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Pat Stacey: Dracula to get his bite back...

It's been a long time since we've seen a truly scary television drama about vampires. Glossy American series, such as True Blood and The Vampire Diaries, which features a gallery of handsome, buffed bloodsuckers who seem more interested in admiring their own six-packs than sinking their fangs into virgins' necks, have rendered vampires pretty much toothless.

The last time I got a genuine jolt from a TV vampire was back in 1979, halfway through the legendary two-part adaptation of the Stephen King classic Salem's Lot, which is quite simply the scariest television horror ever.



Hell

It was the moment right at the end of the first part when the face of Barlow, played by Reggie Nalder, suddenly popped onto the screen, rat-like teeth poking from his mouth, yellow eyes blazing like the fires of hell.

The only other small-screen vampire saga that comes close to Salem's Lot is the BBC's excellent Count Dracula (1977), a three-hour version of Bram Stoker's novel. Not only was it the most faithful adaptation of the book ever made, and the first to visualise the chilling climbing-the-castle-wall scene, it also featured an ingenious piece of casting.

Suave French actor Louis Jourdan, then still associated with romantic leading man roles, played Dracula with a mixture of charm and bloodthirsty menace, while Frank Finlay perfectly portrayed the Van Helsing that millions of readers down the years have imagined in their heads.

Since then, though, vampires have had a fairly lean time of it on television. All that is set to change, however, with Sky Living and NBC's upcoming 10-part Dracula, which gives the old count back both his bite and his dignity.

In what appears to be ideal casting, Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays the Prince of Darkness. While it sounds like there's going to be a few departures from Stoker's original, at least this new version restores the character to his roots in the late 19th century and seems to be broadly following the familiar plot.

Dracula arrives in London, posing as an American entrepreneur who wants to shake up Victorian society with modern science. In a clever touch, he's especially interested in the new technology of electricity -- a handy way, when you think about it, of illuminating the fogbound streets for a creature of the night.

His real purpose, of course, is to exact revenge upon those who destroyed his life centuries before, but obsession complicates matters when he spots a woman who appears to be the reincarnation of the wife he loved before he lost his soul.

If Rhys Meyers brings the same intensity to the role he sometimes brings to his life off screen, this could be a Dracula worth inviting into your room.

SAME OLD GARBAGE

Public service broadcasting can be tricky. On the one hand, you have to spend the licence fee take wisely and try to provide the best possible value for money.

On the other, you have to keep the viewers entertained by commissioning and scheduling a range of programmes designed to appeal to a broad audience.

Or if you happen to be called RTE, you simply ignore these obligations, pretend it's your money and not the public's you're spending and give yet another series to the already overexposed Katherine Lynch.

On Thursday, Lynch and her regular sidekick Brian Dowling returned with a third run of the atrocious Wagon's Den, featuring the usual mixture of crude 'jokes', clunky innuendo, interviews with Z-list celebrities and lots of mugging to camera.

"RTE shows rubbish comedy" wouldn't exactly be news were it not for the fact that Lynch's previous series, the equally atrocious Big Fat Breakfast Show, which also co-starred Dowling, finished up less than four weeks ago.

RTE would no doubt describe this as making the most of limited resources. The rest of us could be forgiven for thinking it's the same old garbage being wheeled out in a different coloured bin.

*BIG BROTHER MELTDOWN "

I'm more hated than Jimmy Savile!" screamed a huge headline on page one of the UK edition of the Daily Star during the week. Now who do you think could have made an outrageous statement like that?

Why, none other than plastic-faced X Factor and Celebrity Big Brother goon Rylan Clark. Apparently, Clark had one of his trademark teary meltdowns in the CBB house on Wednesday and told the other housemates: "I think I'm an alright person but the amount of s*** I get thrown at me is unreal. I get worse press than Jimmy f***ing Savile."

Z-list celebrity vanity takes many strange and ugly forms, but imagining anyone actually thinks you're important enough to hate more than a dead weirdo who sexually despoiled hundreds of underage boys and girls must require industrial quantities of vacuous self-regard. Or maybe he's just as thick as he looks.


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