The X-Files: Good Television Nostalgia

xfilesWARNING: contains some spoilers from the 2016 premiere. 


It wasn’t that long ago when proclaiming you were a fan of The X-Files was admitting your nerdiness. It was the show for D&D players with bad acne and terrible clothes, television for people who were into computers before computers mattered. It was sort of a friendship litmus test; if you were weary about a classmate, but found out they watched, you immediately shot them to the top of your (anti)social circle.

Things are different in 2016. To say you watched The X-Files is to say nothing more than you happened to consume art in the 1990s. Nowadays, shows like Firefly, which never made it a full season, have a cult following, so a show running on a major network for over a decade isn’t exclusive for having a large fan base. Still, The X-Files serves as a type of “What kind of 90s person are you?” Buzzfeed-style quiz. If your relationship is more Mulder and Scully than Ross and Rachel, then you belong to a certain type of consumership that is easily defined and marketed in the digital age.

So, as Fox has resurrected the popular sci-fi show, two questions surface: is it sincere and can it work? Well, the series creator and main characters are back (Smoking Man!), which separates this from any type of remake. This isn’t a reboot for the sake of grabbing a new generation of fans, rather, it’s a continuation of what the older fans have already shown they will support. The actors aren’t washed up. It’s as sincere of a show as anything original, but as with most new shows, the really big question is: can this work at all? Can series creator Chris Carter possibly recapture the magic that made the show so popular in the first place?

Forget for a moment everything that has happened in television over the last 15 years. Forget The Sopranos and Mad Men and Making A Murderer. Forget the advancements of HBO’s budget and cable’s move to gritty, reality-based dramas. That was TV for the next generation. This version of The X-Files is not going to – nor should it try to – compete with the top shows. This continuation is solely for those who appreciated the show as it was. Fox Mulder doesn’t need to be given the quality of lines that Don Draper was given, he just needs to believe, and to have the audience believe in his belief. One episode in, and the show seems to be the same as it ever was. Go back and watch the first few seasons. It was never Breaking Bad. It was a soap opera for people who care about government conspiracies more than doctors and beautiful rich people.

The internet will attempt to pick the 2016 version apart the way they have with all of pop culture, and it will be a worthless endeavor. The X-Files is immune to 21st century commentary, because its appeal still exists in a pre-Google age. I can’t explain the joy that came over me when I heard the local news anchor break into NFL coverage with “After The X-Files…”, or when I saw the opening credits roll on live, network television. There is a nostalgia here, for sure, but there’s no tongue-in-cheek, it’s-so-bad-it’s-good type of remembrance. I know The X-Files isn’t the type of quality of television as what I’ve been watching, and that’s fine. But it is one of the few shows that shared my interests as I was growing up, and through that, I became connected to it and its characters. This is simply one of my shows, and I’m glad I get to keep enjoying it, even for just a little while longer. I get to be a nerd again, and in 2016, that is oddly comforting.



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