September 3, 2015

Summer TV Binge Part I: The X-Files

There's a slow trend gaining momentum in the TV world. I guess you could call it un-cancellation. Some shows that get the boot from one network are subsequently picked up by another. Others are picked up by an internet streamer, or, as is the case with The X-Files, are rebooted after years and years off the air. A Twin Peaks revival was not far behind (although its ultimate revival has not always been certain.) Fox struck again this month with the announcement of the revival of the cult favorite Prison Break. And that's just to name a few.

Poster from Season 1 of The X-Files featuring Mulder and Scully
A promotional poster for
Season 1 of The X-Files,
one of a handful of shows
that have been rebooted.
Image credit:
So here's the question: has the industry finally run out of ideas? I suppose it may be better to bring back a known favorite than just rehash the same old concepts in uninventive ways. (Provided the revivals are well-done... I'm looking at you, season 4 of Arrested Development.)

A second possibility is that the networks - and the streaming services that scavenge on the cancelled - have finally realized that they've been giving up on shows too soon. That can give viewers a little bit of hope, right? I mean, some shows aren't even given a chance to get off the ground before they are oh-so-unceremoniously cancelled. (Of course, it's not the hidden gems - like last season's Weird Loners or the darlingly odd Pushing Daisies - that receive a second chance. Wouldn't it be nice if they did? Come on, Yahoo Screen! Can you grab those?) Sometimes it's shows that deserve a new home - like Community. And sometimes it's shows that probably would have been better off being filed into the TV archives. (Sorry, Mindy Project, but you had your chance to give us a good third season, and frankly, you let me down. I doubt I'll follow you to Hulu.)

And speaking of streaming platforms, I'd argue that the networks (Fox, in particular) have these to thank for the revival opportunities.

Both Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video stream all nine seasons of The X-Files. That's where old fans rediscovered the show and folks like yours truly - too young to watch the show when it aired - basked in the good writing and 90s nostalgia of this sic-fi masterpiece. This reignited and expanded fan base made revival of the classic possible.

Which brings me to my summer binging. I started watching The X-Files last summer, so news of this revival (13 years after its cancellation) had me excited. But it also made me realize that it was high time I catch up. I didn't quite make it to the series finale last summer, and to be honest, I still haven't. I'm in Season 8. But the show's coming back in January!

New X-Files logo with an updated sans serif font. Intriguing, no?
New millennium, new font.
Image credit:
And folks like me are motivated to catch up before the new episodes air. I'm not crazy enough meet the challenge of watching an episode a day until the premiere. Heck, I don't even have enough time to watch every single episode. (Die-hard fans, go ahead and balk. I admit I can't stand among you at Comic-Con.) But I do have some advice for those of you in a situation similar to mine: you want to watch the new season of The X-Files, but you don't have enough time to prepare thoroughly. Here's my guide to effectively binging on The X-Files while still having time to, you know, go to work and have a social life.
  • The first thing you need to know is that there are two types of episodes: Monster of the Week, and Alien Mythology Arc. Someone - or several wonderful someones - took the time to create what might be the most comprehensive episode guide on Wikipedia. There's a handy table that lets you know which episodes are in the mythology arc, and which are the stand-alone "Monster of the Week" episodes. Then there's an additional page describing each episode's plot, reception, and writing. It's worth watching most of the mythology arc episodes; that's the plot that matters to the show as a whole. But... in general... I think the Monster of the Week episodes are more fun. 
  • Second, go with your personal taste. After watching some of the show, decide! Do you like the comedic episodes? The dark ones? The episodes Chris Carter writes? The ones directed by Kim Manners? You'll figure it out. I happen to like the funny ones.
  • Third, use GraphTV to locate the episodes you can't miss and those you'd be better off skipping forever. This handy little site visualizes the IMDb user ratings of a show to show you the highs and lows and overall trends in viewer appreciation. Sure, user ratings might not be as on-the-nose as critic's reviews, but the graph will tune you in to the episodes that are most significant to viewers, and thus give you a good basis for conversations with fellow fans. 
And there you go! Everything you need to know to get reasonably caught up before The X-Files reboot premiere.

Still, I find it strange that the networks and streaming platforms would find use of one another in this way. Aside from the monetary gains on both sides when a streaming platform licenses a show,  as long as they are creating new content, the internet streamers are competitors of networks and tv show owners. And yet, here we find the former using the latter to reignite interest in old favorites, and the internet platforms picking up the best cast-offs that the networks didn't realize were great. But if this inadvertent partnership leads to more quip-filled conversations between Mulder and Scully, who am I to balk?

No comments:

Post a Comment