Archive for January, 1994

Chicago Sun-Times: Fox’s ‘X-Files’: Otherworldly Entertainment

Jan-28-1994
Chicago Sun-Times
Fox’s ‘X-Files’: Otherworldly Entertainment
Mike Hughes

Let’s say you’re a serious actress, steeped in theater training. What do you do for a living?

Well, Gillian Anderson spends some time seeing and not seeing UFO’s. She and her “X-Files” partner pretended to see them together for one episode in the wee hours of the morning. “It was, like, 2 o’clock in the morning and we were standing on this hill and it was kind of drizzling,” Anderson groans.

“And we both had to synchronize our eyes with the way the UFO’s would eventually be moving . . . We stood there for God knows how long.”

OK, let’s say you’re a serious actor with an Ivy League education. What do you do for a living?

Well, David Duchovny spent some time lying on a parking lot, pretending to be horrified.

“We did an (‘X-Files’) episode with kind of a beast-woman,” Duchovny says, “a feral humanoid . . . She was 6-foot-1 and matted hair, and beautiful in her own way.”

The director decided his reaction wasn’t horrified enough. It had to be reshot.

“The X-Files” is not your standard TV show.

The series, at 8 p.m. Fridays on Channel 32, is the home of UFO’s and the paranormal. It’s the place for beast-women, arctic monsters and more.

This week, it has a killer who can switch gender at will. You don’t see that very often, even in rock ‘n’ roll.

And one more thing: In its own way, “The X-Files” is a terrific show.

” ‘The X-Files’ is a show people are really starting to talk about,” says Fox programming chief Sandy Grushow.

Lucy Salhany, his boss, goes a step further:

‘ “The X-Files’ is a hit,” she says.

Fox officials are prone to exaggerate, of course. This time, however, there’s a kernel of truth.

In an awful time slot, “The X-Files” has found viewers. This year, Grushow says, it’s given Fox a 27 percent increase for the hour.

When people discover the show, they find a terrific blend.

The filming (in Vancouver) is stylish and the music (by Mark Snow) is terrific. Duchovny and Anderson create believable characters, from surprisingly solid scripts.

At the core is a fascination with the unexplained and the unexplored.

The groundwork was laid during previous seasons, when the “Sightings” documentary series held the time slot. Indeed, producer Henry Winkler implies that the show was canceled mainly because of company politics.

” ‘Sightings’ was produced by an outside company,” Winkler says, “and ‘The X-Files’ is done by . . . Fox itself. I have never watched ‘The X-Files,’ and may they live in health.”

Whatever the reason for the change, “The X-Files” started with a core of believers. Then it added a layer of dramatic oomph.

Anderson, who plays the show’s skeptic, is sometimes a believer in real life. “I have, for a long time, believed in certain aspects of the unknown — ESP, psychokinesis, UFO’s.”

Duchovny, who plays the believer, leans the other way.

“I believe in the abstract, but not in the specific,” he says. “If you ask me if I believe in the possibility of the things we do on the show, I would say yes. But if you ask me if I believe that they actually have happened, I’d say no.”

And producer Chris Carter thought that he was a pretty good buff of these things . . . until he met his staff.

Two of them brought their own extensive library, Carter says.

“But they had these crazy journals and newsletters that come from who-knows-where,” he says. “And they were able to write a story using a lot of very factual, if you will, information.”

Now “The X-Files” has become part of the lore. One intense letter was mailed to Fox Mulder, Duchovny’s fictional character; zealots already have started storing “X-Files” trivia.

These are the newest variation of Trekkers or Leapers, but without an official name. “I’m calling them ‘File-o-philes,’ ” Carter says.

That’s not so bad, actually. On a Friday that includes Urkel and old detectives, we could do worse than become a nation of File-o-philes.

