constantineOf all of the shows for the new television season the one that has looked the most stylized, the most interesting and the most likely to have a break out star is Constantine that debuts this Friday on NBC at 10pm.

I am not, it has to be said, particularly a comic book fan. For me a show, or a movie for that matter, has to stand on its own merits rather than some homage to the source material. Currently a comic book adaptation is about the only guaranteed moneymaker in Hollywood with the success of Iron Man, The Avengers, Batman, Spider-man, Thor and a number of others.

Not surprisingly this has trickled down to television with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Arrow the last couple of seasons and the premiere this year of Gotham, The Flash and now Constantine. Arrow I have a lot of time for, while Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lost me early in its first year. Gotham and The Flash have not yet held my attention, but I’m giving each five episodes or so.

Added to this mix is Matt Ryan playing the titular character of John Constantine, a classic anti-hero from the DC Comics series Hellblazer and one of the more popular characters in the genre. The Welsh actor may be familiar to some from his role as Mick Rawson in the short-lived Criminal Minds spin-off Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. Ryan was rather good as a former sniper turned special agent particularly in the episode One Shot Kill. In retrospect it’s rather a shame that show wasn’t given more of an opportunity with a cast led by Forest Whitaker, Janeane Garofalo, Michael Kelly – who most recently played Doug Stamper in the US version of House of Cards and Ryan.

You can see some of what I suspect is Ryan’s natural laconic wit in Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior and I wonder if show creators Daniel Cerone and David Goyer saw this when they cast the actor, because both the trailer and first look that are available on the web certainly showcase that as well.

“Everyone fights their demons. His fight back.” That’s a great tagline for a show about an occult detective and Ryan seems to have the attitude just right. The set up allows Constantine to travel the country as a demon hunter, fighting the good fight as it were, all with a slice of British humor.

Joining Ryan in the cast are former Lost and Oz star Harold Perrineau as a morally ambiguous guardian angel, Charles Halford as Constantine’s best friend Chris and Angelica Celaya in the role of Zed Martin who turns up in the second episode of the series. Lucy Griffiths plays Liv Aberdeen in the pilot and was originally slated to be a main character before the producers of the show decided to change gears.

Friday night is not normally the place for a breakout show, but with only Blue Bloods as competition in the 10pm time slot, NBC is no doubt hoping that there’s both an initial audience in place and the rest of us with our trust DVR or Internet set up.

 – Wallace Poulter