By now you may have heard the news. The X-Files are (almost) officially coming back. It was reported on various sites over the weekend that a green light for the project was near. The show will get the old gang back together with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson set to reprise their roles of FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, respectively. Original series executive producer Chris Carter and several writers are also on board. The biggest remaining question is whether Mitch Pileggi will come back as FBI A.D. Walter Skinner. (This needs to happen, somebody make sure this happens!)
I was late to the party with X-files. During it’s initial run from 1993-2002 I watched zero episodes. Sure it was seemingly on some channel every Friday or Saturday night, but I only ever caught snippets, none of which hooked me. Fortunately, Netflix allowed me to rectify this mistake. After binge watching the entire series in a matter of a few months, I became engrossed with the conspiracies, the cover ups, and…the truth. I even painted a tile at one of those pottery places with The X-Files logo. As such, the news of an X-Files reunion was very exciting. Was very exciting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still looking forward to it and will watch it, but this trend of bringing back shows is starting to get annoying.
This current era of t.v. viewers crave seemingly one thing above all others-closure. In modern t.v. storytelling the highest regarded shows are ones which provide a nice, crisp story with an ending which wraps everything up with a nice little bow. Sons of Anarchy, Battlestar Galactica, and Breaking Bad are prime examples of how to end a show. If full closure is not achieved, regardless of how good the rest of the series was, the fans will revolt. Lost and Dexter were two of the most popular shows and critically acclaimed during their runs, but perceived slights in their endings have significantly tarnished their legacy. Should I even bring up the last scene in The Sopranos? HBO’s True Detective and FX’s American Horror Story are forays into a pared-down version of this need for closure, settling for single season story arcs and beginning with a new story in the next season.
This notion of a limited series was met with viewer and critical success, racking up ratings and awards. Now, networks are bringing back old series in the form of these limited runs. Fox has already done this with the much hyped return of Jack Bauer in their limited run of 24. Twin Peaks has also become the beneficiary of a return via a nine episode run on Showtime. Shows coming back from the dead isn’t an entirely new phenomenon, and not always in a limited run. Family Guy was famously nixed after its third season, only to be brought back to become one of the most successful animated shows of all time. Arrested Development and Community are examples of cult favorites being saved by streaming services. The latest reports indicate that The X-Files reunion will return in a limited series run, likely with an episode count in the 6-8 range. The primary reasons for the limited run in this case are scheduling and having a run that “ is aimed to close out the lingering storylines left by the series proper” (aka closure).
While all of these revivals and returns make for good headlines, this is a tricky game being played. Sometimes things are best left in their own time. Arrested Development was a great show (first three seasons are exceptional), but the Netflix return was just okay. This was disappointing and left me wondering, did I really need that? This is always the risk when bringing a show back, especially one like X-Files which many consider to be an iconic show.
In the future there will be more revivals. In a perfect world they would all be like the Doctor Who revival, which picked up after a 16 year break without missing a beat. And heck, there are several shows I would love to see come back (is it too late to get season two of Terra Nova?). Some shows, however, were nearly perfect in their original runs, and picking them up over a decade later might be like playing with fire. It may be fantastic, or it may just flame out. Perhaps another reason for the shortened episode return is due to the fact there have already been 202 episodes over nine seasons, two movies, and a spin-off. There’s been so much story! I know there are still some little loose ends, but loose ends are okay. Sometimes you don’t need to know all the details, you just have to believe the truth is out there.