Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Joy of Formula

Early on - particularly in its first season - The X-Files was in the process of finding its footing, and developing the formula it would come to be known by. In the second, third, and fourth seasons, it perfected that formula, and in my mind, produced the series' best episodes. It also began to play around with the formula, creating some excellent experiments, But the fifth season suffered from attention being siphoned into the movie (which is forgivable), and by the time the sixth season came around, encouraged by the move to L.A., the show began to change - it became funnier, it became more romantic, and started playing around with its formula and experimenting a lot more. Professional critics will tell you this is a good thing, because a show doesn't want to get stale and become predictable. But I got into The X-Files because I liked The X-Files; I didn't want to see it become a different show.

Now, not all of these recent episodes I've been reviewing are "bad" in a critical sense. Most of them are still enjoyable television. But then, I said the same thing about the critically sub-par episodes in the first season - they still managed to consistently capture my interest. The difference is in the background radiation. The early series' background radiation was the spooky atmosphere describing its sci-fi/horror format. The background radiation at this point in the series is more like the light atmosphere of a romantic comedy. The episodes may be good enough to air and draw in audiences, but I get the feeling that if this was what the series had been like from the start, I never would have gotten into it to the extent that I have. Even episodes like The Rain King can be fun to watch (taken in moderation), but I never would have become an obsessed devotee to a show that consisted primarily of those sorts of episodes. Even if The X-Files had never improved beyond the quality of its first season - it may never have taken off and become a hit pop culture sensation - it would have remained an intriguing genre show, and that's good enough for me.

I guess I shouldn't complain, because a show like that isn't bound to last very long. And I can always go back and watch the older episodes. This way, we get the best of both worlds - we still have the cult show from its first seasons, plus the pop culture sensation it would grow to become in its later seasons. How many canceled genre shows are out there (or rather, not out there anymore) that can boast of fulfilling their dreams of hitting it big (no matter what blow to its original mission statement might accompany that fame)? But then, here I am, dedicated to my marathon, inundating myself with episodes day after day after day. Maybe I'm a little bit sad that I have to watch episodes like Triangle and Dreamland instead of another Ice or Fallen Angel. But then you have episodes like Terms of Endearment and Trevor. Not award-winners, by any means, but dark, genre episodes - and that's always been more important to me than awards.

I suppose I should be grateful for what I have, because I anticipate it only getting worse from here on out, as I approach the final seasons. Still, like an intrepid explorer marching boldly into the nightmare of an H.P. Lovecraft story, my curiosity at what is to be found must be sated at whatever costs - even my own sanity. (I hope I'm exaggerating - the Robert Patrick episodes can't be that bad, can they?)

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