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

How to Get a Pitch Meeting When You’re New & Unknown

Who among us hasn’t asked the question that is the headline of this post? And who among us has found a good answer?

Maybe, just maybe, you have. Right here and now, courtesy of this instructive video from Scott Kirkpatrick found on Film Courage’s YouTube Channel:

Scott’s book, Writing for the Green Light: How to Make Your Script the One Hollywood Notices is HERE

In This Corner, TV. In That Corner…The Working Class?

What’s that you said? “Why won’t TV show people who aren’t rich?” It’s a good question, especially for this aging TVWriter™ minion who as a proud Gen Xer can uncategorically state, “Because was ever thus.”

Luckily for all of us, here’s an article that explains it much better:

by Joanna Weiss

[The year 2017 marked] the final season of what might be the most underappreciated sitcom on TV, ABC’s “The Middle.” It’s a single-camera show about an Indiana family—the title refers to its characters’ Middle-American, middle-class existence—and unlike the edgy comedies and tear-jerker dramas that dominate awards time, its humor is unapologetically middlebrow. But “The Middle” is charming, appealing and funny, in no small part because it has another distinction: It’s one of a precious few shows on TV today that focuses, consistently and honestly, on economic anxiety.

If there were ever a time to double down on stories of the American middle-class struggle, this is it. We’re in the midst of a new Gilded Age, with soaring inequality and stagnant wages—the phenomena that helped make Donald Trump president. We’re also enjoying a golden age of TV, with more networks and platforms creating more scripted shows than ever.

Plenty of smart, acclaimed series have tackled complex social themes with sophistication and sensitivity—think “The Wire” for the urban drug war; “Mad Men” for gender; “Atlanta,” “Black-ish” and “Insecure” for race; “Master of None” for the Muslim-American experience. Even “Game of Thrones” teaches real-world lessons about politics and power. At its best, television holds up a mirror to society and helps us better understand who we are. So the dearth of shows that focus on financial insecurity feels especially glaring.

That’s especially true given the power of the medium, with its intimacy and its leisurely, unfolding storylines, to reshape perceptions of our culture. Socially conscious television producers have long used their scripts to powerful effect. Norman Lear explored America’s racial and social turmoil in “All in the Family,” which set up Archie Bunker, in his armchair throne, as a ’70s-era avatar of the MAGA spirit.

A few years later, Lear produced “Good Times,” the first sitcom that featured an African-American family. It was set in a Chicago housing project, and its theme song was a tart, ironic ode to economic struggle: “Temporary layoffs (Good Times!) Easy credit rip-offs (Good Times!)” In 1998, well before gay marriage became the norm, “Will & Grace” used comedy to pave the way for acceptance.

But Will and Grace were a corporate lawyer and an interior decorator, highlighting this dissonance: Often, on TV, social issues get a full exploration while economic issues are brushed aside. For every Al Bundy selling shoes or Roseanne Conner on a factory line, there have been dozens of shows that peddle material aspiration and the pleasures of real estate porn.

This is the cultural soup we grow up in: As a kid in the ’80s, I spent too many evenings glued to “Diff’rent Strokes,” the cross-racial adoption fantasy that plunked two boys from Harlem on Park Avenue, and “Silver Spoons,” about a father and son who traversed their family mansion on a life-sized toy train. Little had changed by the aughts, when my daughter was binge-watching Disney Channel sitcoms set in penthouses and on yachts—along with a show called “Good Luck Charlie,” about an exterminator, a nurse and their family, who lived in Denver in a house that seemed only a wee bit smaller than Buckingham Palace….

Read it all at Politico

Web Series: ‘A Tell Tale Vlog’

What can we say after we’ve said this:

“Edgar Allan Poe attempts to keep a writing vlog while Lenore the Lady Ghost haunts his study.”

And if that logline isn’t enough in itself, here’s the first episode (which will take less time to watch than it took this TVWriter™ minion’s ex to read that very same logline:

Actually, that’s all the episodes because loops, know what I’m saying? A Tell Tale Vlog just keeps on churning episode after episode, strong and steady and funny. And all you’ve got to do is sit back and laugh.

To put it another way:

Another reason we love web series!

Munchman: The Best Place on the Web to Learn about TV Writing – Even If You Can’t Read!

How about that headline? Clickbait or fact, what do you think?