The Plain Dealer: Different approaches to suspense and horror

Jan-27-1994
The Plain Dealer
Different approaches to suspense and horror
Tom Feran

One show is hailed for its finely honed subtlety, the other is famed for its Grand Guignol gore. Back to back, the way they’ll air tomorrow night, “The X-Files” and “Tales from the Crypt” offer intriguingly different approaches to suspense and horror – under-the-edge and over-the-top.

When you talk about series that could only be shown on cable TV – the sort of signature fare that pay-cable built its reputation and audience on – HBO’s “Tales from the Crypt” goes to the top of the list. Consistently (and deservedly) one of the highest-rated series in cable history since its debut five years ago, it features zestily macabre and deliriously twisted little morality plays that would earn an R-rating from a film board and are not for the faint of heart or stomach.

But producers Joel Silver, Richard Donner, Walter Hill and Robert Zemeckis always had more in mind for “Crypt” than cable. They’re calling it quits after 65 episodes, figuring that’s enough for the eventual big payoff of TV syndication, while making plans for three feature films and moving the show in reruns to Fox.

Only on cable? Not anymore.

“HBO is wonderful, but it’s only seen by one-fifth of the homes in America,” said Silver, who also produced the “Lethal Weapon” movies with Donner. “When you do something like this, you want to be seen in as many places as possible.

“Fox wanted to run it nightly, after Chevy Chase went down, but what made the most sense was late Saturday night. It’ll be new to most of the audience, so we’ll see what happens.”

Two episodes, a couple of distinctly offbeat love stories starring Demi Moore and William Hickey, air at 9 and 9:30 p.m. tomorrow on WOIO Channel 19, after a special early broadcast of “The X-Files” at 8. “Crypt” then will run weekly at 10 p.m. Saturdays on Channel 19.

HBO will continue to present original episodes prior to their broadcast on Fox.

For Fox, Silver said in a recent interview, the big change is editing what he called its “extremely cable-ready language.” Some of the violence, gore and nudity will also be toned down, either through editing or the use of “coverage” – tamer footage that was shot at the same time as gamier scenes.

“We always shot coverage, but we’ve had to cut some of the episodes down anyway, to get to 22 minutes” for commercial broadcast, Silver said. “Originally, none could be longer than 30 minutes, and they always came in around a half hour, but they never had to be exact,” he said. “Some of them play better shorter. The stories don’t suffer and the pace is faster.”

They’re still not for kids. Based on such classic and then-controversial E.C. Comics of the early 1950s as “Tales from the Crypt” and “Vault of Horror,” the stories blend suspense with contemporary adult humor and eye-popping special effects. It has boasted actors like Tom Hanks, Joe Pesci, Whoopi Goldberg, Teri Garr, Richard Thomas, Christopher Reeve, Kirk Douglas, Blythe Danner and Louise Fletcher, and gave Hanks, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael J. Fox their first shots at directing.

Besides Silver, Donner, Zemeckis (“Who Framed Roger Rabbit”) and Hill (“48 HRS.”), other directors have included John Frankenheimer and William Friedkin. Danny Elfman, Ry Cooder, Jan Hammer, Jimmy Webb and David Newman have contributed music, and the show’s opening title sequence alone is a TV classic.

Each episode was shot in just five days, compared with eight for the average TV drama.

“We want them to be little movies,” Silver said. “They’re hard to make. To get good people and to do it properly is hard. I only do what I believe in. I always loved the comic books as a kid and thought it would make a great series.”

With some 500 comics stories still available, Silver and his partners are putting together a deal for three 90-minute feature films aimed for release starting next Halloween.

His favorite episode is one in which Pesci plays a gigolo who romances wealthy twin sisters. To marry them both, he convinces them that he is twin brothers. Their revenge?

“They cut him in half, of course,” Silver said.

“The X-Files” sits at the other end of the suspense spectrum. It slides you to the edge of your seat instead of jolting you there.

Stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, playing FBI agents who investigate unexplained cases that might involve paranormal phenomena, coolly underplay the horror as they chase UFOs, genetic experiments gone awry, hibernating serial killers, de-evolved beast people or a homicidal computer chip.

