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TV Review: NBC’s 'Aquarius'

In Aquarius, David Duchovny stars as Sam Hodiak, a police detective in 1960s Los Angeles investigating Charles Manson, played by Game of Thrones’ Gethin Anthony. Grey Damon (Friday Night Lights) plays Hodiak’s partner. NBC is airing the two-hour season premiere Thursday at 9 p.m., but will make all 13 episodes of the limited series available online and on demand Friday. The following are reviews from TV critics around the web, compiled by B&C.

"But there wasn't enough in the early episodes to make me invest more time in the series, and I wonder if NBC's experiment is going to fail because they didn't let McNamara make a show designed to be marathoned in the first place. NBC's executives are trying this because they, like everyone else in TV, aren't sure what the future of the business will look like. Aquarius, unfortunately, is stuck too much in the past to offer much in the way of valuable information."
— Alan Sepinwall, HitFix

“It’s hard enough to do period pieces, but let’s hope nobody else wants to tackle the impossible 1960s anytime soon, unless maybe there are some Mad Men outtakes we can all tolerate. It’s been done to death and all that leaves is the copycat impression of well-worn tropes and stereotypes. Even Duchovny can’t spin that into something fresh.”
— Tim Goodman,The Hollywood Reporter

Aquarius explores the sexism, homophobia and racism of the ’60s from a more enlightened remove yet savors those prejudices for their dramatic tension. Repression isn’t enviable, but it can be invaluable to storytelling. [...] Aquarius blends contemporary mores with 1940s movie mystique to paint a disturbing — and compelling — portrait of the peace and love generation.”
— Alessandra Stanley,The New York Times

“Beyond the rockin’ soundtrack, the flat storytelling has no pop. Bingeing on all 13 eps—available online after the broadcast premiere—might not help: I watched four in one day and felt no satisfying traction. Duchovny seems miscast as the square. He loosens up the part with flashes of wry, quirky humor, but the bad-fit feel never fades. And Manson is shockingly bland despite his noxious, rapacious, nihilistic behavior. Anthony fails to suggest genuine depth or menace.”
— Jeff Jensen,Entertainment Weekly

“While some attempts to recall the tenor of the times feel strained, there are intriguing moments in the generational, racial and sexual clashes swirling around the central story. Unfortunately, whenever the show meanders its way back to that central story of Manson and Emma and their newly formed family, momentum stalls and interest drains. And in a dry summer, that's a loss NBC can't afford.”
— Robert Bianco,USA Today (opens in new tab)

“Using the Manson Family two years before the Tate-LaBianca murders as a portal into 1960s counterculture, Aquarius is actually pretty groovy [...] That makes NBC’s handling of this David Duchovny vehicle puzzling: In making all the episodes available online after its premier, 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-like gamble.”
— Brian Lowry,Variety

Aquarius is watchable, but oddly bland, given its subject matter. It’s not so much ‘Helter Skelter’ as it is ‘The Long and Winding Road.’”
— David Wiegand,San Francisco Chronicle

“Despite all the talk of revolution and stereotypes of a volcanic era, Aquarius is about nothing more than the ultimate paterfamilias grieving over the loss of what could have been another generation of good old-fashioned tax payers to a sea of free love and inebriants, taking zero account for the good done by anyone but the grumpy old white dude at the center of it all.”
— Chris Cabin,Slant Magazine