X Marks the Spot

xfiles

There is something like 4,815,162,342 episodes of television produced across CSI, NCIS, Law & Order and all of their iterations. Guess how many I’ve seen?

Zero. Zilch. Goose egg. Kardashian.

Same goes for most of what constitutes “reality” television. Never seen ‘Survivor‘. I’ve barely watched an hour let alone binged ‘The Bachelor‘. I have no use for just watching stuff. That said, I wouldn’t call myself a TV snob. Far from it. There have been numerous shows in this television renaissance that have found their way to my appointment viewing. I just feel like my time is better spent on something I really enjoy versus mindlessly watching anything that floats across my peepers. I also don’t begrudge anyone who does dig those aforementioned shows or genres. Different strokes for different folks. (Speaking of which – I HATED ‘Different Strokes‘. Whatchutalkinbout, Edward?!?!?)

Ever since I graduated college, I can probably count on two hands the number of shows that I’ve gone all in on. Breaking Bad. Lost. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Freaks & Geeks. Friday Night Lights. Parks and Recreation. The Office. Fringe. The Americans. Arrested Development.

Oh – and The X-Files – meaning I probably ought to open my own case file and mutate an eleventh finger to make room for the show that was my obsession for a good portion of the Nineties (a time where post-college and pre-responsibility, I hardy ever watched ANYTHING short of movies, sports and the occasional Sham-Wow commercial).

The X-Files largely paved the way for the overarching serialized mythologies almost every show is built upon these days. Back then, it was a bit progressive and that was a show that clearly separated the conspiracy eps from the Monster-of-the-Week installments, with very little bleed through on either side. Years later – J.J. Abrams’ spiritual successor ‘Fringe’ would rip a page from The X-Files playbook and go one better, deftly incorporating its main story through every single Freak-of-the-Week episode, lending that show a more cohesive feel.

Even though I would like to have checked in on the shadowy doings of the Smoking Man on a more frequent basis, The X-Files kept my interest on even the most mundane case (admittedly each season had 2 or 3 clunkers) through the great chemistry and working relationship developed between Mulder & Scully. Without good characters to lead us through the darkness, a mystery loses its human allure. That core connection between leads David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (one that rose above whatever backstage scuffles they suffered in the mid-Nineties) became the heart of this series. Good cast chemistry is what made LOST such a success while other knock-offs such as The Event and FlashForward barely merited interest.

So here we are – 15 years after the series petered out in fairly insignificant fashion. It’s true – I stopped watching near the end. It lost my interest when Duchovny left the series for a long stretch (returning only for little cameo appearances and a poorly-constructed finale). The glory days were gone and the main cast moved to different roles. Gillian Anderson went on to essay some amazing work in BBC dramas and the occasional stateside co-starring role (she was haunting and ethereal in NBC’s Hannibal). If we never saw The X-Files again, that would be fine by me as the show laid the foundation for some truly great works. Hell, one of their best writers – Vince Gilligan – went on to create and handhold the entire breathtaking run of Breaking Bad.

But we are living in the midst of nostalgia culture. What’s old is new again or if not exactly new, definitely dragged back into the light. Star Wars is back and its first installment in over a decade is deliberately built on the skeleton of A New Hope – in a bid to push forward from the middling Phantom Menace while rebooting the series for a new generation. Netflix is currently building a Fuller House. Showtime will soon bring us back to Twin Peaks. Something like 65 film remakes are in production including The Birds, Ben-Hur and – blasphemy – Big Trouble in Little China.

The writer in me bemoans the absence of new ideas. The dreamer in me wishes Hollywood would show me something new. The realist in me understands that this is the way business is now done. As a consumer, I can choose to partake or ignore the lion’s share of this stuff (although when they finally get around to rebooting The Kardashians, maybe I’ll finally give it a peak. After all – I’m so far behind, I’d be totally lost if I started now. You know, the nuance of it all.)

But there is something to nostalgia. Whatever you crushed on years before never really leaves you. The scary thing is when you gaze upon it with mature eyes, sometimes you see it in a different light. What was once shiny and new can reveal blemishes and flaws you may have overlooked.

When The X-Files was announced as a returning six-part event series – I was excited. Then I was scared. Then I thought about sitting this out entirely.

And then I read that Darin Morgan was coming back to write one episode. That guy is responsible for some of the most inventive hours of The X-Files. His scripts Jose Chung’s From Outer Space and Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose cleverly deconstructed and rebuilt what makes this show tick while also sharing insights into what makes us so human as they explored the fantastic. The guy doesn’t write nearly enough but when he does he has an incredible batting average. So when he comes back so do I.

His episode aired last week. Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster was the third episode of this mini-reunion. It was clever, witty, silly and so very human in its twisted take on a were-lizard; a beautiful hour of television. If it means that the remaining three episodes can’t reach its heights, that does nothing to me because in one hour of television, Darin Morgan reminded me of something. In fact, his script gave voice to that very thing.

“I forgot how much fun these cases could be.” ~ Dana Scully