The timing couldn’t be better for a “Dracula” revival. But NBC may not the right place for it to call home.
More compatible with lesser PBS fare, it hardly seems like the natural follow to “Dateline.”
Steeped in 19th century atmosphere, it suggests Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) resettled in London where he passed himself off as an American entrepreneur, not a creepy count.
He introduces himself to society with a lavish party and dazzles attendees with the ability to make a series of light bulbs glow – outside a socket.
But his goal isn’t to be accepted by the locals. He’s eager to destroy a group called the Order of the Dragon. They’re the titans of business, politics and oil and, one by one, he takes them out.
But this Dracula has his own sunrise to worry about – folks learn his secret and aren’t always willing to dummy up. That opens the door for the bite of fall and an awful lot of bloodshed.
The pilot – which airs Friday – tries desperately to look rich and elegant. But so much of it takes place in what’s supposed to be a ballroom it actually looks claustrophobic. Rhys Meyers has an odd American accent (it sounds like he studied “House” episodes) and a theatricality that often overwhelms his co-stars.
But this “Dracula,” produced by the folks behind “Downton Abbey,” has that same brisk pace and an unsettling air. When a journalist (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) sits down for an interview, he quickly sizes up his subject as a delusional visionary who’s an ego-maniac. That captures him nicely – even though Rhys Meyers is prone to widening his eyes and flaring his nostrils more than he should.
He takes a liking to London’s women, too, and doesn’t hesitate to show his affection at the most unlikely places.
Because it’s veering from the Bram Stoker original, there’s the possibility this “Dracula” could dabble in “Mummy” adventures, unleashing a bunch of horrors, related or not.
The show’s women – dressed up in time inappropriate clothing (one dress looks like it came from last year’s runway shows) – don’t make enough of an impression to get a sense how they’ll figure into his master plan. There are hints that some are romantic prey, others are means to an end.
Directed by Steve Shill, “Dracula” intrigues but it may not have staying power. It doesn’t look as elegant as it should; it isn’t necessarily cast with an eye toward immortality. But it intrigues the same way a new neighbor might.
Know too much and you get the feeling it just might be time to move.
“Dracula” airs at 9 p.m. Friday on NBC.