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Ironminds: There's No Fighting the Future

There’s No Fighting the Future
Tim Goodman

All signs are pointing to this being the last season for The X-Files. Somehow, many people have overlooked this.

Fans of The X-Files have been waiting for the truth a lot of years now. The truth they are about to hear probably isn’t what they were expecting: The show is over.

Anyone who thinks there’s even the smallest amount of hope for another season is living in some kind of elaborately constructed Chris Carter dream world that is wonderfully disconnected to the truly ugly, often horrifying world of Hollywood.

Given that fans of the show – and I’ve been one since the pilot episode – tend to know events months before they appear in print or in episodes, there’s been a surprisingly paltry amount of information about what is essentially a sure thing: that The X-Files, one of the few television shows in history that changed how we view TV, is about to embark on a farewell journey, the medium’s equivalent of a retiring athlete coming off of the sidelines in every ballpark in every city and giving that last, fond wave goodbye.

Only this time the whole parade thing has been terribly mismanaged. And if it’s not fixed soon, it will end up becoming the anti-Seinfeld. the most underhyped, disappointing sendoff since Alf left the schedule with nary a tear.

Where are the TV Guide covers? Where are the long, droning analysis pieces that document all the intriguing but ultimately frustrating twists and turns that have come to be the trademark of this show? Where are the maudlin three-minutes-with-symphonic-sound sendoffs from Entertainment Tonight? Finally, when can we see that issue from Entertainment Weekly that recaps every single episode in a collector’s edition?

These people better get busy. Not even the Cigarette Smoking Man and all his infinite connections can stop the grave-digging for this show.

The refusal to believe and report on the doomed X-Files is fascinating in its own way. Has show creator Chris Carter worked his magic so well – you know, his art of telling us that big secrets will be revealed only to parcel out a small revelation and cover it with 15 other mysteries – that no one is buying the most obvious of signs?

A year ago, in front of the nation’s TV critics in Pasadena, California, Carter could barely muster a feeble effort to persuade everyone that the show was fine, that the actors were happy, that no end was in sight. In fact, Carter said he could see an end where the show was over but a series of movies would, like Star Trek before it, live on the big screen and prosper nicely.

Carter did allude to the fact that the show wouldn’t go on with just Gillian Anderson, whose current contract runs longer than David Duchovny’s. It wasn’t powerfully definitive – which certainly creates a wildcard scenario for the future. But this much is true:

In July, facing those very same critics, Carter said he’s writing this season as the last. He’s closing loopholes. He didn’t bar a miracle, didn’t sit stubbornly on any absolute, but calmly and quietly said the show was ending. Not long after, Duchovny arrived and said the same thing, more artfully than he has before, without the exclamation points that are probably necessary for everyone to believe he’s telling the truth, but nonetheless making the point that his contract is up and he’s moving on.

Surprisingly, very little of that actually filtered out through the media. And the fans, usually with their senses finely tuned to any kind of potential doom, didn’t respond with a feverish online campaign – de rigeur these days – to save the show.

This is perhaps the show’s finest attribute: It has turned a post-Watergate America into an audience of ever more determined cynics and conspiracy theorists – so much so that nobody wants to believe the very obvious evidence that the show is ending. This is brilliant of course, and more than a tad ironic.

Given that people waver and that anything is possible in Hollywood, and even that the dollar is almighty and creative people can be swayed by giant networks (meaning that the show could go on without Duchovny), you have to believe that the latest twist to this saga has all but ruled out future seasons:

Duchovny sued Fox for selling the show into syndication – to its own cable channel and network of broadcast stations – for considerably less than it would have gone for on the open market, thus cheating him out of millions of dollars in rerun money. In the suit, he slapped Carter – in a very calculated, public way – saying that Carter was paid hush money by the network to go along with the syndication deal and that Carter would continue to receive favorable placement for his future shows on the network.

If you have trouble understanding what that really means, let’s break it down into this: Duchovny said Carter stabbed everyone on the show in the back and took the money, too.

How’s that for a great working relationship?

The suit is the proverbial straw. This is a marriage that can’t be saved (reconciliation for future movies is a possibility, but none of the players will want to be around each other for more than this final season; you’ll have to trust in that).

Aside from the negative feeling this will engender even if there will be, as expected, a very public make-up session between the two, these facts are still on the table: Nobody but Duchovny was happy about moving the show from Vancouver to Los Angeles, a move Duchovny wanted – and got – in a power play. The move was because his wife, Tea Leoni, was in a show that filmed in L.A. Never mind that Leoni’s show, The Naked Truth, was abysmal and soon to be canceled.

In addition, the actors on The X-Files have never gotten along well, Duchovny is under the impression he’s a film star (and he might be someday, but right now he’s David Caruso without the red hair). The X-Files movie, while not a complete flop, was seen as a failure. And the show never recovered creatively after the movie – even with the notoriously slack-cutting audience, it was hard to believe Scully would be so unchanged after all she’d seen. Furthermore, the whole season seemed anticlimactic.

While the show may not be played out entirely, it needs a creative infusion in the worst way. Carter knows this. He’s promised a season of revelation like no other. Let’s hope he delivers. Because even if the ticker-tape parade hasn’t been finalized just yet and the corporate suits at Fox are feverishly devising ways to get another year out of the show, it’s all over but the crying.


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