Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A few (unpleasant) thoughts about ‘The X-Files’ reboot

It seems difficult to believe, for me at least, Chris Carter launched The X-Files close to a quarter a century ago, on Sept. 10, 1993, to be exact. I was a big fan of the show through it’s first five seasons and one of the things I loved about the program was the way it was winking at the viewer. "Hey, don’t take any of this seriously," the show seemed to be saying. "This is simply a bunch of all-the-wall writers sitting around coming up with all these far-fetched ideas, attempting to be as outlandish as possible, and we hope you get as much a kick out of watching them as we did creating them."

I also loved the fact that David Duchovny as FBI agent Fox Mulder always approached his role as though he was in on the joke. "Isn’t this a lark?" he seemed to be saying each week. Wink, Wink, And Gillian Anderson, as his partner FBI agent Dana Scully, was Duchovny’s perfect foil, the ideal female variation of "the straight man."

Perhaps my favorite bit during those first five seasons were the "oily eyes," and if you’re a regular follower of the series you know exactly what I’m referring to. You talk about feeding the paranoia?

I also often wonder what direction the show would have taken had Anderson not become pregnant during season 2. To cover for her absence during the latter stages of her pregnancy, Carter cooked up this scenario in which Scully is kidnapped by alien abductee Duane Barry to be his sacrifice to the abductors. I never cared for that side trip and it took the show off into unfortunate areas that too often bogged it down.

But those episodes not involving Carter’s going-nowhere conspiracy theories provided some of the best drama to be found on television during the ‘90s, episodes such as "Humbug," "Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose," "War of the Coprophages" (which contains my all-time favorite line in the history of the series when Scully says, oh so deliciously, "Bambi? Her name is Bambi?"), "Jose Chung’s From Outer Space," "Quagmire" (in which the writers allowed Scully’s cute little dog to be eaten by a water monster — trust me, it’s funny), the unbearably frank and raw "Home," "Leonard Betts," "Small Potatoes," and "Bad Blood." And Season 5's "The Post Modern Prometheus," filmed in black and white as a modern-day re-telling of the Frankenstein monster story, improves with each viewing.

But, then, Carter offered a bridge between seasons 5 and 6 with the first X-Files movie and things went downhill from there. I think Duchovny belatedly realized Carter was drinking his own Kool-Aid and that’s why he effectively left the series the last two seasons.

Which brings me to the 6-episode series concluded last night that’s being billed as Season 10. Except for parts of the third episode, "Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-monster," this was an unmitigated disaster. I understand the ratings were good, but I think, much like a Donald Trump rally, this was more the result of curiosity than support. It also allowed Carter to film additional hospital bedside scenes. Has anyone ever counted the total number of hospital bedside scenes contained in the 10 seasons of The X-Files?

But here’s the deal. I realized during the last two episodes, this had nothing to do with extending the stories of Mulder and Scully (and both Duchovny and Anderson acted like they wished there were doing something else), but it was simply a marketing ploy by Carter who wants to reboot the concept featuring the agents Einstein and Miller. Does anyone really want to see those two in an X-Files-type series? Hey, I like Lauren Ambrose, the actress who plays Einstein. She has acquitted herself well in a number of Law & Order guest appearances. But she lacks the gravitas of Anderson, unless Carter plans on the Einstein character taking on Mulder’s personality playing against Miller’s foil. But Robbie Emell, the actor portraying Miller, has all the magnetism of a wet, dirty wash cloth.

Shame on Carter. A move like this could irreparably sully the reputation of what, for five wonderful seasons at least, was some of the best television to be found.

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