Story By: G. H. HARDING
David Duchovny

AGE OF AQUARIUS? --- I finally got the chance to watch David Duchovny‘s much-heralded return to network TV with the show Aquarius—and really enjoyed it on several levels.

First: Face it, this is a variation (and possible threat) to NBC’s already-proven True Detective. The show’s tone was set instantly with murky visuals and classic music. Within the first five minutes, I heard snippets of tracks from Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and The Monkees. Of course, this great source music was not used in entirety since that use would surely have cost the show producers much, much more. But for those who know what they’re listening to, the show succeeded in creating a great vibe.

Second: Much has been made of the fact that the thirteen-episode series was made immediately available online just as the debut ep hit the airwaves. Is this NBC doing Netflix one better—or the other way around? It’s worth noting here that several new series set for Netflix are being released one by one; “old school,” if you will. Might the days of binge watching soon be reaching its end?

Third: Duchovny and his long-time manager, Melanie Greene, are the executive producers of this one, signaling a new road for Mr. D. Next up for him: The X Files, which starts filming next week.

Aquarius is about how the daughter of an ex of Duchovny’s character (Sam Hodiak) suddenly goes missing. He visits the ex, who is now with a slimy scuzz-ball of a lawyer (the great Brian F. O’Byrne), and finds that she has apparently taken up with a confidence man by the name of Charlie Manson. (Yes, that Charlie Manson.) It turns out the lawyer has had this Manson as a client for years. He also seems to have known for years that Sam’s daughter has been missing. Things go south from there.

There are undeniably some nice touches here. Duchovny is smooth as silk, playing an old-time lawman who has to deal with new ways as the ‘60s come to the fore. His former wife has turned to alcohol and their son, now in the Army, suddenly appears. His new partner (Brian Shafe) has long hair, and is therefore a nice match-up alongside Duchovny‘s old-school lawman. Claire Holt plays another cop who has a rough encounter with some of Manson’s acolytes while undercover . . . she looks scared, but later admits she loved it!

I’m sure that doing a mini-series about Charles Manson was a topic that the network folks discussed long and hard. Personally, being of a certain age, I have mixed feelings about it. There were moments in the debut episode where Manson is shown auditioning for record-industry types, and the music wasn’t half-bad. The episode actually ends as he is trying to raise the necessary funds to record a demo.

His psychopathic nature, however, is evident from the first moment he’s seen onscreen, and I’m fairly sure he’ll get his proper comeuppance. Still, it’s a dicey moment in the history of network TV.

Me, I'm ready for more episodes of the show . . . and, of course, the return of The X-Files.

Brian Williams

BRIAN BACK? --- NBC is reportedly trying to find a way to keep Brian Williams in the fold, even if that means giving him a new role outside of the Nightly News desk.

Negotiations are ongoing, but Williams could also end up walking away from the Peacock following a financial settlement.

NBC’s Andy Lack has apparently backed the idea of keeping Williams. And Lack has reportedly asked employees to “think creatively” in terms of finding a place for the disgraced anchor who has been off the air since February 9th.

NBC sources downplayed the report, and said there has been no change in Williams’ employment status. They suspended Williams for six months without pay in the wake of a scandal over misleading statements he made about his experiences while covering the war in Iraq in 2003.

Williams’ statements about facing enemy fire while traveling in a helicopter were challenged by other military personnel who were part of the same mission. He ultimately delivered an on-air mea culpa and acknowledged that his helicopter was never in the line of fire on that mission.

Scrutiny of Williams’ statements on Iraq have led to questions about the anchor’s past claims about other field-reporting experiences, including his time covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. NBC News has mounted an internal investigation of the many claims against Williams and is expected to issue a report on its findings in the coming weeks.

Lack, according to multiple sources, has been trying to find a way to keep Williams in the NBC fold. Given the challenges to his veracity as a journalist, it is seen as a fait accompli that he will not be able to return to the “NBC Nightly News” anchor chair.

He is, nonetheless, a known commodity and NBC doesn’t want to be in the position of handing talent to another network should it cut ties entirely with Williams.

Complicating the negotiations is the fact that Williams inked a rich five-year deal to remain the “Nightly News” frontman back in December 2014, just two months before the embarrassing disclosures came to light. The network would undoubtedly face a hefty settlement on that contract, which reportedly called for Williams to earn $10 million a year in his role as anchor and managing editor of “Nightly News.”

Me, I don’t know. He is damaged goods, for sure. Then again, he is a recognizable entity. I’m just glad I don’t have to make that call. If he does return, that first night will be a ratings grabber. In regards to him handling a sensitive story going forward, who can say? Stay tuned!

Taraji P. Henson

WINNERS --- The fifth annual Critics’ Choice Television Awards aired live on A&E Network. Cat Deeley hosted the shindig (and won an award, too) of an event put on by the Broadcast TV Journalists Association.

Of the awards, only two of the twenty-four winners were from network shows: Taraji P. Henson (Empire on FOX) and Allison Janney (CBS’s Mom).

The Rascals

CLOSING NOTES --- At Felix Cavaliere‘s Rascals show at B.B. King’s Saturday night, fellow Rascals member Gene Cornish joined him in the second half . . .

As I stepped up to my cashier at Trader Joe’s last Friday, who was at the next booth but Kathryn Erbe from Law & Order: Criminal Intent . . .

This week’s episodes of that mainstay NBC show is bookended by the return of Hannibal, with Gillian Anderson. X-Files fans are in seventh heaven . . .

And as a final mention on last week’s Book Expo America (BEA) publishing trade show over at the Javits Center, there was some great talk about a recently-published new novel from acclaimed writer D.S. Lliteras. The book is called VIET MAN (I can’t believe it took all this time for someone to think of that title!), and one of our trusted literary sources there at the show described it as “Matterhorn [the 2010 Vietnam War novel by Karl Marlantes] if written by Ernest Hemingway.” The book (published by Rainbow Ridge Books) has been lauded by Booklist (“forcefully written . . . Fine war fiction from a writer who’s been there”), Publishers Weekly (“[An] absorbing, gritty military novel . . . [an] accomplished novel”), and just this past week from The VVA Veteran (official publication of the Vietnam Veterans of America, which says of VIET MAN that “All veterans will identify with his account of coming home.”) Lliteras was interviewed during the show by SiriusXM’s host Maggie Linton, who should air the talk about the book later this month. When one realizes that it has been forty years since the fall of Saigon (and the formal end to what many still view as an unnecessary war), one might also want to revisit that moment in time as told by one who lived it. From where I stand, D.S. Lliteras seems to be the teller of the moment—and his book, VIET MAN, the tale that needs to be told. Definitely something that should be on all our summer reading lists…