How Fox Can Use the 24 Blueprint to Make The X-Files Work

We think it's the perfect time to bring The X-Files back. Here's how it can happen...

The X-Files: the truth was out there, does anyone want it back?

There is talk The X-Files — known in some circles as the forefather of watching television while simultaneously chatting about it on the internet — could be returning to Fox. You probably already know that.

Once Fox executives confirmed what we’ve all speculated about for years, X-Philes, as the most fanatical followers of the series called themselves, rejoiced. Hashtags sprung and suddenly #XFiles2015 seemed like a foregone conclusion because that’s how the internet works. It’s still a long way off, and in the television business things can fall apart fast, but it seems all the ingredients are coming together nicely to make this happen.

And it should. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully once fought the future. It’s the right time to embrace the past and bring The X-Files back to television.

We’re living in the age of event television now, where high ratings are at a premium. At its height, The X-Files averaged nearly 20 million viewers. Back then it couldn’t even crack the top ten of TV’s most watched shows. Today, it would safely be in the top three. All the more reason to invite a sleepy fan base back to live television. It’s a no-brainer move for Fox — especially coming off the well-received and highly-rated return of 24: Live Another Day.

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From a creative standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to make a third feature film seven years after The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Even though it more than doubled its budget with modest box office take of $69 million, few would consider the film a successful outing for the franchise. Let’s call what the 2008 film was: A lukewarm Monster-of-the-Week episode. That’s no way for Mulder and Scully to go out.

In 1998, the first feature film, The X-Files: Fight the Future, took in north of $180 million coming off the show’s highest-rated season. Using a limited “event” series, as Fox called 24: LAD, to build up to a third and final (hopefully better) film is something I can get behind.

Since the story broke, many have expressed excitement. Some detractors chose to look through the cynical lens: leave these shows in the past, they had their time. But what have broadcast networks, Fox more specifically, given us recently in the science-fiction genre?  

Importing Gracepoint was a mistake to put it nicely, Sleepy Hollow dropped off after a solid freshman season and outside of Fringe, which itself was barely a fringe hit, and 10 seasons of Bones, why should we be confident that they’ll find the next X-Files?

I can understand the counterargument, that shows that drag for as long as Chris Carter’s sci-fi thriller do often run their course. The X-Files definitely did after its final two seasons, losing the luster of its heyday while still remaining a highly enjoyable show with essentially two new leads. A decline is inevitable when shows are given orders for seasons with 20, 22 or 24 episodes, creatively exhausting writers, actors and crew members. That’s why they jump the shark way earlier than anyone would like. But that doesn’t mean you have to throw away the premise.

Fox is toying with the idea of doing 24 without Jack Bauer. It’s not a bad idea. 24: LAD was a fun ride and Yvonne Strahovski as Kate Morgan, Jack’s female counterpart, showed she was a worthy candidate to takes Jack’s place. The format still holds, and it proved its worth in a limited run of 12 episodes — the full 24 episodes would have been far too much.

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As for The X-Files, pairing Mulder and Scully up again, restoring what fans were was mostly deprived of during seasons eight and nine, would be the best reward for fans who always wanted to believe they’d one day return in a meaningful way (that’s another shot at the 2008 film, which we’ll have to soon do a retrospective on). Let’s take the glass half full approach here: All the time away from the project could pump life into the characters and spark exciting new storylines. Hopefully, a reboot can introduce a new generation to the monsters-of-week and the agents who put their lives on the line to hunt them down. 

Bringing these “event” series back from the dead makes sense for Fox, enough for them to have interest in 24, Prison Break and The X-Files all returning. There’s something to the “Netflix effect.” Maybe Fox was able to secure inside information on how well those shows have done on streaming sites.

Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are the leaders now. Everyone else is busy chalking up ways to follow them into offering a subscription model to compliment traditional cable boxes. Until there’s a reliable à la carte service that lets you only pay for the channels you want to watch (we predict that may come sooner than later), cable boxes will still be here and networks will continue to scramble to create “must-watch” programming to attract advertisers.

Here’s an idea: Let’s relive the ’90s and 2000s in a two-hour block. Jack Bauer (or his successor) with Mulder and Scully. That’s an event worth tweeting about.

Our Suggested X-Files Reading: 

Everything We Know About an X-Files Revival

I Still Want to Believe: On 20 Years of The X-Files

Best Monster-of-the-Week Episodes

You can find Chris Longo on Twitter and discuss the whereabouts of Fox “Spooky” Mulder. 

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