Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Where There's Smoke, There's Censorship

A couple of months ago I wrote about the upcoming Constantine TV series, based on the Hellraiser comic from DC.

I was somewhat interested in this news until I read that David S. Goyer was producing the series. He was the screenwriter for the Blade trilogy (yay) as well as Christopher Nolan's Dark Night films (meh) and last year's execrable Man Of Steel (boo).

My interest waned even further when I found out the series would be airing on NBC. Really? A dark, edgy and adult supernatural story like this and it's gonna be on regular network TV instead of HBO, Showtime or AMC? Oy. I've got a baaaad feeling about this.

My fears were justified this week when it was announced that due to outmoded network standards, the John Constantine character won't be allowed to smoke in the series.

Jesus wept.

Constantine's cigarette habit is a huge part of the character. It even becomes a major plot point later on in the comic, which I won't spoil here.

As much as I myself loathe smoking, he just won't be the same without it. Think Luke Skywalker without his light saber.

Studio executives have long held the boneheaded belief that if a kid sees someone smoking on TV they'll immediately run out and get hooked on coffin nails themselves. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. If a kid can be swayed into taking up smoking that easily, let's face it, he was going to end up a smoker anyway.

It makes me wonder what other wonderful changes they have in store for Constantine. A plucky female sidekick? Dead best friend who appears as a ghost and gives him advice? A gun that shoots holy water and crosses?

What makes the whole thing even stupider is NBC currently airs Hannibal, a series based on everyone's favorite serial killer cannibal. Hannibal regularly features gruesome scenes of torture and depravity, and the network just shrugs and says, "Eh." But show a guy smoking a cigarette? Gods no, are you insane?

Maybe as a compromise they could have Constantine smoke candy cigarettes?

Or perhaps a bubble pipe?        

Things like this are the reason network TV is rapidly dying. Think about the most talked-about shows on TV right now. Shows like Game Of Thrones, The Walking Dead, House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black. What do they all have in common? None of them are on network TV, that's what! They're all on cable or available online. They're all adult, edgy and innovative and don't have to deal with ridiculous broadcast standards that were outdated even in 1965. 

If the networks want to still be around ten years from now, they're gonna have to rethink the way they do business. And stop sucking the life and soul out of every property they air.

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