January 24, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Miniseries Premiere Review: “The X-Files”


THE X-FILES:  Monday 8PM on FOX

With its densely serialized mythology and mostly pre-internet rabidly enthusiastic fans, THE X-FILES was a key signpost on the road to today’s pop culture.  By the time it left the air in 2002, though, it was limping badly, with David Duchovny barely participating and ratings that were low, at least as of 14 years ago (many “hits” would love to have 7M total viewers these days).  Although a film produced during the TV run was a success, a 2008 sequel was a financial disaster.  But in this franchise-happy era, when even Heroes has managed to get itself reborn, X-Files has not only returned, but done so as the signature event of FOX’s TV season, launched behind its blockbuster coverage of the NFC Championship Game.

The format this time is a bite-sized 6-hour miniseries, and the whole gang has returned, from series creator Chris Carter (who wrote and directed the initial episode himself) and other original writer/producers to stars and key supporting players Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi and William B. Davis.

The first hour was all set-up, featuring a conspiracy theory with enough tentacles to give Oliver Stone pause:  all the woes of modern life, from global warming to terrorism to unhealthy eating habits are, it turns out, the result of a multinational cabal’s plot to take over the world.  As part of their plan, the conspirators have monopolized alien technology that’s been coming to Earth since the atomic age attracted the interest of far-off civilizations, whose representatives were murdered by the cabal, their inventions (including an energy source that’s miraculously both free and unlimited) all stolen.  This grand plot is subject to future twists and reversals, of course, but for now the villains are very much earthlings, making Mulder (Duchovny) and Scully (Anderson) swivel their original hypotheses completely around.

The script didn’t have room for much more than the basics, especially since Carter felt the need to feature more fan service than The Force Awakens in the opening hour, and apart from momentary appearances from Pileggi and Davis, the only prominent characters aside from the stars were a Glenn Beck-type online talk show host who uncovered the conspiracy (an oddly-cast Joel McHale, trying not to smirk), and an oft-abducted woman whose DNA had been tampered with (The Americans‘ Annet Mahendru).  Of course, for X-Files fans, the only cast members who matter are Duchovny and Anderson.  They still have chemistry, but Anderson came off as more seriously committed to returning to the character, while Duchovny never really pulled off the script’s requirement that with a bare minimum of persuasion, Mulder would reverse everything he’d believed for decades.  It’s also too bad that the high levels of exposition and intensity allowed for almost no dry humor, one of the show’s original hallmarks.

Like so many rebooted franchises, The X-Files feels more like the result of an economic analysis than a dramatic imperative, a theme park version of what was once a vital saga.  Perhaps in the next 5 weeks, Carter and company will find their mojo again, but for now it’s still out there.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."