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Rhys Meyers to play Dracula on NBC

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BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Jonathan Rhys Meyers will play Count Dracula in a TV series update of Bram Stoker’s late-1800s Gothic horror novel.

NBC has ordered 10 episodes of “Dracula,” which is being produced by NBC Universal through its Carnival Films & Television — the same people who bring you “Downton Abbey.”

NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt, who made the announcement, was head of Showtime when Meyers was cast to star in that pay-cable network’s “The Tudors.” On Tuesday, Greenblatt said the new series would bring a “Tudors” sensibility to the literary classic.

The show will not shoot a pilot but instead go straight to series. It’s set to start production this year; additional casting and production details will be announced later, and no target air date was announced.

The “cool, new version,” as Greenblatt described the series, introduces Dracula as he arrives in London, posing as an American entrepreneur who maintains that he wants to bring modern science to Victorian society.

In reality, Dracula hopes to wreak revenge on the people who ruined his life centuries earlier. There’s only one circumstance that can potentially thwart his plan: Dracula falls hopelessly in love with a woman who seems to be a reincarnation of his dead wife.

Stoker in his grave: Turn, turn, turn.

Based on a script by Cole Haddon, “Dracula” will be executive-produced by former president of HBO Films and Emmy winner Colin Callender (“The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby”), Tony Krantz (“24,” “Sports Night”) and Gareth Neame (“Downton Abbey”).

Osbourne off ‘AGT’?

Sharon Osbourne tweeted Tuesday afternoon that she’s leaving NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”

Kind of.

On Tuesday, the Twitter account for Howard Stern’s satellite radio show said that Stern — who joined “Talent” this season — wasn’t sure whether he will do another season of the competition show. The tweet added that Osbourne might not come back unless she gets more money.

“My darling @HowardStern, money is not the reason I’m not returning to @nbcagt, it’s because . . . ” Osbourne — who also has a gig co-hosting CBS’s “The Talk” — tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

“I have nothing to say about Sharon Osbourne other than this is coming out of context and sort of spontaneously and we don’t really know what’s going on,” Greenblatt told TV critics later Tuesday at Summer TV Press Tour 2012.

“I think it’s much ado about nothing,” Greenblatt added.

Osbourne is under a multiyear contract to be a judge on the talent competition, a source close to the situation said.

A couple of hours earlier, TV critics — who’d not yet read Osbourne’s tweet — asked Greenblatt and NBC’s reality-TV chief, Paul Telegdy, about “Talent,” the money and the ratings.

“Talk a little bit about The Great Howard Stern Experiment — how you think that’s going,” one critic said, adding that “the show is No. 1, barely, [in the summer] . . . and the ratings are kind of going in the wrong direction.” Plus, the critic noted, NBC spent the equivalent of a Third World country’s GNP to pay Stern and to move the whole show to New York for Stern’s sake.

Telegdy thanked the critic, like he meant it to sting, for pointing out that the show is still No. 1 during the summer and is likely to end the summer season in first place. Creatively, NBC is “thrilled” with Stern, said Telegdy, adding that Stern has “proven himself to be a wonderful addition to the panel of judges on the show” and that NBC would “be delighted if Howard wants to come back.”

“Talent,” Telegdy pointed out, was given a very tough job this season, including a launch at the end of the official TV season in the teeth of popular shows’s season finales.

Of NBC and comedy

NBC will air two Thursday “Saturday Night Live” prime-time presidential election specials, on Sept. 20 and 27, Greenblatt announced as he opened his Q&A session.

It was news but not exactly surprising.

Maybe more unexpected, Greenblatt told the NBC-Thursday-comedy-adoring critics that those Thursday comedies don’t cut it any more and that NBC is getting back into the broadcast business.

“These shows are just great shows,” Greenblatt began. “They’re award-winning and incredibly sophisticated and clever, and we couldn’t be prouder of them.”

But, he continued, “given what’s happened at the network over the past four or five years in terms of general decline across the whole week . . . and loss of circulation . . . we just can’t get the biggest audience for those shows. They tend to be a little bit more narrow and a little bit more sophisticated than I think you might want for a real broad audience.”

And by “broad audience,” he means “broadcast audience.”

“I hope these new shows that we’ve got for the fall and the spring are also clever and also smart and that you critics like them, but can also broaden the size of the audience,” Greenblatt said. “So I don’t want to say anything negative about what Tina Fey does, or ‘Parks and Rec,’ or ‘The Office.’ Those are great shows.”

But they need to get a broader audience, he concluded.

One critic responded that one of NBC’s new comedies “has animals all over the place” (“Animal Practice”) and that another “has babies all over the place” (“Guys With Kids”) and that one ended the first episode with people chasing cars with swords (“Go On”) — and wondered whether this was the price of a broader audience.

Another critic said that last season’s audience-broadening NBC comedies — such as “Whitney” and “Are You There, Chelsea?” — were, at best, a “mixed success.” Greenblatt was ready for that one, replying that he has a whole new comedy-development department and “a whole new sort of point-of-view comedy” strategy. “I hope that when we come back here in six months, we can say that the fall comedies did even better than last year’s comedies.”

Another critic/fan of NBC’s Thursday comedies said that he’d “heard from a lot of people” that they think “Go On” — the new Matthew Perry comedy about a sportscaster in mandatory group therapy after the death of his wife — is structurally a whole lot like “Community” (the show that NBC barely brought back for next season, with a short order and a lousy Friday time slot, because its appeal is too narrow). So what’s up with that?

The exchange was sad — like watching the cutest couple in high school break up.

‘Modern Family’ delay

Work on the fourth season of ABC’s “Modern Family” has been delayed while producer 20th Century Fox TV is snarled in salary negotiations with several members of the cast — who filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the production company to void their contracts.

A table read scheduled for Tuesday morning was scrapped when the studio was told that adult cast members in the ensemble comedy would not attend. Production on Season 4 is scheduled to start Monday, reports The Washington Post’s Emily Yahr.

“Modern Family” is a hugely important franchise for ABC. Averaging 13 million viewers last season, the comedy is the network’s highest-rated scripted series. “Modern Family” ranked No. 15 in total viewers for the 2011-12 TV season. Even more important for ABC, which sells the 18-to-49-year-old demographic to Madison Avenue, “Modern Family” was the fourth-highest overall show in that age bracket.

Hoping to get a bigger payday out of the lucrative franchise — which landed a syndication deal with USA Network to start in 2013 — several of the adult cast members (Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson) have filed suit, claiming that their contracts violate a California law that personal service contracts cannot exceed seven years. Neither the studio nor the network would comment.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes and the latest from the Summer TV Press Tour, go to washingtonpost.com/tvblog.

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