‘The X-Files’: Then and now

Nova Safo Oct 13, 2015
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‘The X-Files’: Then and now

Nova Safo Oct 13, 2015
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Most fans of “The X-Files” have to wait until January to see the first episode of the new series on Fox. But over the weekend, attendees at New York Comic Con got to screen the entire first episode and then ask questions of series creator Chris Carter and Fox Mulder himself, David Duchovny. 

Among the highlights: Duchovny got the ball rolling on the reboot, Mulder and Scully aren’t together any more, and the show mixes the old “X-Files” alien mythology with modern-day concerns about government surveillance.

“The X-Files” reboot has garnered a lot of interest from loyal fans. Fox fanned the excitement two weeks ago by releasing a trailer for the new series.

Some credit the series, which debuted in 1993, for paving the way for other iconic TV series, such as “Lost” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

“I don’t think anyone knew at the time what the potential would be,” said Tom Nunan, a former Fox network executive who was in the screening room with Rupert Murdoch and others when they first watched the pilot.

Nunan, who is now a lecturer at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and the founder of the production company Bull’s Eye Entertainment, recalled that when the pilot finished, Murdoch turned to the executives and asked, “How many of you are true believers?”

“The vast majority of the room raised their hands, they were so convinced by the pilot that we’re not alone,” Nunan said. 

When Fox greenlighted the series, it was a young network looking to stand out against three other established networks: ABC, CBS and NBC. The established players were relying mostly on soap operas, sitcoms and dramas with episodic story lines (ones which wrapped up in an hour, instead of carrying over week to week).

“The X-Files” was episodic, at first, too. But as it built a loyal audience, it began to change. It introduced its own series mythology with story arcs that ran across multiple episodes.

“I don’t think they were actively trying to change anything,” said Brian Lowry, a TV critic at Variety who spent time in “The X-Files” writers’ room. “Once the show was up and running, they had some latitude to play around with the format. And they were smart enough to know that their audience was with them and that they could do it,”

The success of “The X-Files” made room for other shows that emulated its style: its dark mood, creation of a show-specific mythology and long story arcs. The show’s writers’ room contained a lot of people who honed their skills on “The X-Files” and went on play major roles in the production of other important series, such as “Homeland,” “Breaking Bad” and “24,” Lowry said.

Now, “The X-Files” is returning to a far-more crowded landscape. The Fox network is also different: It is now one of the big, established networks. It is also more cautious, having ordered a limited six-episode run of the series reboot.

Correction: a previous version of this story misspelled Dana Scully’s name. The text has been corrected. 

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