Executive producer Chris Carter tries to keep the cerebral but exhilarating show “within the realm of extreme possibility” or “speculative scientific possibilities.” He relies on plotting and atmosphere for its nightmare-inducing scariness – not to mention the moody music by Mark Snow, who made “X-Files” the lone TV show cited recently for achievement by Keyboard magazine, along with film composers including Danny Elfman, Ennio Morricone and Vangelis.

Carter is well aware of Fox standards – “like they won’t let you see somebody giving a shot, you can’t show somebody dead with their eyes open, you can’t show too much blood” – but he seldom pushes them.

“We choose to imply a lot, and I think that’s what has helped keep the show sort of creepy and mysterious,” he said. “We don’t go over the top in terms of gore, and that’s by design of the writers and producers.

“What we can’t show, a lot of the time, is what we don’t have time to show or to shoot, or that the budget won’t allow. But I’ve gotten to do almost everything that I wanted to do.

“I didn’t want each episode to become centered around its particular effect. I think we have to tell a better story than that to bring the audience back each week.”

Ratings have been unspectacular overall, but solid and growing among Fox’s target 18-49 age group – especially for Friday, which is generally considered an out-of-the-house, away-from-TV night. Buzz for the show is strong enough that Fox has renewed it for next season.

Its soft-spoken stars bear temperamental resemblance to the characters they play, down to Duchovny’s wry, deadpan sense of humor. In point of view, however, they’d be cast in opposite roles.

While Duchovny’s Agent Fox Mulder is a maverick who believes in the forces of the unknown, “I guess I believe in the abstract but not the specific,” the actor said. “If you ask if I believe in the possibility of things we do on the show, I would say yes. If I believe that they actually have happened, I’d say no.

“I had one experience with something in the sky, which is basically that I saw a plane and then it was gone and it’s not that interesting. So that would be my one experience with an unidentified flying object.”

Anderson, whose skeptical Agent Dana Scully keeps tabs on Mulder, says she hasn’t had “any personal experience with UFOs or anything that might be considered paranormal, but I have for a long time believed in certain aspects of the unknown – ESP, psychokinesis, UFOs.’

Is she ever bothered by Scully’s continued skepticism, despite the strange things she sees with Mulder?

“Usually by the end of an episode, there is a logical explanation to what she has seen,” Anderson said. “Her first instinct is always going to be to try and solve the cases from a scientific, analytical standpoint.

“There have been opportunities for Scully to question her own beliefs, especially more recently,” she said. “Certainly Mulder ends up seeing a great deal more than Scully does – it just so happens that he is in the middle of it, while I’ve got my seatbelt on in the car or something.

“And it helps with the dynamic of the show. Without that, where would we be?”

Certainly not in a romantic clinch, despite the desire of some fans and close relationship of Scully and Mulder.

“I’ve always said that I think the best kind of sexual tension for me is when you put a smart man and a smart woman in a room, no matter if it’s romantic,” Carter said. “What we have with Mulder and Scully is a mutual respect, a mutual passion to solve these cases.

“People have responded to that. I had somebody write in and say that if Mulder and Scully ever kissed, they’d throw their television set out the window.

“I’m going to try to keep that person’s television set in their room.”

Austin American-Statesman: Fox hopes skeptics come to believe in ‘The X-Files’

Jan-21-1994
Austin American-Statesman
Fox hopes skeptics come to believe in ‘The X-Files’

On any other network, The X-Files would be long gone.

Yes, there has been an avalanche of critical praise, but the ratings have been lower than a snake’s belly. According to the latest Nielsen ratings, the series that straddles the suspense and science-fiction genre line was ranked fourth from the bottom.

But Fox Broadcasting considers The X-Files (Fridays at 8 p.m. on KBVO, Channel 42 Cable 5) a success. That’s because it delivers the young audience that advertisers covet and because the show has a loyal core audience that includes a lot of well-to-do and highly educated people.

