Diana Vacc sees “The Alienist”

Nothing is happening here, which doesn’t change the fact that this could be the most exciting image in the series!

by Diana Vaccarelli


This winter TNT premiered The Alienist, a 10 episode series that showing what police work was like before the turn of the 20th Century

Set in 1896, this psychological thriller centers around the murder of a young prostitute boy. The event brings together an Alienist (at the time the term for certain experts on mental illness), a newspaper illustrator, a secretary, and Theodore Roosevelt in the job he actually had at the time, New York City Police Commissioner, all working to solve this brutal crime.


  • I always find something good about what I view. But while I was attracted to the show after learning of its historical premise and use of real people like Teddy Roosevelt as character, once I started watching I could not find one single thing to enjoy.


  • First, the way the show is shot is ugly, murky, and so difficult to see that it seems deliberate.
  • Much of the “action” is similarly ugly but, unfortunately, not murky enough to keep me from seeing it.
  • The performances are very disappointing.  With a cast led by Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning, I was anticipating fascinating characters with meaningful development arcs. At the very least, I hoped to find something about each character to I care about. But that was not to be. The acting is dry, dull, and monotonous, with none of the actors exhibiting the slightest hint of emotion, or eliciting any emotion in me.
  • Based on a best selling series of books by Caleb Carr, and billed as an “Event Series, The Alienist is probably the most uneventful TV series since The Arthur Godfry Show” back in television’s infancy. Writers Hossein Amini, Caleb Carr, E. Max Frye, Cary Joji Fukunaga, and Gina Gionfriddo wrote scripts that are dull, boring, and did not move the story along. Watching The Alienist was like watching a caterpillar making its away across a leaf in slow motion, except that caterpillars are at least fuzzy and cute. These episodes drag on and on and on. It got so that I gave up on wanting anything exciting to happen and just hope that something would happen, period. And no, that too wasn’t to be.
  • Gina Gionfriddo produced Law & Order, one of my all time favorite shows.  Having her on board was truly exciting for me, however, the show fell short of any expectations I had.


With a heavy heart I find it hard to recommend that anyone watch this show. The Alienist has left me totally alienated.

Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and TVWriter™ University grad. Find out more about her HERE