NBC is swinging for the fences with its new series “Aquarius,” starring David Duchovny. With the premiere of the entire series just around the corner, many fans are wondering what they can and cannot expect from this gritty crime drama, which uses the real-life case of Charles Manson as its historical backdrop.
As previously reported, “Aquarius” will star Duchovny as LAPD sergeant Sam Hodiak, a World War II veteran who returns to police work only to find that it’s not the same country he left behind. The show takes place in 1967 when free love was on the rise as well as the infamous cult-like “family” established by the notorious criminal Charles Manson. To help Hodiak adapt to the times, he partners up with a younger detective by the name of Brian Shafe (Grey Damon). However, “Aquarius” will be much more than your typical buddy cop show. To prepare viewers for the two-hour series premiere of “Aquarius,” below is everything you need to know about the upcoming drama.
1. Storytelling Trumps Historical Accuracy
The show’s main draw is that it will explore the early years of the cult that ultimately took responsibility for the infamous Tate-Labianca murders in 1969. However it takes place two years prior to those incidents. While the life of Charles Manson is a rich tapestry of bizarre elements worthy of exploration, the show is more concerned with telling the story of its principal characters than it is creating a serialized biography that re-tells the story of one of the most well-known men in American history.
“We’re not telling the true story of Charles Manson,” creator and producer John McNamara told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s taking this controversial figure and saying ‘What if?’ That’s what the exercise of ‘Aquarius’ is.”
In other words, don’t expect to be able to follow along with “Aquarius” in your Charles Manson biography of choice.
2. From Thrones To Stones
While the show won’t necessarily be a historical re-telling of Charles Manson’s life story, the character will play a big role in the show nonetheless. To make sure one of the series’ key characters was in good hands, NBC picked from the time-tested well of HBO by recruiting former “Game of Thrones” star Gethin Anthony to play Manson.
Fans of the popular fantasy drama will remember Anthony better as Renly Baratheon, who [SPOILER ALERT] met his end during Season 2. Anthony played one of the few, and definitely one of the first, gay characters in the show. While he has been gone for the better part of three seasons, his character’s gentle presence still looms large over the series, a testament to the actor’s abilities.
While his “Game of Thrones” character was a quintessential “good guy,” his newest role is more than a little different, but the actor recently told the press that it was simply too intriguing to pass up.
“I got really strong reactions to the authenticity of the dialogue that had been written for the Manson character and the characters around him in that world,” he said. “I was aware somewhat of that era of history in U.S. history, but it felt the dialogue was really authentic for me and so it made me want to dig deeper into understanding the late 60s. And, yes, I think I was excited they could have the courage to make a show about such sensitive subject matter with authenticity excites me.”
3. The Real Plot
As previously mentioned, the real crux of the show will focus on star David Duchovny’s character and the trials and tribulations he goes through. While the through-line of the series will be his consistent brush ups with Manson, the detective is a much more seasoned investigator than the likes of Charles Manson is worthy of in 1967. In fact, Sam Hodiak only starts looking into Manson after an ex asks him to find her daughter.
As a result, the show will keep Manson in the background and focus more on Duchovny navigating both the hippie and race movements that were going on in California at that time. The hope is that this will lead to some great story-of-the-week plotlines that only rely on the real-life story tangentially.
4. It’s Binge-able
According to Variety, NBC is trying something drastically new with the release of “Aquarius.” While most networks are in a mad rush for ratings, it isn’t lost on the peacock channel that the tide for viewership is shifting to services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Fans are growing more accustom to shows that can be watched whenever the audience decides they’re ready for a new episode.
As a result, all 13 episodes of the first season of “Aquarius” will be posted online at NBC.com, its authenticated NBC app as well as cable VOD platforms. The show will be available to binge-watch on these platforms for one month following the May 28 premiere. Meanwhile, new episodes will continue to roll out each week during its regularly scheduled time. However, McNamara confessed to The Hollywood Reporter that the episodes that premiere on TV will be edited for content in a way that the digital streaming versions will not. In other words, you can expect cursing and nudity if you choose to watch it online.
Tune in to the NBC premiere of “Aquarius” at 9 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 28. Comment your thoughts on the show below or tweet them to @TylerMcCarthy.