David Duchovny, best-known for his portrayal of the bizarre transvestite detective Dennis/Denise in Twin Peaks, stars as FBI agent Fox Mulder, a man who passionately believes that paranormal phenomena are responsible for several of the bureau’s strange cases.

Gillian Anderson co-stars as Dana Scully, an agent trained in science and medicine who is sent by the bureau to debunk Mulder’s claims. Scully hangs onto her scientific skepticism but finds herself increasingly intrigued by Mulder’s theories.

“Fox has loved this show from the beginning,” said creator-executive producer Chris Carter in Los Angeles recently. “I think they expect the ratings to rise as more people find out exactly what the show is.”

Defining exactly what The X-Files is may well be the problem. It’s scarier than most sci-fi dramas; it has a base in modern-day reality, and yet it deals with such supernatural activity as UFO abductions and spontaneous combustion.

“I really don’t think this show is science fiction,” Carter said. “I stand by my original description of it as a suspense drama about speculative scientific possibilities.”

And some of those speculations are terrifying, thanks to great storytelling, fine acting and minimal special effects. The scary stuff, for the most part, is implied rather than shown, which is in part due to budgetary constraints but also due to a creative decision in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock.

“I think not relying too heavily on special effects forces us to tell a better story,” Carter said. “Showing too much can be self-defeating.”

Among the things Carter said the network will not let him show are too much blood, dead people with their eyes open and hypodermic injections. He doesn’t know why, and Fox executives offered no explanation. Apparently there was no mention from Fox about showing a man melting in a fire and his hideously deformed face afterward.

That episode was by far the scariest to date, one that pre-teens and teens who are devoted fans probably had nightmares about. Parents should use caution in allowing younger children to watch X-Files. It is not intended for children and is often quite intense. Tonight’s episode – about a being who switches genders at will and commits sex crimes – definitely sounds inappropriate for youngsters.

Not surprisingly, the show receives hundreds of letters from viewers who have an unnatural affinity for it, including many who claim to have been abducted by aliens.

“I got a letter addressed to Fox Mulder from a man who said he had met an alien,” Duchovny said, shaking his head. “It was kind of sad in a way.”

Unlike his character, Duchovny doesn’t believe in the series’ “speculative scientific possibilities,” although Anderson, in contrast to her character’s beliefs, does believe in the possibility of paranormal phenomena such as telekinesis and extrasensory perception.

Whether you believe them or not, the strange stories make fascinating television, and Fox is hoping more and more people will join a group of viewers that Carter has fondly dubbed “File-ophiles.”

Electronic Media: ‘X-Files’ boosts FBC ratings, picks up momentum globally

??-??-1994
Electronic Media
‘X-Files’ boosts FBC ratings, picks up momentum globally

Last year, Twentieth Television’s new “The X-Files” turned international heads at the Los Angeles Screenings, four months before the show even premiered to U.S. audiences.

Since then, the show has caught on in such international territories as Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Spain, and has built into a Friday night ratings power for FBC.

The key to the show’s success, its creators say, is its blend of fact-based “weird science” and the universal fright appeal of the unknown. “There are some really creepy episodes of this show that get under your skin and turn you into a raving psychotic even though you know the two leads are going to get out of it OK,” says USA today television critic Matt Roush.

“In terms of the sort of ‘fantastic’ franchises out there, ‘X-Files’ possesses a sort of special kind of terror,” he adds.

“We haven’t seen that kind of scary anthology since the 1960s or 1970s . . . where the show really dares to get under your skin.”

Before FBC slotted the new “X-Files” into what had been a weak 9 p.m. (ET) slot on Fridays, the show had already created a buzz with international buyers.

“‘X-Files’ was a bit of a surprise, because we all knew very little about it upfront,” says Marion Edwards, senior vice president for Twentieth Century Fox International Television.

“The paranormal aspects of the show are fascinating to people of every culture. Even though it’s a strictly American-style, one-hour show, it’s really universal in its theme,” she said.

