David Duchovny Will Chase Charles Manson For NBC's Period Drama Aquarius

Now that NBC has figured out TV horror sells – its drama Hannibal is one of the network's most buzzed about series – they will step away from the world of literary villains to focus on one of America’s most controversial personalities: Charles Manson. NBC has ordered 13 straight-to-series episodes of the dark drama Aquarius, which will be led by X-Files star David Duchovny in his first broadcast television role since he guest-starred on Live with Bonnie in 2002. I want to believe this show is going to be great.

Aquarius will be set in Los Angeles in the late 1960s, and Duchovny will play a police sergeant whose personal life is more troublesome than his job, at least it was until he sets his sights on Manson, who at that point was just released from prison and starting to build his Family of easily swayed hippies. I’m not saying NBC is confident that viewers are going to follow this series like a cult, but check out what the press release says about the Manson Family’s most notorious crimes.

”The twists and turns of a complicated undercover operation will lead Duchovny’s character and his young partner to the brink of Manson’s crimes that will eventually lead to the Tate-LaBianca murders in subsequent seasons.”

I have to admit, it’s a ballsy movie to declare from the get-go such firm intentions of holding off on the real-world climax, which just might entice viewers into sticking around. Or it might just turn them off altogether. It all depends on the pacing and how tight the scripts are. It was less than a year-and-a-half between Manson’s release and the Tate-LaBianca case, so the story would need to be padded a little to stretch to three years, which is the minimum of what “subsequent seasons” implies. I’m all for seeing NBC succeed in pulling off the cult drama that Fox’s The Following could have been.

Aquarius is being created by John McNamara (In Plain Sight), who will be executive producing with Duchovny, Marty Adelstein (Prison Break) and Melanie Greene (Californication). Though McNamara-created shows have been short-lived and mostly forgotten, as with Eyes and Fastlane, he has been an EP and consulting producer for series like Jericho and Prime Suspect. (Not that those lasted long either.)

In any case, it’ll be nice to see Duchovny getting back into high-stakes drama, since it’ll still be a few more years before desperate heads prevail and we get that third X-Files movie. After seeing him play the womanizing cheeseball Hank Moody for the past six years on Showtime’s Californication, audiences (i.e. me) need to see him take on different material. Speaking of, Californication is headed into its seventh season on April 13, as teased in the promo below.

On the film side of things, Duchovny was in the recently released submarine thriller Phantom with Ed Harris, and also stars in the upcoming inspirational drama Louder Than Words.

It’s an interesting move for NBC to dive into the straight-to-season format with such a sensational slice of history, but at least they’re guaranteeing Duchovny more work in the near future. Now let’s discuss who they can possibly find to play Charles Manson.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.