With young vampires taking big bites out of movie box office and TV ratings in the Twilight franchise, HBO’s True Blood and the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, the granddaddy of them all bloodsuckers, Count Dracula, is making a big comeback. TV history buffs may correct me but, while the legend of Dracula has been mined endlessly on the big screen going back to Bela Lugosi, I cannot think of a single live-action American series about Dracula (NBC’s super-short-lived 1979 series Cliffhangers featured a Curse Of Dracula segment, and the syndicated Dracula: The Series was Canadian). Next fall we may have three.
First off is NBC’s straight-to-series drama Dracula, in pre-production for a possible fall launch. Set in 1890s London, it stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the Count and also features his archenemy, Abraham Van Helsing. At the time NBC’s Dracula was announced last summer, Starz said it is developing Vlad Dracula, a drama series from Spartacus producer Rob Tapert “tracing Dracula’s evolution from a revered ruler to the world’s most feared vampire.”
Last month, Showtime gave a straight-to-series order to John Logan and Sam Mendes’ Penny Dreadful. The drama, also set in Victorian London, features “some of literature’s most famously terrifying characters,” with Dracula and Van Helsing front and center. Two weeks after Showtime’s announcement, ABC gave a pilot order to drama Gothica, from producer Mark Gordon. Like Penny Dreadful, it too weaves together classic horror characters and stories, but in present day. One of the most prominent among them is Dracula, who is the series’ main antagonist. Guillermo Del Toro/Carlton Cuse’s FX pilot The Strain, which will likely go to series, also revolves around vampires.
It is not uncommon to have recurring themes in development cycles, like the two Beauty And The Beast pilots last year and the two Sleepy Hollow drama sales this season. But of the two Beauty And The Beast pilots, only one, the CW’s, went to series, and only one of the Sleepy Hollow scripts, the Fox one from Alex Kurtzman, Bob Orci and Len Wiseman, received a pilot order this year. But Dracula and Penny Dreadful have already been picked up to series (Penny Dreadful is slated to begin production in the second half of 2013), and Gothica is at the pilot stage. Add to that the British teenage horror drama Young Dracula, which starts production on Season 5 in April, and we are looking at at least three and maybe four or even five, if the Starz project materializes, series incarnations of the infamous Transylvanian vampire on the air by the end of the year. Not bad for a character who’s been around more than a century.