NBC touted its reimagining of “Dracula” as a sexy – by network TV standards – take on the staid, boring “Dracula” of Bram Stoker’s novel, the 1922 silent film, the 1931 Bela Lugosi film, and even the 1990’s Francis Ford Coppola version (although this television version is like that adaptation’s boring cousin). I’m assuming this is what NBC thought when they greenlit this show, but that’s not how it comes off. The pilot episode starts and ends with little fanfare, bombast, or anything to keep viewers watching. The decisions the script takes to “reimagine” the characters will elicit head-scratches and serve little purpose other than to have you questioning why they bothered with the Dracula name at all, other than using it for cheap marketing to get vampire fans.
The “legend” – apparently Dracula has taken on folkloric connotations alongside Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster – follows Dracula aka Alexander Grayson (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who has reinvented himself as a 1800s American industrialist. His goal is to take down the infamous Order of the Dragon by ruining their stock options and bringing alternative energy to the backwards townspeople of London. Along the way, he meets the beautiful Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw) who, of course, he knows from his past.
For an hour show, I couldn’t find anything compelling or intriguing. Rhys Meyers skulks around corners and purses his lips like an 18th-century take on Henry the VIII, but you have to get over his accent, which the Twitterverse has compared to Christian Slater and the connection is apropos. I couldn’t understand why the character of Grayson has to be American at all. The way it plays out in the pilot is simply to show the people of England as total jerks who hate Americans, but the humor is on par with laughing at a Grey Poupon commercial. The accent notwithstanding, if you missed the first few minutes, you’d have no idea Grayson and Dracula were the same person. Again, there’s no overt connections made to the Dracula mythos other than character names, so the should could just as easily created a show about a vampire in England; further cementing that the Dracula name is a marketing ploy.
The show spends the first half with Grayson hobnobbing with the English hoi polloi and talking about beating Edison and Tesla at the energy game. He then lights up a room of light bulbs which had me questioning whether I’d stepped into a television adaptation of The Prestige. There’s nothing interesting this section, and considering Grayson is freaking Dracula why the hell does he care about stock options and energy at all. It’s because the third act twist is…he’s really a nice guy! Yes, he wants to take down the Order of the Dragon who apparently did really bad things to him, but instead of killing them because, not sure if you caught this, he’s a damn vampire; he’s just going to mess with their money…riveting! And what vampire would be complete in this day and age without the “true love never dies” tagline. Enter Mina Murray and Dracula is putty in her hands. Oh, he kills a few prostitutes but who cares about a bunch of hookers, right? It’s not like they’re REAL women who died viciously.
The romance between Mina and Dracula is in the meet-cute stages, and the greatest stride the series wants to take in modernizing the material is by making Mina the only lady medical student in England, with Professor Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann) as her mentor. This would be a welcome change if the series didn’t harp on their love story being the focus the story, reinstilling the idea of gimmickry in having Mina be a doctor. Keep in mind, her big character revelation is she wants to be a surgeon yet gets squeamish or unable to perform.
The marketing certainly played up the sexy nature of the series, but there’s only one sequence of Rhys Meyers attempting to get laid and it’s pretty tame, so anyone coming into this after watching shows on AMC or FX will find the sex and blood factor is another NBC trick to get you to tune in. “Dracula” isn’t the train wreck I expected, but it still isn’t good enough to get me to tune in twice. Rhys Meyers could be good if he wasn’t actively thinking about maintaining his American accent, and the plot delves too deeply into archetype. It’s isn’t a modernization, so much as joining on the bandwagon of vampire adaptations already in progress.