Charlie Don’t Surf5/27/2015
Thursday, May 28 (NBC)
Two-Hour Series Debut: In a semi-factual drama about one of America’s most notorious killers, the cop (David Duchovny) probably shouldn’t be more charming and charismatic than his target — especially when that killer is Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony of “Game of Thrones”). Duchovny’s 1967 LAPD detective Sam Hodiak is pretty much Hank Moody of “Californication” and Fox Mulder of “The X-Files”: Same snark, same swagger, different haircut. “Aquarius” — all 13 episodes of which will be available on NBC.com and other streaming platforms post-premiere — lays the music (half the budget must have been spend on Greatest Hits of the ’60s clearances) and the cultural touchstones on thick, but loses its Manson focus often, likely because Anthony is only mildly creepy, and 13 episodes is too long to prop him up. But Duchovny and his proto-“Jump Street” partner (Grey Damon) have a natural rapport, the supporting cast is solid and it all looks great.
“Halt and Catch Fire”
Sunday, May 31 (AMC)
Season Premiere: This oddity about the dawn of the early-1980s personal-computer revolution booted-up strong in 2014, like “The Americans” shooting up a RadioShack. Unfortunately, “Halt and Catch Fire” fizzled in the stretch, in both ratings and story, and seemed destined for cancellation (star Lee Pace barely acknowledged the series while promoting “Guardians of the Galaxy” last summer). But it’s back, and the plot’s jumped ahead to 1985, which means much forced Exposition! about what the hell’s happened in the past couple of years, set to a dead-on ’80s soundtrack (no way any Texas bar ever had Black Flag on the jukebox, though). “HCF”’s four still-fantastic leads (Pace, Mackenzie Davis, Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bische) and a tighter, startup-centered direction make Season 2 look promising, but we’ve been burned before.
Monday, June 1 (ABC)
Series Debut: Kiddies’ imaginary friends turn out to be an alien force bent on “world domination” — I’ve been saying this for years, and now it’s an ABC sci-fi series (based on a 1951 Ray Bradbury short story, “Zero Hour”). “The Whispers” is dumb summer-escapism filler that’s convinced itself that it’s something Far More Important (likely due to Steven Spielberg’s name in the producer credits), and wastes actors who deserve better (like “American Horror Story”’s Lily Rabe and “Revenge”’s Barry Sloane), but it’s still not the worst thing ABC is serving up in the warm months (see: “The Bachelorette,” “Celebrity Wife Swap,” “Mistresses,” etc.).
Tuesday, June 2 (USA)
Season Premiere: It was fun for a couple of seasons, but now USA is just straining to drag “Royal Pains” into 100-episode territory for the Big $yndication Payoff — really, how many stories are left here? Apparently, 16 more, stretched into summer 2016. With “Royal Pains” (it’s about a concierge doctor who caters to rich Hamptons folk — yes, that’s the show) almost done-zo, USA is looking to leave its trademark happy-sunny programming comfort zone and move onto darker, grittier experiments like this summer’s new “Mr. Robot” (about hackers) and “Complications” (vigilantes), and returning series “Graceland” (sexy Feds), “Satisfaction” (adulterers) and “Chrisley Knows Best” (a grating “reality” series possibly devised by reanimated Nazi torturers). CV
Bill Frost writes about television for Salt Lake City Weekly, talks about it on the TV Tan Podcast (Tuesdays on iTunes and Stitcher), and tweets about it at @Bill_Frost.