Some guy tried to punk me last night by sending a PDF of what he claimed was the first 55 pages of Quentin Tarantino‘s 1969 “not Manson” script. “Couldn’t get the whole thing,” he wrote. “My source only had a brief moment with it, hoping to get the rest next week.” What he sent was the first episode of John McNamara‘s Aquarius, a two-year-old, semi-fictional NBC series, initially set in Los Angeles of late 1967, about a tough L.A. detective (David Duchovny) searching for the teenaged daughter of an ex-girlfriend, and which portrayed Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) as the cause of her disappearance.
If I was a bigger watcher of network TV I might’ve spotted it right away, but instead I read it. I was initially intrigued by the big “9” on the cover page (the forthcoming project will be Tarantino’s ninth feature that he’s directed and written on his own) and an early scene in which a character orders “a slice of key lime to go” (Tarantino likes pie), but it was obvious early on that it wasn’t a Tarantino script. None of the characters had any of that swagger attitude. No gabbing, no soliloquies, no trademark loquaciousness. Plus the story’s too densely-packed with incident, and Tarantino isn’t big on punch-punch plotting. He’s basically a playwright who works in film.
For two and a half seconds I flirted with an idea that Tarantino might be a fan of Aquarius and was riffing on that series with his own voice and stylings. Remember that 2015 Joe Leydon piece that showed Tarantino had liberally borrowed from an episode of Nick Adams’ “The Rebel” (’59 to ’61 TV series) for much of the basic set-up of The Hateful Eight? But after three seconds I went “naahh…QT wouldn’t rip off a two-year-old NBC miniseries.”