Internationally, “X-Files” is posting strong young adult demographics for such leading broadcasters as Spain’s Antena 3 TV, where it airs in Monday’s 10:30 p.m. time slot, and on Australia’s Network Ten, where it runs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.

Domestically, FBC had dedicated much of its Friday promotional efforts to the new 8 p.m. Western spoof “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.” early in the season, but since beefing up promotions for “X-Files” at 9 p.m., the show has taken off in the ratings.

In fact, its season finale on May 13 generated the best ratings for households and adults age 18 to 49 for any FBC series ever on a Friday night, scoring an 8.8 Nielsen Media Research rating (percentage of TV homes) and a 16 share (percentage of sets in use) and 7.2/23, respectively, in those categories.

“When people began hearing about the name ‘X-Files,’ there was a lack of awareness about what this show really is,” says Dan McDermott, FBC senior vice president of current programming and specials.

“Once people start to watch the show, what they find is that it’s one of the most original creative shows on television today,” he said.

“It’s a little bit sci-fi, a little bit paranormal, and involves the belief — or at least the acceptance of the potential belief — in the paranormal,” he said.

“What we do best is take the story and try to make it as believable as possible, and that’s where the big scare lies,” says series creator and executive producer Chris Carter.

San Francisco Examiner: ‘X-Files’ marks the plot

??-??-1994
San Francisco Examiner
‘X-Files’ marks the plot

Fox’s “The X-Files” is the guilty pleasure show of the season, a moody, atmospheric and very scary sci-fi drama that recalls “Twin Peaks” or “Silence of the Lambs” in its intensely credible portrayal of the, shall we say, otherworldly. It may not make you a believer (and the great thing about the show is, it’s not out to), but you’ll sure have fun considering the possibilities.

Abduction by extra-terrestrials. Government-sponsored human genetics experiments. Spontaneous combustion. The Jersey Devil. Jack the Ripper. Cover -ups, conspiracies, cults. “The X-Files” is “Unsolved Mysteries” for sophisticates. Created and usually written by Chris Carter, “The X-Files” premiered in September and has built a following in its 9 p.m. Friday time slot that, while loyal, amounts to a mere blip in the Nielsens. Nonetheless, Fox has recently ordered a full season’s worth of episodes and is showcasing the series in better time slots. Monday, it gets a tryout in the two-hour Fox movie block (8 p.m, Channel 2) with two episodes back-to-back.

“The X-Files” depicts the adventures of two FBI agents who investigate the nutty top-secret stuff the Bureau (on orders from the Pentagon or the White House) doesn’t want the public to know about.

Fox Mulder (David Duchovny, who played the cross-dressing DEA agent on “Twin Peaks”) is a believer and, for that, his fast-track career has been derailed. Tortured by a recovered memory of his sister’s alien abduction when they were children (she’s been missing ever since), Mulder is obsessed yet professional, mopey but sort of funny about it.

His partner, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), is cut from the Jodie Foster-as-FBI-agent mold, methodical, cool under pressure, rational. A specialist in forensic medicine, Scully was originally assigned to discredit Mulder’s offbeat theories but she has ended up his protector, she’s come across enough evidence of governmental cover-ups to convince her that Mulder’s paranoia is justified. In their impassioned on-going debate, Mulder represents the metaphysical, Scully the logical. But it’s within the vast gray area between these poles that “The X-Files” does its most sneakily entertaining work.

“The X-Files” hangs on The Big “What If?” but deftly avoids both New Age schmaltz and tabloid-TV schlock. Like its leading characters, “The X -Files” maintains a detached yet curious tone, the suspense builds almost imperceptibly and then you suddenly realize you’re on the edge of your seat. Like “Twin Peaks” or “Miami Vice,” “The X-Files” draws you in with the force of its conviction and the dark edginess of its vision. For sheer chill factor, it’s the spookiest thing on the tube since “The Twilight Zone.”

For its special Monday showing, Fox is repeating “The X-Files”‘ pilot episode (8 p.m.), followed by the best episode so far (9 p.m.), in which Mulder and Scully go to the Arctic to investigate mysterious deaths at a government research outpost where scientists are drilling down into the ice to take core samples from prehistoric times.

