It’s the Age of “Aquarius” on NBC

AquariusFor those of you going through “Mad Men” withdrawals now that the series has ended, and are in need of a ’60s series set piece fix, you have your wish in NBC’s new show “Aquarius.” But unlike “Mad Men,” this is a much darker look at the underside of the turbulent 1960s, mainly because one of the main characters is Charles Manson. Yes, that Charles Manson (played by Gethin Anthony). Here is the basic plot from an LA Times review:

The series revolves around Sam Hodiak, a decorated Vietnam War vet working as a homicide detective in Los Angeles in 1967. When the 16-year-old daughter of a friend goes missing, Hodiak is forced to step out of his comfort zone and deal with a younger generation that engages with looser morals, open drug use, war protests and anti-establishment movements such as the Black Panthers. During his investigation, he crosses paths with a moody but confident young man named Charles Manson, who has not yet launched his infamous murderous crime rampage but demonstrates a hypnotic and dangerous power over women.

That war veteran detective is X-Files David Duchovny, and the generational clash is an interesting backdrop for the story. We may forget having lived on the other side of “the 1960s” for so long just how radical a cultural transformation the 1960s was. On the other hand it has become a cliché. Nonetheless, Duchovny’s character is going to have to traverse a culture that is almost as foreign to him as Viet Nam. As he says, he was particularly intrigued by the concept:

I thought telling the story of the ’60s through Manson was clever and good. As for my character, here’s a guy born in the ’20s or ’30s, he is completely out of place, he’s not of the ’60s. He doesn’t like the hair, he doesn’t like the music, he doesn’t like the clothes. I thought that was interesting.

He was also hesitant to sign on because he couldn’t imagine a drama revolving around Charlie Manson being made on network television, having come from doing Showtime’s “Californication,” which most definitely could not be done on a network. But be forewarned, this show most definitely goes right up to the line with what is acceptable for general audiences. Several scenes in just the first hour (all we watched of the two-hour season premier last night) made watching with our 13 year old son quite uncomfortable. If it were up to my wife he wouldn’t be watching at all, so we’ll have to see if we continue to let him. Yes, it’s that intense. But what else would you expect with menacing Charlie Manson running around being, well, menacing.

P.S. In a twist for network television, NBC is streaming all 13 episodes of the series like Netflix or Amazon, so if you missed the first episode last night and didn’t get it on DVR, you can still watch it, and all the rest if you’re in the mood, at nbc.com.