Monday, January 4, 2010

"Young Dracula" (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Young Dracula was a show on CBBC (i.e. Children's BBC) that sadly lasted but two seasons. This fact continues to depress me. Being quite the fan of vampire fiction, I'm pretty familiar with most vampire-related television series. Most, let us face it, end up poor at best. Rather than go on about the mediocre ones (yes, I'm talking about YOU Moonlight), here is a post of praise for a minor masterpiece. That it was a children's show just shows how US programing continues to think children are dumb and need protecting from the truth -- with much of recent political history in this country as one result.

But I digress...

In the present day, Count Dracula wearies of one too many heavily armed mob of peasants, deciding to relocate to England. He leaves it to his eleven-year-old son Vladimir (who understands thing like the internet) to find a suitable castle. Hence the Count, daughter Ingrid, son Vladimir and their grotesque manservant Renfield end up in Stokely, UK -- a very ordinary large town or small city with a castle on the hill in the center of town. Okay, so far so good, if not particularly impressive in the originality department (an overblown value in our culture, at least IMHO).

What follows is a lot more compelling, entertaining and clever than Kindred: The Embraced ever dreamt of becoming.

The series focus is young Vladimir, who doesn't want to become a vampire at all. In this world, vampires have relatively normal children who gradually grow more vampiric in their teens. On their sixteenth birthday, they look into the family's Blood Mirror and see their vampire selves, which emerges and joins with them (hence the lack of reflection -- a nice bit of lore, that). Vlad would do almost anything to avoid this, which horrifies his father no end. Yet the Count's fifteen-year-old daughter Ingrid is everything he could hope for--cunning, cruel, eager to earn her self-proclaimed title "Princess of Darkness"--but since she's a girl, he doesn't care. At all. One of the running gags (that is also kinda heartbreaking) is how she continues to try and earn her father's approval, to no avail.

Returning to Vlad, once in Stokely he makes two friends. Robin Branagh is Vlad's own age while his sister Chloe is a little younger, and a child prodigy (she reads Egyptian hieroglyphics at age twelve). Robin adores vampires, goes to school in a cape, tries sleeping upside down like a bat, and is one of the few people to figure out the newcommers are in fact undead (many assume the Count, interestingly, to be a rock star). He becomes Vlad's very best friend, and if you get a Harry/Ron/Hermione vibe from all this, you are not alone (I personally felt Chloe had a little bit of a crush on Vlad, but that is a matter of opinion).

Truth to tell, even breaking down all the characters and their relationships in the show would be a lengthy post in and of itself. More, all that background remained consistent. Even more, the characters changed, demonstrating a complexity that lots of series about grownups never manage. Vlad, for example, rather likes the powers he starts to exhibit in the second season, and has profoundly mixed feelings about his sister and dad. Ingrid, for all her haughty (and hilarious) cruelty, shows a startlingly tender side at odd moments (when Robin's parents give her a gift, for example). Then there's the Count and his estranged wife, probably the most shamelessly evil woman in the world. He both adores and loathes her, precisely for that reason despite (or because of) being the target of so many of her schemes.

Let us make some things clear. The show is funny, but the humor arises more from the interplay of characters than the overt gags (although those are pretty giggle-worthy). Also the show is aimed at children. No nudity, no sex (although a lot of flirting, some of it a tad steamy), most of the violence is off-screen, the plots tend to be simplistic and the secondary characters are nearly always played for laughs. Everything is exaggerated enough to be not quite real, but consistent enough to seem that way on its own level.

Episodes included such relatively mundane matters as report cards (the Count was furious that all the teachers liked Vlad, and was mildly proud that Ingrid was described as a force of malice and chaos in the classroom) and the esoteric, like a quest to find an object which would "cure" vampirism. Other plots involved Robin and Vlad falling for the same girl (and an disturbingly poweful cologne that makes one irresistible to women), Ingrid falling in love, a visit by the Count's brother and his equally dysfunctional brood, the constant attempts by the local woodshop teacher (named Van Helsing) to prove vampires existed (said attempsts often involving cross-dressing for not-quite-adequately explained reasons), etc.

Sadly, the show ended because CBBC lacked the funds for a third season. After 27 episodes and a cliffhanger, the series ceased production. The lead, Gerran Howell, has probably grown up too much over the last two years to pick up where the series left off. As far as I know, the show has not yet been released onto DVD but one can still watch it on YouTube if you look for it. Please do! The effort is worth it!

And just for fun, here are some of the "fan videos" associated with the show. Enjoy!

"Bringing Sexy Back"

Robin and Vlad, friends

"Requiem for a Dream" (is there any fandom that hasn't used this music?)

About Vlad...

About Ingrid Dracula...

A fanfic crossover...


Amelia Hill said...

I have heard of this show but never got around to watching it... Hooray for YouTube!

Anonymous said...

Never heard of the show before, but I watched the first episode on youtube after reading your review. I really enjoyed it! I'll be sure to watch more. :D
Thanks for the suggestion!

Anonymous said...

they are making a third season due to release end of 2011 - 2012 check IMDb

Lan Avis said...

The third season is almost over, but there will be a season 4!

Saira Javed said...

Season 5 is going to be aired on 20th January 2014! Yay! I'm so excited!

Lucy Cottee said...

Who said there won't be any more season pffftttt

Anonymous said...

Vlad: a great young hero !
The count:a real rock star !
Ingrid:a cute and adorable
evil princess !
Malik:the old story of evil
brother !
Erin : the emo of darkness !
Blade,kill her please !!!

Anonymous said...

Vlad is a hibrid!
Surprise after surprise !