The Remote: NBC’s ‘Dracula’ a beautiful exercise in grotesque themes

Ryan Pait

I’m biased when it comes to “Dracula.”

It’s my favorite book. I read it at least once a year, sometimes more, and connect with it on a spiritual level.

It’s my literary soul food.

So when it comes to my beloved “Dracula” and adaptations of it, I can be harsh.

Luckily, NBC’s new reincarnation (vampire joke!) of the world’s most infamous vampire — Edward Cullen excluded — is actually quite a devilish delight.

“Dracula” stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers of “The Tudors” as the titular vampire.

Posing as American inventor and provocateur Alexander Grayson, he sets the world of 19th century London alight with his radical ideas.

It’s an intense and unconventional portrayal of the character, but you can tell Meyers is having fun with it.

In the book, Dracula’s a powerful old man with a killer beard and hair growing out of his palms. He’s a master manipulator who screws with his rivals because they messed with his plans.

But “Dracula” has been adapted so many times that it’s hard to say what the “right” portrayal of the character really should be.

While Meyers’ take isn’t the most literal, it is interesting to watch.

The familiar characters are all there as well: Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray, Dr. Van Helsing.

They’re given some new character tics to make them a little more modern and morally gray.

Jonathan’s a journalist, Mina’s a medical student and Van Helsing is the one who actually brings Dracula back to life.

But what “Dracula” gets right is its attitude toward Bram Stoker’s original novel.

Rather than slavishly trying to faithfully recreate the book, the show seems content to pay tribute to it and then just do its own thing.

Sure, there are movements and moments that seem similar to Stoker’s creation.

But what I like most about this new “Dracula” is that I — someone who has read the book a dozen times — really don’t know where it’s headed.

It’s also just a lavishly pretty production. There’s lush direction, gorgeous sets and costumes, and the special effects are surprisingly high-rate for a network show that airs on Fridays.

Where its TV fantasy counterparts “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm” often look garish and fake, “Dracula” looks polished but lived-in.

There are flashes of silliness, of course.

The first two episodes feature some hyperkinetic fight scenes, weird soothsayers and some hokey, provincial wisdom given from Dracula to Mina.

But when looking at the big picture, the silliness is small potatoes.

It’s not enough to deter me, though.

I like this show’s silly, twisted attitude, and that it has the balls to play fast and loose with Stoker’s text.

The limited series will run for ten episodes.

It’s yet another example of big networks ordering smaller numbers of episodes, much like cable networks do.

It’s a shrewd strategy. Fewer episodes means fewer opportunities to falter. This applies to the storytelling, NBC’s relatively small financial investment in the show, and the show’s ratings.

To appropriate a stupid quote from esteemed vampire author Stephenie Meyer, “About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Dracula was a vampire. Second, there’s something about this new series that I really like. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with it.”