Take a look and then let me know:

Truth to tell, el munchero found Gray Jones’ YouTube channel a very helpful site indeed, and – maybe more importantly – its very existence in this way, shape and form points out something every writer needs to know:

The most important thing you can learn about making it as a television writer is HOW TO SELL!

Damn, I wish I had a voice like Gray Jones.

That’s it, kids, yer friendly neighborhood munchman’s gotta go before I completely, helplessly, hopelessly, superlatively crack up.



Peggy Bechko: Stuff Writers Shouldn’t Do If They Plan on Being Successful

by Peggy Bechko


Writers of all stripes get feedback from all sorts of people – sometimes it’s solicited and sometimes it just jumps out at you. We handle all that feedback in a lot of different ways. But, there’s the feedback from knowledgeable sources we all have to pay strict attention to.

When a screenwriter gets it from on high and is told where a script may be lacking, that’s not a time to argue. When a novelist gets feedback from an Editor or Publisher, that is not the time to argue.

I know, I know, the web says this and the web says that. It’s a font of information – and a lot of it is wrong unless you’ve researched your resource thoroughly and know it is dependable.

So back to my original statement. There is no ‘secret’ to getting a script sold or a novel published. There’s no magic wand awaiting you out there on the web. So, don’t argue.

Look, if you, as writer, have presented a work for consideration and the person on the other end, be it Editor for books or producer looking for the next great script, gives you some tips and feedback it’s not a personal attack. You’re actually a step ahead.

Someone with the ability to help you toward your ‘destiny’ took enough interest to give ‘notes’. A serious screenwriter or novelist doesn’t argue with that. Watch out for that ego we all have and don’t let it make you feel like honest criticism is a personal attack.

If you’re secure in what you do you can take feedback, analyze it and tweak your written work accordingly; or not. I’m not saying ALL feedback is the best. But if we take the time to sit on it for a while, consider, then move forward.

Maybe it will make sense. Maybe you won’t want to change to accommodate or maybe you’ll need to find another person to critique the script or book. Whatever you, as the writer you are, decide, curb that first reaction and then decide.

Do you want to completely alienate a script contact or an Editor reading your manuscript? Well, then, just keep calling and bugging that contact about the progress of their read through.

Yeah, yeah, some folks you send your precious writing to may promise to read it right away or maybe next week or even tonight. Don’t believe them. Be patient.

In my experience the person who requests a script wants it yesterday…but then takes weeks to get back with approval or notes or whatever. Don’t get upset, it’s not worth it. Politely follow up in maybe three weeks and if still nothing, give them another week.

Beyond those couple of check-backs I’d say if there’s still no response it’s probably time to find another reader.

Let’s be clear. I’m saying this to keep you from getting frustrated and doing something to sabotage yourself. These folks aren’t doing it to annoy you. They’re busy people and more often than any of us would like they can underestimate the time it will take to get back to you.

Another tip? Don’t do what other writers do. Don’t follow the path of another writer in an attempt to find ‘success.’ You have your own individual goals, needs, talents and life circumstances which are totally different from those of another writer, even one who has already found success.

Quick example: If you are,  say, writing mysteries, patterning yourself after a superhero action writer most likely isn’t going to work.) Do what fits you. Write what fits you. Pursue your dream your way.

Finally, don’t discourage yourself, which we all know is far too easy to do. Believe me, there are plenty of negative folks out there who’ll be happy to beat you up. You don’t need to give them a helping hand.

Motivate yourself. Keep writing, even the really bad stuff. Avoid those who constantly tell you how unlikely it is that you’ll ever succeed. Don’t let those people into your writing bubble. Don’t ask them to read your work. Eliminate them from your contact if you can.

In other words, save yourself. Don’t waste your time with negative people. For that matter, don’t waste your writing time, period. Don’t let distractions get in the way. Take a break, sure, we all need them. But don’t turn a 15 minute break into an hour or more.

This list of ‘don’ts’ isn’t set in stone. These are suggestions. As you think about them, be honest with yourself. See what applies to you, and what doesn’t.

Then do what you need to. Your drafts and final polished product will thank you.

Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.

It’s Writing Meme Time!

Don’tcha just hate all those writing memes about grammar? Not-so-confidentially, so do we. But this one, found on God’s Gift To Social Mayhem, aka Facebook, does make a few points of writerly importance:

Waitaminnit! Judged? By whom? I dare she, he, it, or they?

Oh, you’re talking about our readers. The people we’re trying to entertain, edify, and show off for. Well then yeah, okay. Let’s all write one for the reading Gipper!