Revisiting The X-Files

I mentioned the other day that Daniela and I are now revisiting the X-Files. We’re still really early on in the show, but I had a couple observations already, and since what I really want to write about (the impeachment trial) is something that I don’t feel up to writing about today, I thought I’d focus on something lighter instead.

When I was in high school, The X-Files was one of the first shows I viewed as event television. Something that you’d get together with friends to watch, and that you’d all be talking about the next day. (Or, since it aired Fridays as I recall, the next Monday at school.) In many ways, it was a show that broke ground for the sort of television that’s so common now: big plot arcs, compelling mysteries, hints handed out bit by bit over time. It’s the kind of show that would have a mass following online if it were to come out now, with people all dissecting the little clues they noticed in each episode.

Of course, as a pioneer in that type of television, it’s got many aspects that don’t necessarily stand up as well to modern scrutiny. For one thing, it’s a bit hard for me to watch the series, since I know full well that many of these mysteries will just never be answered. That’s been something that’s held me back from watching a number of TV shows over the years. I watched the first bit of Heroes, for example, but then heard that it got significantly worse later on, so I just lost interest. In many ways, it feels like someone tells you “The first five chapters of this are incredible. Then it gets worse.”

There’s no way I would read that book. Bit then again, isn’t that what television has sort of been like all along? The difference is that now we’re often consuming it a season at a time. Maybe I’m just getting much more demanding, or maybe there’s more good television out there, which makes it harder to find shows that are as good.

(Something else that’s hard to wrap my head around? Gillian Anderson was 25 in season one. Duchovny was 33. When I watched them in high school, they were indubitably Old. What does that make me now? It’s almost been 30 years since the first X-Files aired. Showing it to Daniela now would be like me watching The Beverly Hillbillies or The Dick Van Dyke Show with my parents when I was her age.)

Then again, from what I remember, the X-Files also did a great job of “episode of the week” deliveries. Sure, there were the episodes that advanced the big plot forward and dribbled out additional hints and clues, but there were also just flat out funky episodes where cockroaches invade a town or there’s a monster Scully and Mulder have to fight. That’s something that I haven’t watched as much of recently, and it’ll be interesting to revisit it. (Doctor Who is pretty much completely in this vein. You’ve got the cool premise, and so you use that as a vehicle to do cool things.)

So far, the shows have stood up well, but like I said, we’ve barely scratched the surface. I’ll be interested to see where it goes from here. (Especially since I’ve never seen all the episodes. I mean, back when I was watching them, you either saw it live, or you didn’t see it. Talk about the stone age.)


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