The annual Television Critics Association summer panel is currently underway in L.A. It’s a chance for networks and cable channels to show off their wares for the fall season, introduce new shows and start building the hype for September and October premieres. As I’m sure you already know (you’re reading a website called Nerd Bastards after all), there are an inordinate number comic book based TV series debuting this TV season, and one of them is NBC’s Constantine. Already the butt of some controversy (for comic fans), the cast and crew of the show were definitely in the hot seat as the NBC portion of the TCA got underway.

First up, the somewhat sudden replacement of Lucy Griffiths as the show’s female lead. It was revealed quite suddenly last week that Griffiths’ character Liv, a young woman that con man/sorcerer John Constantine (played by Matt Ryan) meets and tries to protect from evil forces in the pilot, was being replaced with another character within the first couple of episodes of the series. Liv was to be his sidekick, a point-of-view character for the audience to get into the show. But now the showrunners are switching her out for Zed, a character from the comic books who has a long history with the title character and her own occult connections.

“[Zed is] someone who can go toe-to-toe with John [Constantine], and that’s ultimately something we felt like we needed,” said executive producer Daniel Cerone. “We wanted a more dynamic relationship, as opposed to someone who is a teacher/mentor and a student. It just didn’t feel as fertile and rich of an area as just a strong a man and a strong woman who are both very different.”

Angelica Celaya, who starred in Cowboys & Vampires and made appearances on Burn Notice, Dallas and the Spanish language series Gabirel, will play Zed starting sometime early in the season.

It’s a sensible call. The Constantine pilot has been available through, ahem, extra-legal means, and having watched it I can say that Griffiths’ Liv probably would have worn on fans the same way that Laurel Lance has on Arrow. I understand the purpose for the character, but if they can switch her out for someone more compelling, I will not object. The pilot has a lot of positive things going for it already, and writing out Liv is easily an improvement as long as Zed turns out to be well-cast.

Another improvement is the assertion that Constantine’s trademarked smoking habit will survive, at least in part. Network standards, apparently, prevent showing Constantine take a long cool drag of that smooth Carolina flavor, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be alluded to, like the scene in the pilot where it smash cuts to Constantine, at a bar, putting out a finished cigarette in an ashtray. “We thought [showing him] having to snub something out is more truthful,” notes executive producer David S. Goyer.

As to another one of Constantine’s fascinating character traits, Cerone said that we shouldn’t expect to see our hero, how shall we put this, “go both ways” in the course of the series. “I believe Constantine has a very healthy sex life, we’re not going to see that on TV,” he said. “In those comic books, John Constantine aged in real time. Within this tome of three decades [of comics] there might have been one or two issues where he’s seen getting out of bed with a man. So [maybe] 20 years from now? But there are no immediate plans.”

Seems like a cheap cop out, and a sign of the continuing limitations of network TV. True Blood hasn’t shied away from scenes of man-on-man lovin’ and while it’s extremely doubtful that NBC would get that explicit, we should keep in mind that one of the greatest sci-fi/genre heroes of the last decade, Torchwood’s Captain Jack Harkness, is a “omnisexual” who’s kissed plenty of guys, before and after kicking ass. It’s an example of silly network double-standards. But alas, life’s no fun if we just get everything we want I guess.

Constantine airs Fridays this fall on NBC.

Source: The Mary Sue

Category: Comics, TV

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