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New Blood For "Dracula"

After recent years of others vamping it up, the original bat-man is back with a new TV show.

By Jere Hester
|  Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013  |  Updated 5:25 PM EDT
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Scream Queens: Ladies of Horror

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Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Alexander Grayson (Count Dracula) and Victoria Smurfit as Lady Jayne Wetherby in the NBC series "Dracula"

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Louisiana, the home of HBO's "True Blood," is a long way from Transylvania. So is Washington state, the setting of the “Twilight” movies and books.

But the specter of Dracula has never been far from the popular culture since he first swooped into the mass consciousness via Bram Stoker's chilling 1897 book. Dracula's influence has proved strong in recent years, even if he's been overshadowed by a bevy of other vampires.

Dracula plunges his fangs back in the entertainment game with an NBC series, debuting Friday, that promises to introduce the original bloodsucker to a generation raised on, well, pale imitations.

The new show offers a twist on the legend: Dracula lands in Victorian London in the guise of an American inventor wanting to bring electric lights to town – convenient for a guy who works by night. He’s haunted by a lost love and the enemies who cursed him with immortality and an unquenchable thirst for plasma. 

NBC's "Dracula" comes amid a spate of popular re-imaginings of his Victorian U.K.-lit colleague, Sherlock Holmes, and a Steampunk-driven interest in the late 19th century. Like Holmes’ Moriarty, Dracula has a worthy enemy in Van Helsing. The new show boasts shared producers with trendy “Downton Abbey,” as well as heartthrob star Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who fits the vampire-as-sex-symbol genre that’s stretched from Bela Lugosi to Tom Cruise to Robert Pattinson.   

But there’s always been far more to Dracula than sex appeal: He's a tragic figure of sorts – tormented and a misunderstood tormentor. He’s damned by fate, and damns others.
 
Still, the ladies like his suave manner and are drawn to forbidden love that promises both everlasting life and misery. Guys admire his fly-by-night style and the power that comes with his plight. In the best of the “Dracula” takes, the stakes are high – and at the ready.

The power and enduring allure of the character can seen in a century's worth of mass media depictions – including comic versions, from Al Lewis' Borscht Belt shtick in "The Munsters" to George Hamilton's nightlife lover in "Love at First Bite" to Leslie Nielsen’s goofy turn in Mel Brooks' bloody romp, "Dracula: Dead and Loving it."

Now Dracula has new life, and NBC is betting that after years of knockoffs, we 'll be loving the real thing once again. Check out a clip below of what’s shaping up as a stylish return for the ultimate wingman from Transylvania, just in time for the Halloween season:

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is also the author of "Raising a Beatle Baby: How John, Paul, George and Ringo Helped us Come Together as a Family." Follow him on Twitter.

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