Pilots and Premieres: “Dracula” – Series Premiere

THE SPECS:

Who:  “Dracula,” currently airs on network TV, specifically on NBC, Fridays at 10:00 PM.

What: “Dracula,” a historical supernatural/fantasy series based upon the infamous titular vampire and his reanimation in Victorian England.

When: The series premiered on NBC, Friday, October 25, 2013, at 10:00 PM.

Where: The show is set in London, England, in the year 1896.  

Why: I continue to enjoy shows centered on vampires, though the character of Dracula has always been somewhat of a mixed bag for me, depending upon the portrayal and vehicle.  For example, I enjoy the Dracula on Buffy the Vampire Slayer but only tolerate Gary Oldman’s Dracula (given the fact that the film surrounding him is somewhat mediocre).  My interest and intrigue were  piqued when I learned that King Henry VIII himself, the charismatic Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, would be playing the enigmatic vampire.  The thought of it and ensuing expectations were too much to pass up.

How – as in How Was It?

The pilot/premiere rating scale:

***** – I HAVE TO WATCH EVERYTHING.  HOLY SMOKES!

**** – Well, it certainly seems intriguing.  I’m going to keep watching, but I see possible pitfalls in the premise.

*** – I will give it six episodes and see what happens.  There are things I like, and things I don’t.  We’ll see which “things” are allowed to flourish.

** – I will give it three episodes.  Chances are, I’m mainly bored, but there is some intrigue or fascination that could hold it together.  No matter how unlikely.

* – Pass on this one, guys.  It’s a snoozer/not funny/not interesting/not my cup of tea… there are too many options to waste time on this one.

Dracula = ***

SYNOPSIS

A professor named Van Helsing (if he’s the vampire hunter, that has not been clarified yet) reanimates the wasted corpse of Dracula (Rhys Meyers), entombed in wooden stakes and silver. Dracula, posing as an American industrialist named Alexander Grayson in Victorian London, seeks vengeance against something called the Order of the Dragons, members of which also happen to control industrial interests in London.  Meanwhile, he encounters the doppelganger of his former wife, who was murdered by the Order prior to Dracula’s encasement in a vampire-proof coffin. This new iteration of his long dead wife, Mina, draws his interest while, in the meantime, he slaughters haughtier members of the Order in order to bring his vengeful interests to the forefront.

THOUGHTS

While Jonathan Rhys Meyers is equal to the task of portraying the titular vampire and all of the allure, mystique, and pathos of a very old, very passionate, very angry being, the story, loosely based on the fiction giving rise to the character in question, is a bit dense, at least as depicted in this pilot.  The density itself lends to confusion and a somewhat plodding pace that may be a bit of a turn-off for some viewers.

Dracula has a vendetta against the Order of Dragons for murdering his long-dead wife, who seems to be reincarnated in the form of Mina (this is just like the Gary Oldman film).  Yet, why is he posing as an American?  With a laughable accent?  And only part time, as Dracula, though played by an Irish actor, is sporting the English accent from his Tudors days?  The other confusing element of this dense story is that Dracula plans to overtake the industrialists of the Dragons by besting them at their own prowess for monopolies, by trumping their petroleum and other interests with “magnetic” power that can illuminate light bulbs in the palm of one’s hand, although Thomas Edison apparently finds the idea comedic enough to “oust” Mr. Grayson from America. This blurred focus makes for a rather cerebral story and one not necessarily marrying to the legend of this vampire.

In fact, the story is so confusing, it caused this viewer to lose interest in the pilot at parts, only to be drawn back in by the mysterious chemistry between Dracula and Mina as well as his dalliance with a vampire hunter named Lady Jayne Wetherby.  The sets and costumes of this period piece are opulent, incorporating a copious wash of the color red (no heavy handed symbolism there), and the underscoring is appropriately eerie.  Yet, the tale in which the viewer is being asked to engage may not sustain interest, despite the screen presence of the main actor.

Three stars entitle this series to a six episode trial to see where it might go.  As much as Mr. Rhys Meyers is enjoyable to watch, both for his talent and for his physical attributes, he may not save the swirling vortex of long-form storytelling that this pilot seems to have established.  

RECOMMENDATION

Dracula will appeal to fans of Mr. Rhys Meyers, to fans of period pieces, and possibly to fans of the original story.  The show’s Friday night time slot may not do much to garner an audience, but those loyal to this tale might find intrigue in the program based on it.  I’m not sure that fans of vampire fiction will necessarily enjoy this show; the fact that Dracula is a vampire seems almost secondary to the vendetta he carries in his heart.

THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:

Too early to tell.  The ratings have been up and down and then down some more.  Some TV watchdog sites are already calling it “likely to be canceled,” but its fate is unknown when it is sequestered to a Friday night time slot following the growing success of its lead-in, Grimm.  Let’s see how it fares.

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