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TV News Daily: Chris Carter Vents About "Harsh Realm"

TV News Daily
Chris Carter Vents About “Harsh Realm”
Kate O’Hare

LOS ANGELES: When “Harsh Realm” vanished after just a few episodes on FOX last fall, no one was more startled than Chris Carter. As the creator of the network’s signature sci-fi hit “The X Files,” Carter was expecting more patience from the network. “I was taken by surprise,” says Carter about the axing of his show, “because the regime that’s there had not promoted the show prior to its launch, so people weren’t aware that it was on. They had all kinds of projections about the kind of audience it would bring. I think, based on those projections, they decided not to do any promotion at all.

“They actually came to us, saying as much. They were very sorry, they dropped the ball, as they put it, but they were going to get behind it for the next seven weeks with an unprecedented amount of energy and promotional ideas. That lasted about three weeks, and they decided to pull the plug.”

While Carter can’t dispute the low ratings that caused the show’s demise, he feels that more patience could have been rewarded. “It was an idea that basically required the building of an entire world, and to do that, you can’t do it all in one. You must do it gradually, because it is a complex idea but a perfect storytelling vehicle, because you’ve got these parallel worlds. It was a beautiful idea, in that way.

“It was a very difficult show to do, I have to say. It was an expensive show to do. I think the expense was one of the reasons they decided to pull the plug, not to wait and see whether or not the ratings would pick up, but just to cut their losses.”

What has Carter learned creatively from the experience? “I think I learned the need for a very clear, understandable franchise for a TV series, not necessarily for the audience but for the people who market the show. I learned that the audience is important, but the people who market the show must like it as well, or watch it as well, to get behind it.”

Carter doubts there is any future for “Harsh Realm,” even if it does gangbuster ratings on FX, but he doesn’t rule it out entirely. In the meantime, speculation continues to swirl about whether there will be a season eight for “The X-Files,” as time ticks down to the writing of the last episode of this year.

When will Carter know if season eight’s a go? “I guess by the first day of shooting on year eight, if there is a year eight, the decision will have to be made. In other words, we don’t know.”

But don’t you need to know before writing the season-seven finale, which will air in May? Carter chuckles. “Yeah, that makes logical sense. I don’t know. I wish I could say.”

Definitely in the pipeline, though, is a pilot for an “X-Files” spin-off for Fox featuring the trio of conspiracy geeks known as the Lone Gunmen, pals of Mulder’s (David Duchovny) who have shown up from time to time since “X’s” early seasons (and in the “X-Files” feature film).

They are played by three Canadian performers – actor and stand-up comic Dean Haglund, actor Bruce Harwood and actor/director Tom Braidwood – and the series will be shot in Vancouver, Canada, home to five seasons of “X-Files,” three of “Millennium” and nine episodes of “Harsh Realm.”

The Gunmen have proven to be fan favorites, and since they work so well with Agent Scully (Gillian Anderson), they will be paired with a woman (actress TBA) for whose affections they will compete.

“It’s going to be light and funny,” says Carter. “They are who they are, so it’s going to be funny to play with three geeks who are on a mission.”

Will Terry O’Quinn – who has been in all of Carter’s big-and-small screen projects so far – be in the Gunmen series? “I can’t imagine that he wouldn’t. Terry is a true gentleman. It’s been my experience with Terry that he says, ‘When and where?’ ”

As for a second “X” movie, Carter says it will wait until after the series ends. “It would have to come at least a year after the series happened,” he says. “If the series ends now, it would be two years before we see it.”

Does Carter plan to keep working with Fox network, all things considered? “I’m rooting for Sandy (Grushow) to turn that network around, because it’s been my home, and I plan to do more work here. Contractually I’m not obligated to Fox. I have a loyalty to them, which was, I think, taxed a bit with the ‘Harsh Realm’ decision. My job is to make good TV shows, and I need a partner to do that. With so much competition right now for audiences, you need a partner who will work with you rather than against you.”

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