This Week’s Distraction: In Praise Of NBC’s Dracula

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It’s only taken three episodes (although, to be perfectly honest, I was captivated within the five seconds of the first episode), but I am quite clearly and officially in love with NBC/Sky Living’s reimagining of Dracula.

There are three reasons that this isn’t surprising.

1) When I was 15, I fell utterly in love with a young Jonathan Rhys Meyers when he got in the way of my Liam Neeson infatuation by featuring in Michael Collins. He may well remain the only actor who has never let me down in terms of acting choices, although, sadly, I will never get back the two hours and ten minutes I spent watching Mortal Instruments last night (I genuinely expected to enjoy that, but really did not…that’s another post, though).

2) When I was 12, I fell utterly in love with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, first in novel form, and then, shortly afterwards, in Gary Oldman form. Dracula may well remain the only character who has never let me down in any incarnation, be it musical, theatrical, Buffy or Supernatural. I loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula so much that I managed to pass my English Language A-Level almost entirely on the basis of my 100%-scoring Dracula pastiche coursework, which my tutor claimed was so good, he couldn’t tell it from the actual book. (NB: I’m not claiming any inherent writing quality here, more that I’m a good copycat and you can’t get better starting material than Dracula).

3) When I fall in love with things, I fall hard. I have always been completely happy to devote all my waking hours to whatever is currently making me happiest, particularly if that’s aesthetically happy. There are aspects to this that people find bothersome, or childish, or plain peculiar, but I’ve made it to 31 without actively caring about that and have had a jolly good time of things along the way, so I’m not going to start worrying about that now. I don’t regret any of the days in 2002 I spent watching Fight Club on repeat, nor the amount of times I saw Jonas Malmsjö performing Hamlet in Swedish to the sounds of CocoRosie (probably my most random, but glorious obsession).

So, all that given, you can see why the 2013 version of Dracula wasn’t going to have to do much to make me happy. The presence of Jonathan Rhys Meyers was a good start (a very, very good start), and the addition of her-from-Merlin, the best Renfield I’ve ever seen, Patrick-from-Coupling and a man I’m going to refer to only as “will never be Jack Davenport” were welcome bonuses all, and that’s before you get to the ace ninja lady and gay Victoriana (bonus bonus points for having men kissing before showing women kissing).

Still, there were some things that would’ve put me off. A complete irreverence for the book would’ve done it, as would any total disinterest in the history, or a failure to embrace the sense of humour one requires when making a TV series this pretty and lavishly costumed. Fortunately, it’s quickly clear that a) the writers know their source material b) decisions to depart from history/mythology have been made with history/mythology in mind and c) it’s not so up its own arse that you can’t have a laugh with it occasionally. Also d) it’s made an effort to bring something new to the whole vampires/Victoriana thing, and that isn’t easy to do. Oh and e) Van Helsing gets the sort of edge I always wanted him to have. And – I could go on, but I shan’t. I’m hoping Tumblr’s doing that. Tumblr is my next stop after this post.

On a Tumblr note, like many a modern show, there’s an effort to appeal to the internet’s interest in pretty people being gif-able and shippable, and I like that very much. The best gift you can give an audience is scope and permission to imagine outside the script, especially when you’re stretching an established canon yourself. Shows like Merlin and Supernatural got marvellously long shelf lives out of knowing what they were (are – sometimes I forget Supernatural is still going, and may it never end) and who’s watching. I’m guessing that Dracula is aiming itself at a slightly different, wider audience than those, but, at the same time, knowing who to get on side to get the buzz going, and that’s all very commendable. More, please.

So, it’s only been a couple of episodes and it might all go wrong later, but I don’t care, I don’t care, it’s a great start and it’s made me want to read the book again, watch Gary Oldman again, watch Nosferatu again, and watch all three episodes repeatedly until there are four episodes to watch repeatedly, my taste for aesthetics, entertainment and character thoroughly and wholeheartedly catered for.

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