The Truth Is . . . Trying Too Hard?
Or, How Hollywood Ruins Everything Eventually
After I graduated high school in [YEAR REDACTED], firmly convinced college was a waste of time because I was going to be a rock star goddammit, I got a job working third shift at a factory that made desks and chairs for schools. Budding rock stars, I knew, did not go to college while practicing their chops and growing their hair; they worked in construction, they worked in factories, they worked in fast food joints. Jobs that were easy to get and easy to quit.
My weekends began on Friday mornings at 7 am. I’d leave the building covered with grease and stinking of oil, skin pricked with metal splinters and raw from welding sparks. Quick shower, and then back out to spend a rather large percentage of my paycheck on guitar strings, comic books, and tacos. I’d stay awake sunset to sunset, and at 8 pm, switch off the lights and on the television. This was pre-Netflix, pre-torrent, pre-On Demand, remember. If I wanted to catch the latest episode of The X-Files, I had to watch it when it ran. The only other option was to wait until summer hiatus to catch the rerun. Which, for my whiny and impatient little 18-year-old self, wasn’t really an option at all.
I recorded every episode, bought every magazine that featured Mulder and Scully, clipped out every TV Guide article about The X-Files. Considered cutting my hair and wearing a suit and tie. Desperately wanted to get my hands on one of those slick navy blue windbreakers with FBI printed on the back in huge yellow letters.
Yeah, I have an obsessive personality. I’ll cop to that.
So when I heard David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were returning for a mini-season eight years after the last X-Files movie and nearly fifteen years since the final episode of the television series, I tried to temper my excitement with trepidation because, well, nostalgia is a drug that raises expectations to unrealistic heights. We’ve all been burned by it before. (Don’t even speak to me about KISS’s Psycho Circus album, their first after “reuniting” in the studio with original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. I will plug my ears and yell LA LA LA LA LA in your face until you stop talking or I pass out, whichever comes first.)
No spoilers here. However, if you haven’t seen the new season yet, you might want to move along because these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. I don’t want to influence your opinion one way or another until after you watch, at which point I will then completely denounce and decry your opinion if it varies even slightly from mine.
After watching the season finale, and the godawful episode that preceded it, I spent some time collecting my thoughts. Actually, I spent some time (a lot of time) spewing my verbal diarrhea on Twitter, that place where the art of verbosely shitting all over everything has been taken to a new level. Mind you, I’m not a troll (at least, I don’t think I am), and I’ve never been the type to cut down others for no reason. That is, I’ve never tweeted to a musician, writer, or artist YOUR FACE IS STUPID AND YOUR ART MAKES ME WANT TO DIE. But my disappointment with The X-Files–a show I loved so much that I’d set my first aol email password as sculder1313–was too great. I had to let it out, lest be consumed by it like a human/fluke worm hybrid creature.
While gathering my thoughts (read: barfing all over the X-Files hashtag), I came across Kaly Soto’s piece in the New York Times that read as if she had plucked the words directly from my brain computer. I also began Netflixing and chilling with the original series, starting at the pilot, to make sure my teenaged enjoyment of those old episodes wasn’t just a byproduct of extreme boredom and crippling loneliness.
Nope. The old episodes (especially once they hit their groove in season two) worked just as well as I remembered. Which got my writer gears grinding, wondering, It worked back then; why doesn’t it work now? And my Holmesian conclusion is thus:
They’re trying too hard.
More specifically, they’re trying to mold the show (mold it, or as the English might write, mould it. So they’re moulders. Moulders. Geddit? MOULDERS?!?) so it fits in with the current style of dramatic programming–young, sexy, snarky, modern. They’re trying to fit in with the Lucifers and the Sleepy Hollows. And that’s fine, as long as it’s genuine. (Never mind that I personally can’t stand those shows, but hey, different strokes and all that). But it doesn’t feel genuine. It feels forced. The original X-Files was all that–young, sexy, slightly snarky, modern (for its time)–and naturally so because of the writing, the characterization, and that strong chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson. They didn’t have to force it.
Let’s chat a bit about Mulder’s psychotropic trip in the penultimate episode. Yeah, how can I not go there? (Please forgive me David Duchovny, if you happen to read this; I sincerely have nothing but the utmost respect for you as an actor, but…) That scene was embarrassing. In the context of, say, Californication, I might have enjoyed it thoroughly. In the context of this show? Sorry, but no. It felt like I was watching a Saturday Night Live X-Files parody sketch.
And I guess that was my main problem with the new season, in the shell of a nut. It just didn’t fit. There is talk of possibly filming another. But if the writers continue down this path, turning the show into some sleek, soulless dramedy full of quick-cuts and punchlines over paranoia, rather than keeping with creator Chris Carter’s original intent to “scare people’s pants off,” then I’m tapping out.
In other words, the truth may still be out there, but I’m not sure I want to keep looking for it.