Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pilot Review: Aquarius

Aquarius (NBC)
Premiered May 28 at 9pm

Star power is definitely something that motivates me and many others to tune in to a new show, and the advertisements for this show with David Duchovny’s face on them that have been adorning New York City buses and other places for months now piqued my interest in this show more than many others. I knew that, watching this show, I would find a character somehow similar to Duchovny’s previous TV personalities, and wouldn’t you know it, his Sergeant Sam Hodiak is indeed a veritable combination of Fox Mulder from “The X-Files” and Hank Moody from “Californication.” He’s among the squarest of his 1960s peers, though his time frame permits him to be all about the use of excessive force and deception tactics, with the standout being writing the word “snitch” in permanent marker on an uncooperative witness’ forehead. Hodiak knows that he’s a cop and couldn’t pass for anything else, but his partner Brian spends most of his life undercover as a hippie, hardly a stretch given his appearance and demeanor. While it’s interesting to focus on Charlie Manson and his followers as his cult emerges, it doesn’t seem like a sustainable premise, especially since they’ve already identified him by name within the course of the first two episodes but will obviously be hopeless to stop him. Manson’s relationship with his lawyer is certainly sensational – a love affair that could destroy the father of the girl who is being simultaneously indoctrinated into the cult – but it’s not nearly as compelling as it wants to be. It’s fun to see Duchovny on TV again, but I’d rather watch him as one of his former characters. I’d also appreciate seeing the talented Brian F. O’Byrne, who starred previously on “Brotherhood” and “Flash Forward” on a better part, even though he’s without a doubt the strongest member of this ensemble. This show could be fun to get into, but two episodes already feels like an eternity.

How will it work as a series? We got a glimpse at a second installment during this two-part debut, and it’s clear that it’s an overarching storyline much more so than one involving weekly cases. NBC is putting all the episodes online to be watched well in advance of their airdates each week, justifying the move as ensuring that viewers can digest the story all at once, which doesn’t say much about its electric pacing.
How long will it last? Having all of its episodes available to watch ahead of time shouldn’t benefit this show’s ratings, so I don’t see how it will live a long and healthy life. Lackluster ratings for the two-hour pilot and middling reviews won’t help this show survive, and I suspect this summer will be all it gets.

Pilot grade: C

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