Nov 12 2008

“The Truth Is Out There”

Recently I’ve tried watching a few new shows in what I think of as the X-Files genre, like Heroes and Eureka.  Science fiction mixed with supernatural and some mystery; what’s not to like?  I just can’t seem to take them seriously enough to stick with them, though.  They seem to be trying way too hard stylistically, and it’s off-putting to me.  I feel like they’re reaching through the screen and poking me in the shoulder, saying, “Isn’t this just sooooo cool?  Isn’t it?”  Maybe it is, but I’d like to figure that out for myself, without the show yelling it at me.  They seem way too self-conscious about striking the perfectly hip pose right from the start.

The looks of the actors don’t help.  They all look like they were pulled out of ads for jeans or cologne.  On the pilot of Eureka, I started laughing when the third or fourth incredibly hot babe was introduced to the superbly hunky male lead, and they turned their noses up at each other.  It’s downright distracting when everyone involved in the story is so ridiculously good-looking, and they act like it’s no big deal.  It’s like if they made a show set in Kansas but used only 7-foot-tall Chinese actors, and never explained why.

So anyway, since these new shows weren’t doing much for me, I thought I’d go back to the one that started it all.  I’ve seen a lot of the X-Files episodes, but only in reruns; so they were out of order and I’ve missed some, especially toward the end.  I’d forgotten how good this show was, and it’s refreshing to watch a show that just tries to tell an engaging story at its own pace.  What’s funny is that The X-Files became a show that was considered super-cool, but it didn’t just declare that in the first episode; it built that reputation over time.

Mulder starts out as kind of a geek, and in four episodes he hasn’t shown off ripped abs even once.  Gillian Anderson is certainly a beautiful woman, but not so distractingly Dallas-Cowboys-cheerleader-hot that you can’t imagine her being an FBI agent and going on a stakeout without a crowd forming around her.  In the early days of the Internet, her picture may have been on more screensavers and backgrounds than any other person’s, but that was because of the whole character, not just her looks.

The show took its time, too.  After four episodes on the first disc (I’m Netflixing it), we’ve gotten a little of Mulder’s backstory, but we haven’t seen a single alien yet, we don’t know much about Scully, and we have no idea who Cigarette Smoking Man is or any of the other conspiracy stuff.  Two episodes have been monster-of-the-week stories, so they didn’t advance the main arc at all.  I don’t know what’s coming in the next few episodes, and I’ve probably seen them!  That’s refreshing, to watch a show that’s subtle about its mysteries and takes the time to develop them slowly.

Duchovny and Anderson are great, both in their individual roles and as a team.  The guest stars are convincingly spooky or scared or whatever they’re supposed to be.  It’s just a really solid show, and I’m looking forward to working my way through it, in order this time.  I remember it got pretty flaky toward the end, so I don’t know if I’ll make it all the way, but we’ll see.

Funnily enough, I actually missed The X-Files the first time around because I kept hearing how cool it was, and I’m contrarian that way.  If “everyone” likes something, there’s a good chance I won’t.  That helps me avoid a lot of garbage, but occasionally it means I miss something that actually is good, at least at first.  That happened to me with The Matrix, which I didn’t see until a few years ago.  If something’s really good, though, I seem to eventually discover it after the hype wears off and people still recommend it, and that’s fine.  I prefer it when the whole show is on DVD so I can watch it at my own pace anyway.

I thought about reviewing the episodes as I go, but if any show has been reviewed enough times on the Internet, it has to be this one. I may write about particular episodes that strike me as special, though.

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