The X-Files at 20
The X-Files is 20! This write-up by Brian Phillips isn't great, but this paragraph is a great description of the "monster of the week" episodes:
The X-Files was probably the first great TV show to be galvanized by the Internet and the last great TV show to depict a world in which the Internet played no part. Its fan culture found a home online early in the series' run, but though the role of computers became both more central and more realistic as the show progressed,3 it was possible at least through the fifth season or so to see the Web as a distraction, something with no important bearing on anyone's life. Remember when you could turn it on and off? We often credit the Internet with the disintegration of the old American monoculture, because it liberated us to be absorbed by our own interests, to spend our time downloading obscure anime, say, rather than caring about Madonna or ABC. But the Internet also created a new type of monoculture: It made every place accessible to every other place. We could no longer assume that the peculiarities of our own environments were private. Our hometown murders might appear on The world of small-town X-Files episodes is still that older world of extreme locality, where everyone in town grows up knowing that the rules here are different and we handle it ourselves. Children vanish or trees kill people or bright lights appear in the sky, but there is no higher authority to appeal to and it has nothing to do with what goes on 10 miles down the road. In my hometown we knew that the spillway by the lake was where you painted a memorial if your friend was killed in a drunk-driving crash. It's the same thing. Here is here. And this, it goes without saying, is just the opposite of the here-is-everywhere world inhabited by the conspiracy, which is global in scale, utterly connected, and ruled by pseudonymous men whose flat-affect, no-eye-contact meetings were almost the personification of a chat window.
In fact, I wrote something similar to this a while ago about The X-Files:
Fringe is a modern-day knock off of X Files. From what I've seen it follows the same mythology/MOTW structure. I don't mean that as an insult; I enjoyed what I saw of Fringe in its first season (Lance Reddick and Kirk Acevedo are great), but I just didn't have the time to keep watching it. A problem with Fringe is that I don't really believe it the way I did with X Files. X Files happened in a time when it was possible to have government conspiracies to cover up aliens or a fluke man swimming in the sewers all just beneath the public's view. Today a satanic cult of teachers would get tweeted before it killed any school children. A freaky carnival killer would get seen by Google street view. Messages boards would gin up all those monsters of the week and spill them out onto local TV news.
A great show, and worth another watch some time. Thanks to my brother for the link.
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