With The X-Files returning to prime-time TV with a limited six-episode event, we thought it would be a good time to revisit the show's standing in our current list of best shows from the New Golden Age of TV. It came in 3rd, behind The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. Still, it's the highest rated science-fiction show on our list, and one that helped shape the relatively recent phenomena of serialized shows with layers of mythology.

Here's our original review of the series as a whole:


THE X-FILES

What it is:
  an accomplished and brilliant FBI agent, Fox Mulder, investigates all manners of paranormal incidents the rest of the Bureau doesn't dare touch. These cases, covertly named X-Files, provide a wealth of strange, fascinating occurrences that a believer in the paranormal like Fox will pursue with an open mind. But he’s teamed with another agent, Dana Scully, who is all about the science, all about debunking Mulder’s beliefs, or at least, his theories.

Like the first two shows on this list, The X-Files has a very compelling hook, but one that's easy to follow. In this case, it's a great setup of opposing viewpoints with two characters that provide a nifty sidebar with their constant (more imagined than stated) sexual tension, but they always keep things professional, thus keeping the audience wondering, if not hoping for their eventual hookup.

The standalone episodes are fascinating and sometimes revolting on their own, and manage to keep interest while the serialized story elements are constantly revisited, particularly regarding Fox’ belief in aliens, as his sister was apparently abducted by aliens when he was a boy. The main storylines regarding aliens provide rich fascination and political intrigue, and reveal such colorful secondary characters as Cigarette Smoking Man and Mulder’s nerdy group of techy friends who live on the fringe of society.

Dishing out proper portions of political shenanigans, fantasy, horror, aliens, and even comedy, with likable, believable characters, The X-Files had us hooked right away and the fascination continued throughout most of the series and into the resulting movies after the show ran its course. However, once Fox Mulder was no longer a featured character, the show left a lot to be desired.
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So how did The X-Files affect contemporary TV? For one thing (as mentioned in the above review), the deep, rich mythology behind Mulder's pursuit of the truth regarding aliens became exemplary of how a particular character's series goal could remain dominant, but not necessarily dealt with from week-to-week (and sometimes ignored for weeks on end), thus creating more anticipation and fascination with fans. It was a storyline that was periodically revisited, and in between, standalone episodes explored other story threads. It was a hybrid of serialization and case-of-the-week storytelling done better than the few shows that attempted it in the past.

The X-Files managed to make that series-long arc tactic sexy, engaging, and fully vested to a point that fans frothed at the mouth for new insights into the main storyline, but were usually satisfied with the equally interesting standalone episodes. It was a technique so well executed it created a desire for equally compelling storytelling in other shows. And whether or not they were influenced by The X-Files, shows that came after it like Fringe, Lost, Oz, and The Sopranos benefited from the trail blazed by this quirky series about paranormal and alien activities in that they could explore deep show mythologies while providing standalone episodes that exposed individual character backstories or one-off individual cases (or other adventures) to be explored in the meantime.

Whether you enjoy science-fiction or not, you can't deny the superb storytelling of The X-Files and the effect it had on the shaping of consumers' tastes, and the effect, or road it laid, for the shows that followed it. For sure, the show lucked out with a pair of lead actors who greatly helped the show become a phenomenon with their performances, and their attention to nuance. Still, you can't deny this show's overall effect on the success, whether directly or indirectly, of many of the biggest shows of the past twenty years.

For the entire list of our favorite shows from the New Golden Era of TV please visit here:
 

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