Tube Talk: TV’s most X-citing return

By Paula Hendrickson
Television Columnist

Like many TV viewers in the ’90s, I never missed an episode of The X-Files. I even set the VCR when I was home just so I could watch each episode again. I even stuck with the show towards the end of its original nine-season run, when Mulder was mostly absent and Scully was working with far less interesting agents. You know, about two years after it should have ended.

Three feature films were made: one while the show was still going strong, and two after the show wrapped 2002. (I saw one of the films, but couldn’t tell you which one.) The most recent was released in 2008.

While The X-Files is often referred to as a “cult classic,” it was – and continues to be – one of those rare series that shaped the future of television. It frequently makes critics’ lists of best television series of all time, and any channel lucky enough to possess syndication rights can garner strong ratings with an X-Files marathon. It did this by engaging fans with a richly detailed mythology that played off the hopes, insecurities, and fears of its time.

Fast-forward to 2016 and the stakes are even higher. While many fears remain the same, the immediacy of social media fuels conspiracy theories faster than ever, making it an ideal time for showrunner Chris Carter to drag a jaded Mulder (David Duchovny) out of the woodwork to question the veracity of supposed alien abductions. And what’s Mulder without Scully (Gillian Anderson)?

Like all X-Files fans, I’m eager to see where Mulder and Scully are at this point in their separate lives. (No spoilers in saying the pair is not together at the start of the new season.) Duchovny and Anderson have both stayed busy with projects well outside the sci-fi genre, but the six-episode season lured them back to their iconic roles.

FBI Assistant Director Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) is also back for the series revival, even the presumed dead Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) and the actually dead Lone Gunmen (Bruce Harwood, Tom Braidwood, and Dean Haglund) are supposed to make appearances. Of sorts.

Additions to the cast include Joel McHale (Community, The Soup) as TV host Tad O’Malley, Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) as an FBI agent, and The Americans’ Annet Mahendru as an abductee.

The six new episodes were written by series creator Carter and three of the original series’ prolific writers, Darrin Morgan, Glen Morgan and James Wong. The first and sixth episodes promise to address the series’ mythology while the other four episodes will be more stand-alone “monster of the week” episodes. That means even people who aren’t familiar with – or have forgotten – the mythology can enjoy the latest incarnation of The X-Files.

After such a lengthy break, cast and producers are coming to the franchise with renewed energy, which will no doubt be reflected on screen.

Like most X-Files fans, I’m more than ready for some classic Mulder and Scully scenes, be it discussing a case while Scully’s performing an autopsy or another spooky flashlights-in-the-dark scene.

Programming Notes:

The X-Files two-night season premiere begins Sunday on FOX following the NFC Championship Game (roughly 9 p.m., but be sure to add plenty of extra time if you’re recording it since football games can run long), and continues Monday at 7 p.m. Subsequent episodes will air Mondays at 7 p.m.

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