late 90s? The answer is Law & Order and Seinfeld. Any show that wasn’t one of those shows was an exact copy of Law & Order (NYPD Blue, CSI, NCIS) and Seinfeld (Friends, Just Shoot Me, Suddenly Susan). And then those things got replaced by the reality TV elimination competition show.
And that leads us up to today.
When something becomes popular, the network TV inclination is to clone it ad nauseam. Marvel’s MCU ushered in an acceptance for comic book fiction the likes of which have never been seen before. And when it’s gone it’s not coming back. TV is trying to kill it for you.
I love TV. TV is my oldest and dearest friend. So believe me when I tell you, TV is a selfish, bloodthirsty bitch. TV does not respect the tragedy of the commons. TV will take the golden goose and cut it the fuck open without blinking an eye.
So admit it. Constantine isn’t a good show. It’s really bad. That’s why no one is watching it except for the comic devotees. If you’re a comic devotee, admit it… you like SHIELD, Gotham, Agent Carter, Arrow, Flash and Walking Dead all way better. Because if you’re watching Constantine, I know you’re watching the others.
The reason the police procedural and the competition reality show is still going strong is that they’re not afraid to kill the shows that aren’t working. Law & Order:Trial by Jury, gone! Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, gone! Even the original Law & Order, when it had run its course, Dick Wolf put a bullet in it’s head and started the Chicago Hope series. Reality TV competition shows come and go so fast that I can’t even think of good examples to use here. When is the last time you watched a good old fashioned western on primetime television? Bonanza?
The reason you don’t see family sitcoms anymore (think about it, Modern Family is basically all there is) is because the market was flooded with them for way too long. When there are bad shows in a subgenre on the air, people see that they’re just there to get money out of people. Have you ever seen the final few seasons of Family Matters? They don’t even have plots. They’re just half an hour of Steve Urkel repeating the same catch phrases over and over. It’s so bad that they literally forgot about one of the kids on the show. Stop mentioning her as though she never existed and No one even noticed.
If Constantine is allowed to survive, it will be the Family Matters of comic book shows. It will burn people out on the genre all that much faster. Sometimes for the greater good, some things need to be sacrificed. You know who would understand that? The Hellblazer, John Fucking Constantine.
So I beg you… no, the nine-year-old boy that was me in 1983 begs you… we’ve got a good thing going here. Let Constantine Die!