An Epitaph of Sorts

1992 saw the launch of a series that never should have been.  The X-Files was a Sci-Fi show that generally had no gadgets in it, it was a fantasy show that had two people trying to explain everything, one of whom was constantly towing the mainstream line.  In fact, the critic of the two, one Dana Scully, was so close-minded you often wanted to strangle her.  And there was no sex.  By that I don’t mean there wasn’t at least one gratuitous scene every week, I mean none of the characters seemed to have a sex.  Mulder watched porn, but it was more of a running gag than anything.  Scully didn’t wear anything sensual.  There was never the addition of a strikingly attractive woman to keep the audience interested (a la Star Trek).  The two characters never even kissed while the show was running.

And yet it was a hit!  A big one.  And new subgenre was born, one that bucked traditional wisdom about Sci Fi/Fantasy.  Even better, many of the episodes made the audience pause every once in a while.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer shouldn’t have worked either, but it has its own cult following.  Same with Angel (consider the premise, a gorgeous guy who can never be happy and who has to avoid any female relationships).  Hercules had possibly the worst lead actor since the Original Star Trek and its scripts were often intentionally corny, yet it was on top of its time slot when it went off the air.  They each had different outlooks, attacked societal concerns in different ways, poked fun of themselves and others through the sense of humor of their creators, but each were unique and in their own way priceless.

Something changed around 2000, though.  The mainstream found a way to absorb many new elements of the subgenre while steering clear of those elements that gave the shows their edge.  I suppose that is the way of big business t.v. and it admittedly it has produced intriguing television; Being Human comes to mind.

I am just sad for what we’ve lost along the way.  Cleopatra 2525 might have proven just as interesting and thought-provoking as Hercules if it had survived a couple seasons.  Dark Angel’s exploration of the government and fresh technological developments made for a tantalizing show to lose (and it with a stunning pair of stars).  The grime of the scenery and the questionable intelligence of Firefly’s hero could not be overcome with the catchy dialogue; even filling the screen with an ever-present fear of zombies wasn’t enough.  Dollhouse was simply too intellectual.

There will always be shows that have appealing aspects for fans of what we lost; banter is easy enough to generate with an intelligent cast and an excellent actor can improve any show.  And an episode once in a while that hits on deeper themes is acceptable on a popular show.  What that subgenre had, however, was priceless.  Ideas and subjects that were not developed to appeal to a broader audience but were nevertheless both intelligent and fun.  I miss them, and I hope that a time comes when shows like them can stay on the air for more than a season or two.

About Cian Beirdd

I live with my kitty, and encourage his tuna and catnip addictions. I have a website as well;
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2 Responses to An Epitaph of Sorts

  1. Never could get though an entire episode of X-Files or Buffy. Didn’t grab me. But Garry and I just finished watching all three seasons of Forever Knight (on DVD), the vampire cop show set in Toronto and we loved it.

    I’ve always been a bit of a trekkie, though I like Next Gen better than the original (but the original was much funnier because Shatner is unintentionally hilarious). For me, science fiction only works if it has an idea behind it. A concept. The plot has to bow to the concept or it’s just regular fiction.

    I’m terribly old school.

    • Cian Beirdd says:

      I agree, but I would argue that Star Trek (which I also watch, Enterprise through Voyager) is designed for the mainstream. Buffy is all about a feminine hero making her way in a patriarchal society. It’s fun but there is always that in the background. The second most powerful person is always Willow, even before she has magic she is smarter and better with computers than Xander or Giles. Firefly is about sticking it to the man, who is so corrupt that it will kill people to hide the horrible crimes it’s committed. Think the James brothers only having a hard moral line about hurting the innocent that they refuse to cross. Both shows were funny because they both had intelligent casts and brilliant creators, but that would never keep me either. It what lies beneath that interests me.

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