With the premiere of NBC’s “Dracula” on Friday (Oct. 25), it is safe to say that the well of vampire lore that has so fascinated pop culture for the last few years has finally run dry.
The Peacock has teased this 10-episode limited series, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the titular bloodsucker, as a sexy thrill ride, what with that trailer featuring a mass of writhing naked women who, as the camera zooms in, part ways to reveal Meyers at the very core. The premiere hour, however, stands in marked contrast, coming off more as the equivalent of a wet rag.
Part of this disappointment is owed to the series’ need to explain quite a lot to the audience. This new iteration of the infamous legend, produced by the folks behind “Downton Abbey,” finds Dracula arriving in London at the close of the 19th century, posing as an American entrepreneur who wants to bring modern technology to the Victorian society. But, spoiler, he’s actually seeking revenge on the Order of the Dragon, a secret society that is responsible for his immortality curse.
The dialogue is ridiculous. In the big scene when ol’ Drac hosts a gala at his mansion to introduce himself, the writers, desperate to drive home how looked down upon Americans are in London, force a random man and woman to utter the following contrivances:
Woman: “Frankly, I’m surprised so many of us turned up at all.”
Man: “How can we properly mock him if we haven’t set eyes on the man?”
No one, even in the late 1890s, spoke so silly.
Beyond that, there’s the matter of Meyers’ performance. It’s hard to get around his playing Dracula playing an American because, quite frankly, the accent is ridiculous. Intentional or not, it’s distracts the viewer and seems to distract the performer, as well. Dracula is meant to be powerful and alluring, but this version of him feels stilted and withdrawn. He’s not sexy, no matter how hard the show tries to convince otherwise in a ludicrous scene in an opera house.
It’s not just Meyers who fails the character, though. His plan for destroying the Order of the Dragon is so laughable, it feels as if it must be intentional. He’s come to undercut the Order’s current monopoly on the oil trade with a new “geo-magnetic technology” with will give folks in the 1890s free, wireless power. Literally, there’s a scene where Dracula rants about how oil will be the Order’s undoing, as they’re doomed to be beholden to it, essentially morphing the legendary character into Ed Begley Jr.
NBC held the show until the week before Halloween under the guise that it, coupled with “Grimm,” would be a terrific night of frights. But the only frights “Dracula” seems poised to offer lie in its dismal plotting. Leave it to the father of all vampires to drive the final stake in this tired fad’s heart.
“Dracula” premieres Friday, Oct. 25 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.