(CNN)Grim and atmospheric to the point of dank, "The Alienist" proves so derivative as to blunt its appeal. Adapted from Caleb Carr's novel, this historical fiction is handsomely produced and smartly cast, but merely delivers the latest twist on a serial-killer yarn -- a particularly nasty one, true, but which at least initially fails to get under your skin.
'The Alienist' adapts grim serial-killer tale on TNT
The story opens in 1896, eight years after Jack the Ripper, and before the word "serial killer" became a common term. Set in New York, the vibe recalls the 1979 movie "Murder by Decree," which hypothesized what would happen if Sherlock Holmes were put on the Ripper case, applying his powers of detection to the crimes.
Carr's Gilded Age versi