The episode borrows heavily from both “The Thing” and “Alien”; the scientists have unknowingly dug up prehistoric wormy creatures that enter victims through bodily orifices and mess up their hormones so they become highly aggressive, jumpy and super-strong. Isolated in the middle of snow fields with an ever-shrinking band of hysterics (and then there were three . . .), Mulder and Scully get to be even more paranoid than usual, suspecting each other of being a worm-infested murderer. Cool!

Despite such phenomena as gnarly killer worms and thermonuclear alien beings, “The X-Files” is not your basic Weekly World News geekshow. What makes it worth your time is that it’s open to all possibilities, including the possibility that there’s a scientific explanation for everything. It’s not that the writers yank your emotions and then cop out. It’s just that the show suggests skepticism, restraint and scientific research before entertaining otherworldly answers.

Without preaching, “The X-Files” acknowledges the vulnerability that makes us want to believe. In a recent episode, Mulder and Scully flip-flopped attitudes. She was convinced of a Death Row serial killer’s psychic powers and his ability to channel the dead, her father had just died and she desperately needed to hear his voice clearing up unfinished business between them. This time, Mulder was the skeptic, warning her about charlatans who play on fears and yearnings.

As we approach the end of the century, belief in angels is the hottest trend and new revelations are emerging daily about government radiation experiments on unwitting Americans. In its distrust of the powers that be and its tug-of-war between the intellectual and the spiritual, “The X -Files” has captured the profound confusion of the times.

Boston Herald: Cult hit asks ‘Why not?’

??-??-1994
Boston Herald
Cult hit asks ‘Why not?’

Genetically engineered twins. A psychopath who starts fires with his mind. Aliens inside human hosts.

The latest edition of the National Enquirer? Tomorrow’s ‘Geraldo’?

Nope, it’s just another Friday night on ‘The X-Files,’ a 4-month-old Fox series that is developing a loyal cult following faster than you can say ‘Twin Peaks.’ ‘X-Files’ targets other worlds

And no wonder Network TV doesn’t get much weirder than this mystery-thriller-drama that’s one part ‘Twilight Zone,’ one part ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and one part pure paranoia. Each hour-long episode revolves around FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny), an agency outcast who spends his time investigating unexplainable cases. He’s aided – and sometimes hindered – by level-headed partner Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson). ‘The show is about the collision of the mundane world and extraordinary reality,’ says Duchovny, who played a transvestite FBI agent on three episodes of ‘Twin Peaks.’ ‘The tension and the excitement comes when one of the two worlds has to adjust to incorporate the other one.’

Mulder is the bridge between the two universes, an intelligent man whose willingness to accept the possibility that Something Is Out There originated during childhood, when his sister was mysteriously abducted. Since then, he’s been obsessed with all things paranormal.

‘He’s someone that could have had a very thriving career in the mainstream of the FBI,’ says Duchovny, ‘yet he’s chosen to pursue something that means something to him and has therefore given up everything and become kind of a laughingstock.’ Ratings for ‘X-Files’ are low by network standards, but the folks at Fox consider it one of their hottest new shows. That’s because it’s attracting a large percentage of the network’s target audience – men and women ages 18-34. Moreover, word of mouth from — both critics and audiences has been excellent.

All of which is good news to creator and executive producer Chris Carter, a former journalist who came up with the idea for ‘X-Files’ while researching examples of paranormal activity for a possible series.

‘I thought there must be a branch of the FBI that investigates these cases that involve unexplained phenomenon,’ he says. ‘The FBI doesn’t cop to any such branch, but I can’t imagine that it doesn’t exist.’

While ‘X-Files’ is clearly science fiction, its creator insists the phenomena explored in each episode aren’t complete fantasies.

‘All of them spring from some tidbit of scientific fact,’ says Carter. ‘Then we proceed on the big ‘what if?’ ‘