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15 Jun 2016

True TV: 'Aquarius' Is Back on Charles Manson's Trail; 'American Gothic' Is More Dim Than Dark

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Aquarius may never achieve its five-season plan, but it has more swagger and grit than most current cop dramas. Aquarius may never achieve its five-season plan, but it has more swagger and grit than most current cop dramas.

Aquarius (Thursday, June 16, NBC), season premiere: When last we (meaning me; I’ve yet to meet anybody who watched Season 1) left Aquarius, it was spring of 1968; Det. Hodiak (David Duchovny) and the Los Angeles Police Department were possibly going under an internal affairs investigation; and milquetoast messiah Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) was finally starting to show some psycho-spunk. (Remember, it took Axl Rose a couple of albums to get there, too.) In keeping with history, the two-hour Season 2 premiere of Aquarius sees the Manson Family moving in with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson (Andy Favreau), as Hodiak becomes caught up in another missing-girls case while still making time to snark at hippies; and beat cop Tully (Claire Holt) gets in over her head in a dangerous case again because, you know, even the late ’60s still sucked for women. Aquarius may never achieve its five-season plan, but it has more swagger and grit than most current cop dramas, and features as much sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll as, well, FX’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. (Seriously, the ’60s music rights and oregano budgets must be staggering.)

Orange Is the New Black (Friday, June 17, Netflix), season premiere: Netflix has put so many “No Spoilers!” review restrictions on Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black that there’s not much left to say besides: There’s a busload of new characters (literally); Piper (Taylor Schilling) has less screen time than ever; Alex (Laura Prepon) has more troubles than ever; there’s darkness; there’s light; there’s more darkness; and creator/writer Jenji Kohan is still maintaining an impressive level of dramatic quality. (Then again, her previous series, Weeds, began to run off the rails around Season 4, so … .) Besides, you’ll have binged all 13 episodes by the time you get around to reading this, anyway.

The Jim Gaffigan Show (Sunday, June 19, TV Land), season premiere: TV Land has rebranded, dumping Baby Boomers in favor of Gen-Xers (can’t keep catering to a demo that’s almost extinct—unless you're a newspaper … uh …). Laugh tracks and cheap sets are being replaced with single-camera film and a scrappier attitude, and The Jim Gaffigan Show is the flagship for the new TV Land. If you’ve seen Gaffigan’s standup, you know this sitcom: tubby white guy, wife and kids, junk food. Despite a few critical nags about the series being a pale—nope, not going for the easy pasty-Jim joke here—imitation of Louie and Curb Your Enthusiasm, TJGS rose above its anticipated blandness with sharp writing and a sharper supporting. Fun fact (unless you’re an NBC Universal exec): Like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Lip Sync Battle, The Jim Gaffigan Show was rejected by NBC (which stands for Now Bereft of Comedy).

American Gothic (Wednesday, June 22, CBS), series debut: Compared to the long-lost 1995 also-CBS American Gothic drama about a supernaturally evil small-town sheriff menacing the locals—YouTube it; Gary Cole was almost as menacing in it as he is now on Veep—the new American Gothic (posh Boston family has a secret serial killer among them) seems like a snooze. It is—with a recycled title, no less. Not only does this iteration add to the glut of shows with “American” in the title (which all suck, with the lone exception of American Dad); it also wastes actors like Virginia Madsen, Antony Starr (Banshee) and Justin Chatwin (Shameless) on what CBS is now calling “A 13-Part Murder Mystery” (which really means, “We’re sure as hell not getting any more seasons out of this”). Now, American Gothic as a reality-challenge show about goths competing American Ninja-style … there’s a winner!

Murder in the First (Sunday, June 26, TNT), season premiere: Cop-show vet Steven Bochco is still hanging in there with Murder in the First, a reduced redux of his 1995 network series Murder One (a single case investigated over a season—and on cable, that means 10 episodes instead of 22). Season 3 involves the homicide of that most precious of ’Merican celebrities: a pro football player (nooo!), with San Francisco detectives English (Taye Diggs) and Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) just as gorgeous and troubled as ever. And it’s all … whatever. If the new Animal Kingdom doesn’t break the network’s meh streak (and it probably won’t), TNT is serious danger of becoming USA. No one wants that. (The premiere was scheduled for June 19, but was pushed back a week.)

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