The X-Files: A hungry tiger


Ratings-wise, The X-Files has just swallowed its own tail. — Entertainment Weekly

Entertainment Weekly is reporting that The X-Files’ premiere on Sunday night beat its own series finale 13 years ago. Variety says the combination of on-time and delayed viewers exceeds 20 million, which is higher than The X-Files entire fifth season, which was its highest rated. And it’s not a fluke caused by the premiere following the NFC championship game: Forbes reports that Monday night’s episode “dominated its time slot at 9.2 million viewers”. Can we say “pent-up demand”?

This is going to create a real dilemma for Fox, Chris Carter, and his cast and writers if, as seems likely, the ratings continue to be this high going forward. What happens if this six-episode miniseries continues to garner high ratings? What if the fans’ hunger for more of Mulder and Scully is not slaked by a mere six hours? What started out as an exercise in nostalgia television may turn out to be a hungry tiger. Carter and Fox may be willing to continue the series, but what of Anderson and Duchovny’s other commitments? Both of them have said they don’t want to return to the grueling 22+ episodes a week of The X-Files 1.0. Duchovny is committed to at least 13 episodes a year for his NBC show, Aquarius. Anderson has even stated that she’s ready for a fourth season of her BBC series, The Fall. So it’s a little hard to see how they’re going to sandwich in another series.

The good news for us is that we own the show. — Dana Walden, of Fox Networks

But neither Carter, Anderson nor Duchovny own this show: it’s the property of Fox Networks, which is probably salivating at the idea of replacing, say, the aging American Idol. Personally, I can’t imagine a more popcorn-worthy moment than watching Fox and BBC duking it out for the services of Gillian Anderson, or NBC starting a war with Fox for David Duchovny. But that’s unlikely; at this point I think it far more likely that Fox might try to prolong the show by bringing in other X-Files agents. Which they did before, with very mixed results. We’ll be getting Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) back, without Robert Patrick (Scorpion), but the Smoking Man (William Davis) is already back. Maybe we’ll see Reyes and Cancerman pitted against one another, with Mitch Pileggi’s Walter Skinner refereeing the match. But it won’t be the same. The fans will want their Mulder and Scully.

I think there are an endless number of X-Files stories to tell. Every day I write down a new idea. — Chris Carter, TV Guide

Will they get them? Possibly. It will depend entirely on the response of X-Philes. I think what we’re seeing is not  just a bunch of middle aged fans taking a trip down memory lane. Showbuzzdaily claims that Monday’s episode scored a 2.1 among the coveted 18-34 age demographic, the one most likely to bring advertisers to Fox. And they were watching with Mom and Dad: the 25-54 age group scored a crushing 4.1, wiping out all competitors in its time slot. With numbers like that, it’s no wonder Fox is talking about extending the mini-series to 2017. Is it possible? It will depend on whether this tiger gets hungry enough.