“The Alienist” is Well Done Period Crime Drama

The Alienist” is a new period crime drama set in the late 19th century New York City. In that era, people who were mentally ill were thought to be alienated from their true selves so the word “alienist” was given to one who studies such conditions. In other words a psychologist or psychiatrist. Our main character is Dr. Laszlo Kriezier who is investigating a serial killer beginning with the murder of a boy prostitute.

Kriezier is played by Daniel Brühl who was recently seen in “The Zookeeper’s Wife” and “Captain America: Civil War”. He is assisted by his friend John Moore who is a newspaper illustrator and Sara Howard who is the secretary to police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt. Although fictionalized, her character is inspired by a real-life person who was the first female to be employed by the NYPD. She’s played by now grown child star Dakota Fanning. Moore is played by Luke Evans who is probably most famous playing Owen Shaw in the “Fast and Furious” film series.

Although this series is filmed in Budapest, they have gone to great lengths to re-create 19th-century New York in beautiful detail. The costumes, props, and sets are also top-notch. The performances are nuanced and intricate in the mystery of who is responsible for not only the killing of this boy prostitute from the opening episode but apparently this is just one of several children who’ve gone missing.

Like other period crime dramas such as “Copper” and “Ripper Street” we get a look at the early days of forensic science. Think of this as CSI New York set in the late 1800s. Like those other period crime dramas which I liked, I’m not sure how accurate they are vis-à-vis the level of forensic science available at the time. But it does add an interesting twist to an otherwise ordinary crime procedural.

We also get some insight into the state of psychology and psychiatry at the time with a little bit of preachy plot lines as our hero battles against prejudice over things like homosexuality, masturbation and other taboo subjects. If there’s anything unbelievable about the show is that the doctor has a very enlightened 21th century attitude towards the subjects. Of course we also get to see how female employees in a male dominated institution are treated in those days .

Overall it is well-written and well acted and it really transports yo might have u to this particular time and place while telling an interesting ongoing story. It runs for 10 episodes on TNT network. As of this writing 2 episodes have aired but are available on-demand. I’m giving it a solid “I’m watching” rating.

Bellevue is a Dark, Fascinating, Crime Story

A new crime drama titled “Bellevue” is now showing on WGN American channel. The show was originally produced by Canadian Broadcasting Company. It stars Anna Paquin as a police detective in a small town named Bellevue where everyone knows everyone else’s business. The season-long case we follow with her is the disappearance of a high school student who is a star hockey player. We quickly learn that the student also is dealing with gender identity issues.

This is Paquin’s first major role since the end of HBO’s hit series True Blood where she played Sookie Stackhouse.

Her character Detective Annie Ryder is haunted by the death of her father who was also a police detective. Throughout the opening episodes it becomes apparent that her current case is somehow related to a case of father had years ago investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl. Some of the story is told through flashbacks showing Ryder as a young girl. Pivotal to the story are games that she used to play with her father in which he would give her riddles to solve. Presumably this was to train her in analytical thinking hoping she would become a detective in his footsteps. Paquin’s performance in this show although very different from True Blood is very intense and compelling. I like this new character a lot.

Although there are no supernatural elements in the story it has a very eerie and haunting tone to it. In present day, someone is giving her riddles that are keys to solving this case. These riddles are in the same style as the ones she solved as a child.

The series is very dark in tone and is very reminiscent of one of my other favorite dark detective shows “The Killing”. Although not quite up to that high standard, I think fans of The Killing will enjoy this series as well. Paquin is believable and compelling in the role. It’s too early to tell after 2 episodes if all of the mystery and conspiracy buildup will payoff in the end but I hope it does. With a total of eight episodes it won’t take long to find out.

I’m giving it a rating of “I’m watching”. If this genre appeals to you, you should check it out.

Play Hooky from A.P. Bio

NBC recently had a sneak peek of a new sitcom titled “A.P.Bio” that is scheduled to premiere officially late this month. If you missed the preview, you didn’t miss much. Basically the entire show is one joke and it’s not a very funny joke to begin with.

The main character Jack teaches an advanced placement biology class in a Toledo high school. But he has no intention of teaching the class. He is a former Harvard philosophy professor who for reasons of which we are not quite sure yet is down on his luck and living with his parents in Toledo. His sole purpose in life is to get revenge on his academic rival another professor currently in Stanford and to sleep with his many women as possible. He recruits his students to pull pranks on his rival like catfishing him on Facebook.

Jack is played by Glenn Howerton who is mostly known for his roles on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “The Mindy Project”.

Patton Oswalt plays the high school principal who tries to get this rogue teacher to actually teach the class but fails miserably. Even someone who has pretty good comedy skills like Oswalt cannot save this ridiculous and unfunny piece of tripe. None of the students or other teachers characters are of sufficient interest to even attempt to describe.

IMDb.com lists six episodes but I would be surprised if all six of them actually make it to air.

This one gets a very hardy and emphatic “Skip It” on my rating system.