Author’s Note – 09/10/2013: This original post is being published on the date of the anniversary; additional thoughts may be included later.
Wow – it’s amazing how time flies and you realize that your favorite TV show has reached quite the milestone in its history since it first aired. Last year marked fifteen (15) years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer first hit the TV airwaves and scored a legion of still-devoted fans and became an instant cult hit. If you have been reading my blog for the past year, you’ve noticed that I’ve been sharing my favorite things about Buffy, from its main characters to its “Big Bads” (major villains of each season), along with my favorite episodes and everything else I can throw my two-cents about the show. I will be ending my retrospective with a few more posts that still have to be written as time permits, now that my creative drive has returned after a hectic past five months put a stop to that. Ah, Real Life – you are both a burden and a blessing all rolled into one. Somehow my social life has also taken off, and that probably requires me to get a day planner in the future, and schedule blogging time. Damn you’s, Real Life!
As Buffy awaits my return, I’m gathering my thoughts and beginning another retrospective series. The start of this retrospective falls on the 20th anniversary of a groundbreaking, innovative, and influential genre show that has captivated audiences for years, and helped pushed fandom-love to new levels as fans gathered on the Internet to talk about their favorite show. The social media push that we see now from fans talking about their favorite series on Twitter, Tumblr, and a bunch of other sites can be traced back to 1993, when this show first aired.
The premise of the series was interesting from the beginning: two FBI agents – one a skeptic and the other a believer – investigate unexplained cases of the supernatural/paranormal/extraterrestrial, cases that have long been filed away by local law enforcement who had no clue as to how to proceed with said cases. While they investigated these bizarre cases, they frequently clashed with shadowy government figures that tried their hardest to shut them down. Along the way, our FBI agents had help from unusual and diverse sources that helped them solve their cases and unfold the conspiracy that they were in the middle of. Hiding in the darkness, and unknown to our FBI agents, was one lone sinister figure that was the puppetmaster, pulling at their strings along the way, sometimes forcing them to do his bidding. In the end our FBI agents prevailed, but not without many personal losses along the way as they uncovered “the truth.”
Yes, my fellow genre-loving geeks and nerds – 20 years ago The X-Files premiered on a Friday evening on a still-relatively new network called FOX. FOX already had several major hits under its belt back in the ’90s before The X-Files first aired: The Simpsons, COPS, and Married with Children. Looking to expand on their success with those series, FOX decided to pair up the show with a new series called The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (starring one of my favorite genre actors, Bruce Campbell). Only one of those shows ended up being victorious in the ratings game, and I’m obviously not talking about Brisco’s 20th anniversary. The X-Files had quite the hill to climb when it first aired, and it was almost canceled after a few episodes – FOX came to its senses and decided to continue the series. We can count that as one of their smartest moves before they decided to kill off every other cool genre show afterwards [insert every show that has aired on FOX since, with the exception of a few).
At its peak, the show had 20 million viewers per week between Seasons 3 through 5, as fans watched stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as they solved their unusual cases whule trying to stay alive and uncover the larger conspiracy they were in the middle of. Viewership started to slowly ease downward after the first movie based on the series and its then-ongoing alien mythology, The X-Files: Fight the Future, and when Duchovny left, more viewers fled along with him. The show was never able to regain its momentum, even after bringing in some fresh blood. Robert Patrick joined the show in Season 8 as no-nonsense Special Agent John Doggett, who was a skeptic like Scully when she first started working with Mulder. Annabeth Gish joined the show in Season 9 as Special Agent Monica Reyes, who was a believer in phenomena of the spiritual type. But in the end it was all about Mulder and Scully, and in the last scene of the series finale, we see them in a hotel room in quiet contemplation, reflecting upon everything that had happened to them in the nine years since they first met.
As I sit here writing this first part of the retrospective on The X-Files, I think back to the moment when I first saw the show and had the world suddenly come alive before my eyes. I was a pre-teen when The X-Files premiered on this day: a 12-year-old sixth grader attending a Catholic school in Dayton, Ohio. My mom had refused to let me see the show at first because she thought it was too frightening for me (I was already a horror/science fiction/fantasy buff at this point), but my dad taped the first two episodes of the series for me to watch later. My mom quit watching with us after the first two seasons, but my dad and I made it our weekly tradition to view it together – we had cool father-daughter bonding moments thanks to The X-Files. He finally quit when the Season 4 episode “Home” aired, as well as many viewers, I’m sure. I still watched it weekly, recording it when I wasn’t able to watch the live broadcast.
The first episode that I remember watching was “Squeeze,” featuring the creepy decades-old killer named Eugene Tooms (played to creepy perfection by the equally weird and creepy Doug Hutchinson). That episode was one of many that kept me hooked to the show, and there have been many memorable and sometimes “controversial” episodes of the show as well. Breaking Bad mastermind Vince Gilligan wrote one episode in particular that probably freaked out the parental watchdog groups and FOX executives. “Pusher” featured a killer that could manipulate people into doing his bidding telekinetically. In one pivotal moment from the episode, Robert Modell (the ‘pusher’) had Mulder locked in an intense round of Russian Roulette with him, while Scully pleaded with Mulder to end it. Another fan-favorite that pushed many buttons when it first aired was “Home,” of course, ’cause inbred mutant freaks killing mutant babies and having sex to the soothing sounds of Johnny Mathis makes for great family television! Or not.
The X-Files helped introduce the now-classic mythological storyline that shows feature throughout their seasons, slowly revealing the major story arc over many episodes – sometimes stretching out for years. Along with the great, expansive mythology that the X-Files introduced to the masses, it also introduced viewers to the one-off “Monster of the Week” episodes. These episodes sometimes shared in the overall mythology of the series, but mainly they were stand-alone’s that had their own conclusive storyline resulting in the capture or death of the ‘monster’ that was the focus of the episode. Lots of fans like me dig these types of episodes ’cause they are offbeat, interesting, tons of fun, and give us a break from the intense storytelling of the mythological episodes in-between. The ‘Monsters’ are gonna get their own blog post ’cause they’re so much fun.
As I look back at the show and share all the great moments and reasons why this show is so amazing and my all-time favorite, I highly recommend jumping onto Netflix or HuluPlus right now and marathoning the show from the beginning. I started my own marathon of the show last year right before Halloween, and it took me a little over two months to watch all nine seasons back-to-back. It was fun to re-discover classic episodes and catch ones I faintly recall from their original airing. I hope you enjoy following me on this epic journey as I re-visit The X-Files and geek-out all over again.