Jonathan Rhys Meyers of "Dracula"
[This review is way the heck too long, but I'm writing it on the behalf of Young Daniel, who dressed up as Dracula every Halloween for around 10 years.]
doesn't really know how to explain what "Dracula" is, which explains why they're doing it so poorly.
"The legend takes new life," reads the primary tagline that you might have seen on billboards, buses and on-air promos for the drama, which premieres on Friday (October 25) night.
The tagline across the show's official website
takes a different approach and goes with "Jonathan Rhys Myers is America's Original Vampire."
It's much easier to quantify why the latter approach is frustratingly off-base. First of all, NBC should probably know the star of its show spells his last name "Meyers." And that he's Irish. And that he's playing Carpathian in "Dracula." And "Dracula" is based on a book by an author who also happens to be Irish. And "Dracula" was published in 1897, when we all know that Abraham Lincoln was slaying American vampires more than 50 years earlier. And there are four or five other shows on TV
featuring vampires who are a good deal more American. Heck, it's even a stretch to call NBC's "Dracula" an American series, given that it's an international co-production filmed far away on The Continent. So yeah, there's really no aspect of that tag line that is accurate. It's a bit astounding. I don't even know what about that banner sentence could possibly be a valuable lure for audiences.
"Jonathan Rhys Myers is America's Original Vampire" is only in that one place, though. [UPDATE: And NBC has corrected the "Myers" typo. This is the largest amount of tangible change I've ever enacted in my time as a critic.]
"The legend takes new life," however, is everywhere.
And I hate to harp on this, but "Dracula" isn't a legend.
There are legends that exist surrounding Vlad III of Wallachia and the Order of the Dragon and whatnot, but those legends mostly require that you care an awful lot about power struggles within the Ottoman Empire and a certain amount of military viciousness, but would probably bore you to tears if you yearn for even rumors of resurrection or post-mortem bloodsucking.
Vlad the Impaler was perhaps a horrifying monster of a certain sort, but the concept of Count Dracula and vampirism and all that good stuff? That's not a legend. That's a piece of fiction that Bram Stoker created. Bram Stoker also created Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker and the idea of Mina as a timeless love for Count Dracula. He created Lucy and Renfield and he created Abraham Van Helsing as well. There is no "legendary" basis for any of that. It's all from a work of credited literature that happens to have moved into the public domain worldwide in 1962 (it was apparently always in the public domain in the United States, if you like irrelevant footnotes). That's why F.W. Murnau's 1922 "Nosferatu," which has many characters and plotpoints in common with "Dracula," but failed to acquire acquire rights to the novel, couldn't actually use the "Dracula" name or any of the names from the book, but why NBC's "Dracula," which shares almost no meaningful connection to Stoker's novel at all, is able to take character names from the novel without taking anything else.