×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

TV Review: NBC’s ‘Dracula’ Doesn’t Suck

Clever reworking of mythology casts Jonathan Rhys Meyers as revenge-seeker with a 'death wish'

With:

Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Thomas Kretschmann, Victoria Smurfit, Jessica De Gouw, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Nonso Anozie, Katie McGrath

Concocting some playful twists on the well-worn Dracula mythology, NBC’s international version of Bram Stoker’s bloodsucker transforms him into a revenge-seeking schemer — someone with a “Death Wish” in more ways than one, waging war against a shadowy group of One-Percenters known as the Order of the Dragon. It’s a reasonably clever conceit in terms of exploiting the character’s name while erecting the scaffolding to support serialized intrigue. And if the inordinately crimson-drenched doings threaten to become strained over a long haul, in the short term, anyway, “Dracula” is pretty tasty. Besides, nothing in TV lives forever, right?

Jonathan Rhys Meyers is an apt choice for the title role, since this Count doesn’t stray far from the thesp’s portrayal of Henry VIII in “The Tudors” — inasmuch as both are aristocratic fellows with larger-than-life, unquenchable appetites.

Set in the late 19th century, the handsome premiere opens with a slain Dracula being revived from the dead (don’t get too attached to one of the guys who helps dig him up), and promptly heading to London. There, he poses as a wealthy American industrialist named Alexander Grayson (no relation, presumably, to the latter-day barons on ABC’s “Revenge”), adopting a stiff accent as part of the charade, and proceeding to rub sometimes-pointed elbows with the moneyed Victorian elite.

As for other familiar names from the “Dracula” mythology, Grayson is interviewed by an ambitious young reporter named Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), whose fiancee, Mina (Jessica De Gouw), is a dead ringer for Dracula’s murdered beloved, whom the Order took from him centuries earlier. Showing prescience for a journalist of his time, Harker is quickly entranced by the lure of big money, drawing him, and thus Mina, into the mogul’s orbit.

In addition, the cast of characters includes Renfield (Nonso Anozie), Grayson’s able right-hand man; and Professor Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann, an excellent choice), though neither in quite the guise those well versed in the tale have come to expect.

Overseen by Daniel Knauf (“Carnivale”), created by Cole Haddon and counting “Downton Abbey’s” Gareth Neame among its exec producers, “Dracula” clearly benefits from its international auspices, with a brooding Gothic look and ornate period trappings. Despite its leading man’s fearsome powers, the producers have also established the Order — an ancient cabal built on an “empire of lies,” we’re told — as a formidable adversary, one acquainted with vampires and methods designed to neutralize them.

Like “Hannibal” (another NBC drama built around an antihero with a peculiar diet), this series pushes boundaries in terms of gore, torture and sex, flourishes that feel both organic and perhaps a bit less jarring given the fantastic setting and situations.

Scheduled on Friday nights after NBC’s unexpectedly durable “Grimm,” the stakes for “Dracula” aren’t quite as high as they might be in a midweek timeslot. That said, should the series exhibit signs of life, it’s not farfetched to think the network’s schedulers might give it a try somewhere else where they could use a Nielsen transfusion.

Given the eye-popping ratings for “The Walking Dead,” every network has to be looking at the supernatural with more welcoming eyes right now. By that measure, NBC might have dug up “Dracula” just in time — before the old-monster graveyard is filled with shovel-wielding network executives.

TV Review: NBC's 'Dracula' Doesn't Suck

(Series; NBC, Fri. Oct. 25, 10 p.m.)

Production:

Filmed in Hungary by Flame Ventures, Sky Living, Playground Entertainment, Universal Television, NBCUniversal International Television and Carnival Film & Television.

Crew:

Executive producers, Daniel Knauf, Tony Krantz, Colin Callender, Gareth Neame; co-executive producers, Cole Haddon, Reese Pearson, Harley Peyton; producer, Jonathan Rhys Meyers; director, Steve Shill; writer, Haddon; camera, Ousama Rawi; production designer, Rob Harris; editor, Paul Knight; music, Trevor Morris; casting, Suzanne M. Smith. 60 MIN.

Cast:

Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Thomas Kretschmann, Victoria Smurfit, Jessica De Gouw, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Nonso Anozie, Katie McGrath

More Voices

  • Hollywood Has Come Far With Diversity

    An Insider's Look at Hollywood's Diversity Efforts and How Far It Still Needs to Go

    I am a white man working in Hollywood. I grew up in Beverlywood, an all-white, predominantly Jewish, Los Angeles neighborhood sandwiched between 20th Century Fox Studios and MGM, where my elementary school had only one black student. I am compelled to write about diversity in Hollywood because “diversity” — in front of and behind the camera [...]

  • Venice Film Festival A Star is

    How Venice, Toronto and Telluride Festivals Stole Cannes' Luster (Column)

    In all the years I’ve been attending film festivals, I have never seen a lineup that looked as good on paper as Venice’s did this fall, boasting new films by Alfonso Cuarón (“Roma”), Damien Chazelle (“First Man”), Paul Greengrass (“22 July”), Mike Leigh (“Peterloo”) and the Coen brothers (“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”) in competition, [...]

  • Black Women in Medicine BTS

    Hollywood Needs to Include People With Disabilities on Both Sides of the Camera (Guest Column)

    In five years, nothing has changed. Despite open calls for greater diversity and inclusion, recent research shows that there was little change in the number of characters with disabilities in popular films in 2017. A study conducted by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that [...]

  • Seven Seconds

    Fighting the Racial Bias at the Core of Hollywood’s Cop Shows (Guest Column)

    If fiction is the lie that tells a deeper truth, the TV crime genre has been, for the most part, the lie that simply tells a lie. As a storyteller (Veena) and an advocate for racial justice (Rashad), we collaborated for the past two-and-a-half years in an attempt to reimagine the roles of cops, victims, [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein Trial

    Column: Documentarian Barry Avrich Ponders Whether Harvey Weinstein Will Be Convicted

    Will Harvey Weinstein go to jail? That’s perhaps the most debated topic in Hollywood. It’s a question that makes me miss my friend Dominick Dunne, the controversial Vanity Fair columnist who would have already succeeded in interview-ing the chambermaids at Harvey’s sex-addiction clinic. Dunne once prophetically told me there would be a massive reckoning in Hollywood. He [...]

  • Janet Mock Pose

    'Pose' Writer Janet Mock on Making History With Trans Storytelling (Guest Column)

    I first met Ryan Murphy on location in Hollywood in July. The set was a nightclub, filled with background actors staged as glistening go-go dancers, shirtless revelers, and twirling drag queens. They were all basking under the glow of a spinning disco ball — a fitting setting for my first Hollywood job interview. I was [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content