For one reason or another, I never got into The X-Files when it first ran. Truth be known, I’m not even sure how aware I was of its existence. Surely I’d seen some adverts for it, but I didn’t know anybody who watched it and it just wasn’t part of my cultural consciousness. Late in my college career, this would be around 1997-98, some friends dropped in for a weekend and they were fans so we watched that week’s episode. I was not impressed. The effects looked cheap, the monsters were silly, and I was completely lost in terms of the shows mythology and the relationship between characters.
A couple of years later, I met the girl who would become my wife and she too was a fan. But at this point, the show was exhaling its dying breaths and for various reasons (mostly graduate school obligations) my wife had stopped keeping up with it. A few years after that while living in China, I bought the entire series on the cheap and we started watching it from the beginning. Like Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and any number of low budget, cult sci-fi/fantasy shows, it took me awhile to get into The X-Files.
Launched in 1993 on the still fledgling Fox Network, The X-Files was an extremely ambitious sci-fi/horror series loaded with special effects, a complicated mythology that got more convoluted each season, and a budget that could not support either of those things. It was a show made for fandom and one can’t help but wonder how much more popular it would have been in this age of social media and immediate recapping. However, it is not a show that creates easy entry points for those who aren’t paying attention or who come to it in the post-prestige TV world of big budgets and movie-like production values.
But I pressed on because my wife was enjoying it so. Eventually I came to love it too. It's not a perfect show. It relies a little too heavily on its own tropes and its two main characters tend to reset after the credits roll, forgetting all they’ve previously experienced when a new episodes airs. And that mythology gets so convoluted I doubt there is a person alive who actually understands it all. But it can also be good and creepy and is often quite fun as well. Like the aforementioned shows, you have to allow a certain amount of leeway when it comes to the effects and accept a bit of critical distance, but when it works, it's quite affecting and even when it doesn’t, there’s still plenty to enjoy.
At least for the first several seasons. My wife and I never made it all the way through, stopping somewhere in Season 5, or maybe 6. I really don’t remember. At some point, the enjoyment factor got overrun by stories that got bogged down in something bigger the writers were trying to suss out. I keep thinking one day I’ll watch it all again and maybe this time I’ll make it all the way through.
Which is a really long way to bring us to this week’s pick. Like so many long-gone show of late, The X-Files has come back as a limited series. Much like the actual series, my wife and I watched about half of it. This time it was no fault of the writing as we were streaming via my Apple TV through the Fox app which only allows you to do so freely for a limited amount of time after it originally airs. At some point, we got distracted and fell behind and then lost our ability to watch it.
What we did see we rather enjoyed. The original series played around with the format a lot. Some episodes were stand-alone where our heroes battled with the monster of the week. Others delved into the larger mythology of the series and still others were played for laughs. This limited series did the same, touching base with its familiar beats.
Though I did kind of give up on the original series after a time, I still hold it rather dear. It was the first series my wife and I binge-watched together and it was my first brush with a cult show that had a dedicated fandom. For that, my nerd self owes a debt. Great or not, I’m always happy to see more X-Files make it to any sized screen it wants.
For those collectors out there who may have missed picking up the original series to go along with this new limited series, they are packaging up all nine of the original seasons plus the new one in a boxed set.
The X-Files - The Event Series Bonus Clip: The Making Of A Struggle - Cigarette Smoking Man
Also out this week that looks interesting:
10 Cloverfield Lane: Word on the street is that this sequel has exactly nothing to do with Cloverfield, but that it remains a pretty clever and entertaining thriller. I’m willing to give it a shot.
La Chienne (Criterion Collection): Director Jean Renoir’s comedic drama about a harmless cog in life who finds a little happiness away from his shrew of a wife in a beautiful young woman who is being exploited by a pimp. I’ll have a full review soon.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (Criterion Collection): Classic comedy from 1941 about a boxer whose spirit is snatched from his body prematurely and is therefore given use of a new body - that of a wealthy business man who was murdered by his wife - and tries to clean up the image of this new person. Looks wonderfully fun.
Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Volume 2: Arrow Video once again presents three more films from this series of Japanese film from the late 1950s. You can read our review of the first volume here.
Eddie the Eagle: Feel good sports flick loosely based on the story of Great Britain’s first ski jumper to enter the Olympics.
Ballers: The Complete First Season: Dwayne Johnson stars in this HBO series that looks like Entourage for the sports crowd.
London Has Fallen: This sequel to Olympus Has Fallen apparently takes the same basic plot structure (bad guys have overtaken the White House) and moved it London (where I guess the bad guys got ambitious and overtake and entire city).
The Young Messiah: Teenage Jesus gets his own movie.