Doug Coutts’ TV Preview: Aquarius

TV Preview: Aquarius | TV1, 9.30 Tuesday


By Doug Coutts

Ah, 1967 – hippies, flower power, love and incense in the air, and tie-dye T-shirts everywhere else. Aquarius is set in those heady (chuckle) times when everyone is tuning in, turning on and dropping out, apart from Charlie Manson, who’s plotting world domination.

And fair enough because the career in music isn’t quite working out, not that his target audience – young women aged 16 – seem to care. Trouble is, the squares are on his case.

A girl has gone missing after a party and her mom – not her pop, because he’s running for office and can’t afford a scandal – is worried, so calls up former boyfriend David Duchovny to find the daughter.

Duchovny realises there’s more to this than meets the eye so teams up with a fresh hip young undercover cop to track down the girl, and Manson.

And so the scene is set. It’s also set in ’60s colours, with tones straight out of the Photoshop Instamatic FX library, and appropriate ’60s music to set the mood.

There’s quite a lot of mood setting, which leaves little time for moving the story along. When it does, it’s with short sharp shocks but shot so the network censors don’t get too upset.

Duchovny’s own palette is a tad on the limited side – he moves from playing it cool to being laid back with consummate ease.

Aquarius looks good and sounds good, but is a bit short on substance.  Not on substances of course – that’s what the ’60s were all about.

What other critics said:

Aquarius uses the procedural format to intelligently dissect the conflict-ridden culture of the late 1960s. It subjects every group to scrutiny, including hippies, Black Panther militants, Nation of Islam leaders, and the police. We’ll leave it for the experts to decide how much Aquarius fudges the truth. As drama, it’s gripping, disturbing, and rewarding.” — Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Though it has aspirations to be a dark cable-style serial, it’s a cop procedural at heart, and it soon begins mixing in kind of case-of-the-week stories, as if to hedge its bet that Manson alone can hold viewers’ interest.” — Time.

Aquarius has one thing going for it in star David Duchovny, who is pretty much watchable in anything. But in Aquarius, a patchwork pastiche of 1960s clichés that tracks the killings of Charles Manson through a hippy-trippy Los Angeles, you find yourself really wishing you were watching Duchovny in The X-Files instead.” — The Hollywood Reporter.

Doug Coutts has had a career in and around television for close to 40 years. He spent 13 years as a floor manager at Avalon Studios before going freelance and never earning as much again. His writing has spanned TV genres — from Shortland Street dialoguery and quiz shows to documentaries and comedy — while a lengthy stint as TV reviewer in the Auckland Star earned him two mentions in Metro magazine’s Hot List and an angry letter from Jon Gadsby. You can read more of Doug (the satirist) at: Weakly Whirled News.
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