Who: “Dracula,” aired on network TV, specifically on NBC, Fall 2014 Fridays at 10:00 PM.
What: “Dracula,” a historical supernatural/fantasy series based upon the infamous titular vampire and his reanimation in Victorian England.
A professor named Van Helsing 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.
When: The series finale aired on NBC, Friday, January 24, 2014, 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’s It Going? (Thoughts)
As the primary TV viewing season rounds to a close and as new season schedules are announced by the networks, they have been making sweeping and swift final decisions regarding what stays and what goes, i.e. what is renewed for another season and what is canceled. Because the purpose of this blog is to be more editorial about particular shows this viewer watches rather than a major entertainment news outlet to report scoops, spoilers, and other television-related sound bytes (for now), this blogger will report the cancellations and reviews as I have time to write about them.
NBC, approximately two weeks ago, finally canceled freshman horror drama Dracula, among others. The (now) series recap and this viewer’s verdict can be read here.
Unfortunately, the writing was on the wall for this show some months ago, as the ratings were, overall, pretty abysmal. The time slot didn’t help, as it aired Fridays at 10:00 PM, even though it was paired with successful cult favorite Grimm, and even though the production values were high, including breathtaking art direction and costumes. Thus, the show was, no doubt, expensive to produce, though it was visually stunning.
This viewer enjoyed the series in the end, but I think what made it enjoyable, beyond its visual pastiche, took too long to develop. The story meandered along Alexander Grayson’s (the vampire’s human identity) quest to walk in sunlight and to overtake his enemies via industrial warfare rather than straightforward vampire violence. These qualities lent a certain sophistication to the storytelling, but anyone watching television on Friday at 10:00 PM was probably not seeking sophistication. They were probably hoping for a bit more gore.
At least, Dracula was full of soft core sexiness, capitalizing on the intense attraction between Grayson and Mina, the doppelganger of his deceased wife, as well as the lusty appetites of Lady Jayne Wetherby. This viewer believes that the true heart of the series, other than Rhys Meyers’ substantial charisma and intensity of performance, was the illicit romance angle: the scandalous, torrid affair between Grayson and Lady Wetherby, the vampire hunter who is unaware that she is in love with a vampire; Grayson’s pursuit of Mina; and Mina’s best friend, Lucy’s, illicit feelings for her best lady friend. Plus, Mina nurses graphic dreams about Mr. Grayson. The love pentagon that was created was probably the most interesting part of the story, even if the vampire/sex angle is the guiltiest part of this pleasure.
The (now) series finale wrapped up several story lines in a satisfying way, including a dramatic reveal of Dracula’s true identity to Lady Jayne and, subsequently, her death, as the ambitious vampire hunter confronted her foe with whom she had shared a sweaty bed for much of the series. Plus, Mina and Dracula/Grayson succumbed to their attraction, after Dracula sired Lucy into a vampire, and Jonathan Harker, Mina’s erstwhile fiance, thirsted for revenge against Grayson, which Van Helsing was only too happy to nurture. These tantalizing threads provided some closure while fraying just enough to entice viewers to watch a hoped for second season that, now, will never come; it’s a credit to the writers that they moved the story past Grayson’s more mundane pursuits toward something meatier, with a closer parallel to Bram Stoker’s original novel.
Hopefully, Jonathan Rhys Meyers will find his way to some size screen, small or big, soon in another project befitting his talents; this viewer never tires of watching him because of his commitment to his performances and because of his sheer, unadulterated charisma, which oozes from every pore of his considerable good looks. Sadly, the Peacock was not willing to give this series another chance; yet, since NBC has been struggling with several bad decisions of late, canceling Dracula probably ranks among the least of them.
Despite the attempts of the show’s creators to indulge in vampire mythos at its finest, NBC never truly gave the series a chance past the full season order, burying a program with a charismatic lead actor and sumptuous production vales because of its more high minded storytelling aims, without really giving it the marketing or the chance to shine on other nights, as it ultimately deserved in the end. In truth, Dracula would probably have benefited more from airing on a cable network or even a premium channel, where the sex, violence, and language could have been revved up, and where viewers may have flocked more readily to and appreciated better the sophisticated depiction of Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire.
THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW:
Canceled! The entire series, produced to the tune of ten episodes, aired fully and ended in January 2014. Perhaps it will appear on a streaming service such as Netflix. This viewer would still recommend watching it; it’s a well wrought guilty pleasure and a good fix for any vampire lover, with some measure of finality and satisfaction in its now series finale.