Magazine article Variety

Aquarius

Magazine article Variety

Aquarius

Article excerpt

TV REVIEW

Aquarius

series: NBC. Thurs. May 28,9 p.m.

writer: John McNamara

starring: David Duchovny, Grey Damon, Gethin Anthony

Using the Manson Family two years before the Thte-LaBianca murders as a portal into 1960s counterculture, "Aquarius" is actually pretty groovy - a bit like a poor man's "L.A. Confidential" in its revisionist look at the IAPD in a tumultuous earlier time. That makes NBC's handling of this David Duchovny vehicle puzzling: In making all the episodes available online after its premiere, it's either an interesting experiment, charitably speaking, or an unceremonious dumping of a project whose prospects are, admittedly, uncertain. While the dawning of "Aquarius" is hardly revolutionary, the show does kick off summer with a provocative, cable-likc gamble.

Duchovny plays Sam Hodiak, a WWII vet and IAPD homicide detective, asked by a former girlfriend (Michaela McManus) to help find her missing 16-year-old daughter, Emma (Emma Dumont). The girl, it turns out, has been taken by, and soon falls under the spell of, Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony), a mercurial criminal-turned-cult leader who uses his pliant followers as collateral, and still dreams of becoming a rock star.

Somewhat confused traveling in these circles, Hodiak enlists a young undercover cop, Brian Shafe (Grey Damon), to help him investigate what's happened. Soon, though, the web widens to include other cases and conflicts (in keeping with the spirit of things, all 13 episodes were made available), including shady dealings involving Emma's father (Brian F. O'Byme), a heavy-hitting Republican attorney whose firm has ties to then-Gov. Ronald Reagan and president-to-bc Richard Nixon.

Created by John McNamara, and representing some of his most ambitious work in years, "Aquarius" - which wisely draws heavily on the songs of the time - is big and messy, a much more direct hit on the mores of the time than something like "Mad Men," inasmuch as this show is filtered through the neanderthal prejudices of the police at the time. So gay bars are raided, and African-American neighborhoods referred to as "the Jungle," with Gaius Charles ("Friday Night Lights") among the recurring players as a black activist who crosses Hodiak's path.

If the missing-girl plot sounds wispy, McNamara cleverly employs it merely as a point of entry, and for stretches, as other plots develop, Manson is at best a bit player in the series. …

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