Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Truth Is Out There (again, apparently)

In Fall of 1993, I was a freshman at UT Austin when Fox TV debuted two sci-fi shows, The X-Files and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. starring Bruce Campbell and Julius Carry.  The shows premiered in the no-man's land of Friday evening, and I assumed they were as doomed as, oh, say, Firefly would be when it debuted in the same timeslot a decade later.

Before going out or doing whatever we were going to do that night, I'd usually have on the shows, because this was the era just after the release of Army of Darkness and we were all big Bruce Campbell fans, plus I had grown to genuinely like the sci-fi oater in its short run.  X-Files I wanted to like, because - and I don't think i'm going to blow anyone's mind with this revelation - I was way into the red-headed skeptical doctor on the show.*

such ribald taste we all had in the mid-90's

But, man, Friday night in an era where you kind of had to make an appointment with yourself to watch a show meant I was a sporadic fan at best.  Let's just say my priorities during the era did not top out with "stay home, watch TV".

I don't know if I started taping X-Files or how I got into it, but I do recall I was watching semi-regularly by the time Jamie and I started dating, and I don't really remember how I made that leap, because I thought the show was a little stilted when it started, and to this day, I think it has the worst opening sequence in television history.

I certainly grew up watching TV, but X-Files was the first show that I kept up with which lasted more than a season and also contained a mythology (everything I liked seemed to get cancelled, stupid Max Headroom).   It set the precedent for turning episodic TV - very much the norm of the time - into a winding story with new information slowly doled out over multiple seasons.  I'm sure other shows had also done this, but X-Files was the one that set the standard for almost every hour-long drama on TV today.

The show embraced all the stuff that fell on the nerd Venn-Diagram that suggested life might be as exciting as comics and movies, from gray aliens and UFOs to vampires and a random assortment of forms of ESP.  In every episode, Agent Mulder would guess they were dealing with the previously unexplained, Scully would roll her gigantic, lovely eyes and they'd be off to yet another location that was pretty clearly a Canadian rainforest doubling for Kansas or New Jersey where Mulder would, once again, be proved right.

X-Files also committed the original sin for these "mythology" shows, which - I feel - only in the last couple of years seems to have righted itself.    The producers never actually had a plan.  They sure pretended to have one.  But they refused to write toward a satisfying ending, just putting season after season of the show that - even when it ended, never bothered to wrap things up.

I don't need to tell you about the various nefarious shadowy figures leaving clues, the anti-mystery of Mulder's missing sister, Lone Gunmen, bee hives, combating alien forces, etc...  all of which promised to come to some sort of a head in the 1998 summer feature film.

But it didn't.  And neither did the following season.  Or the one after that.

A lot of people have fond memories of X-Files, and I do, too.  I just don't really forgive it for breaking trust with the audience.  I didn't watch the final season or two (I really don't remember when I quit watching, but it was a controversial moment in our house).   And I don't really care if they ever resolved the mystery.  I sure as hell didn't pay to see the movie a few years back.

So, will I watch the new show?

Well, this is a compelling argument:

okay.  twist my arm.

So, maybe.

6 episodes isn't too much to ask out of me, and there's more potential in 6 episodes of TV to catch the old magic rather than 90 minutes of movie time every 3 -10 years.  6-8 episodes a year would certainly help contain the 22 episode-per-year schedule that was a force march for both the X-Files creative teams and the audience, and would give The X-Files a chance to redeem itself.

I'm not sure how the "UFO's and bigfoots" mysteries of the X-Files will have aged.   And I don't spend time rewatching old episodes, so I'm not really sure if I'd remember who was up to what, and how "the cigarette smoking man" fit in.

The show worked towards building a sort of romantic relationship with Mulder and Scully, and I'm not sure whatever happened with that.  It seems like I recall they had a kid at some point.  But I don't know.  I do know that Duchovny and Anderson turned out to be far better actors than the first seasons of the show would suggest with some wooden dialog and focused on plot over character, and when they were finally given something to do other than act surprised, they were both really good.

But it's also been 15 years-ish since the show went off the air, and it would be straight-up inexplicable for the show to present them anywhere near what they were doing during the majority of the show.  I mean, Scully would be 50-ish and hopefully moved up in the Bureau, and its hard to believe Mulder would be anywhere near the FBI.

We'll see.  I guess I've talked myself into giving it a shot.

But I'll be damned if I'm giving Harsh Realm another chance.

I confess to thinking this is all entirely unnecessary, that Hollywood could really, really use some good, original content right now, but I also am not going to lie and pretend like I'm not at least a little curious.

*the kids may not know this, but Gillian Anderson was considered a controversial casting choice at the time because as she was not tall, blonde and busty.  In the early 1990's, TV had pretty much one particular idea of what was appealing to young men, and Gillian Anderson pretty much blew the lid off that whole theory just by being attractive in a way that did not work on Baywatch.   For evidence of Anderson's popularity, see The Internet between 1994-1998.


JAL said...

Stupid Google, deleting my rant after I log in.

I really hope we don't get 6 episodes of wrapping up loose ends to satisfy nerds with no imagination.

I'd love to see a straight up monster of the week style mini-series.

JAL said...

Yeah that opening really screams "We're going to get our money's worth out of the Macromedia Suite"

The League said...

See, this is where I think X-Files coming back can only disappoint. There are currently 20 different CW shows running with creatures of the week. As a nerd with no imagination who invested something like 7 years into X-Files, all I want at this point is for them to just say why the hell there are alien bees or whatever. I don't really care to see Mulder chasing after the Lake Champlain Monster or whatever in 2015. I can see actual humans doing that on The History Channel for reasons that make no sense.

Sound Affects said...

The show wrapped up the mythology several different times with different answers each time. Then suddenly, an episode would come up and we'd again get an answer to what happened to his sister because the previous answer was a rouse. That's where they lost me. But, yeah, Gillian Anderson. Have you seen that show she has on Netflix? I have it on my queue.

The League said...

as memories of the actual show come flooding back, none of this is getting me particularly excited for more of same.

RHPT said...

I read somewhere a long time ago, but it was explained that the "mythology" of the show was borne out of necessity. Gillian Anderson got pregnant and the folks in charge didn't want to write it into the show. So they came up with this idea that Scully gets abducted/goes missing. And it spiraled out of control from there.

My other favorite tidbit about the X-Files is that Chris Carter named the character "Fox Mulder" in tribute to Fox picking the show.

RHPT said...


The League said...


Yeah, again, one of those things I knew then that I forgot about and kind of more evidence of what a mess things were behind the scenes.

I understand that as folks on the cutting edge of this kind of TV, mistakes were going to be made. But once they realized what they were doing - just committing would have saved them a lot of trouble.

Like a lot of shows, though, you kind of know that whatever their answer, none of it would have been really satisfactory.