Oh, that poor X-Files movie. Based on a franchise that hasn’t been active in years, starring the guy from Californication and a fine actress who (by choice) doesn’t work in North America much, and written and directed by a dude whose career seemed to stall when his franchise did. (Remember when Fox had three Chris Carter series on the air?) This movie might shock us all and do well, but if it doesn’t, the producers are going to be very sorry that they called it I Want to Believe, since few titles lend themselves to so many snarky headlines for bad reviews. (“I want to believe that this movie doesn’t exist,” “I want to believe that I can get my money back,” and so on.) The show itself is still reasonably popular, so there may be enough of a fan base to make some money for the film — but it doesn’t have a segment of the audience all to itself, the way the similarly based-on-a-defunct-franchise Sex and the City movie did; the largely male audience of X-Files is going to be splitting its attention between that and the many other dark conspiratorial adventures that can be found 3. Out There™.
But if The X-Files no longer turns out to have a hold on its audience, it may be because it’s a victim of its own success; whereas Sex and the City hasn’t had a lot of successful imitators, The X-Files got imitated all over the place, and not just in sci-fi shows and movies. Todd at South Dakota Dark is leading an X-Files Blogathon, and his current post, about The X-Files‘ ’70s cop show roots, is very much worth checking out for more on the subject of the show, its influences, and its influence. It came along at a time when the old-school cop show was not easy to find any more, and managed to find a way to revive the basic format of one or two maverick cops getting involved in tough cases. One show it always reminded me of was Hunter — remember that one? The X-Files has nothing in common with Hunter except that both shows are about a male-female cop team where the guy is a loose cannon, the woman is usually more level-headed, and they have sexual tension that is never directly addressed or acted on for most of the series.
One thing we probably won’t see again, however, is a cop show — or any show — that depends as heavily on only two characters as The X-Files did. That’s another way that it was in the ’70s cop show tradition; instead of being an ensemble piece, it was really a two-character piece where one or the other of the two stars had to be in virtually every scene. Today’s shows, even the ones that in the synopsis would seem to be only about one person, find ways to spread the workload around more, if only because no show wants to get totally dependent on just two actors. But if, say, CSI is a bit X-Files-ish as Todd argues, Gil Grissom does not dominate the show as much as Mulder and Scully did, and the show can and will go on without him without looking stupid the way the Duchovny-less X-Files did.
Read the post for more on how The X-Files built on an old tradition and inspired a bunch of new traditions.
And no, the subject line isn’t a non sequitur. The linked post does mention why the first season of Lost was like The Love Boat. (But wouldn’t it be more like if the Love Boat crashed and got washed up on Fantasy Island?)