The truth is out there: Network executives always need a hit. They’ll come right out and say so in a major American newspaper.
“We need some new hits,” Fox Networks Group chief Peter Rice told USA Today in 2014. “Big ones.”
Rice must be satisfied. Fox now has the ratings juggernaut and cultural vortex that is “Empire.” Averaging 13 million viewers per week, this show was the toast of Wednesday nights: unavoidable, well-dressed and tweetable. It even has songs.
But “Empire’s” finale aired last week. What’s next for Fox? The TV business is like the music business: You’re only as good as your last jam.
Enter “The X-Files.” Again.
“The good news is the world has only gotten that much stranger,” Chris Carter, the show’s creator, told the Associated Press. How he thinks of the show’s long hiatus: a “13-year commercial break.”
Carter’s right to say his 22-year-old franchise has only been on pause. Back in 1993, television was turned upside-down by the fluke success — and fast flame-out — of “Twin Peaks,” a quirky show that, at least some of the time, was about an FBI agent chasing aliens. (And, not incidentally, also featured David Duchovny as a transgendered G-Man). Fox took a chance on an hour-long drama about extraterrestrials, government conspiracies — and two FBI agents who were easy on the eyes and might, just might, get together one day.
The gamble paid off. “The X-Files” ran for nine seasons. It got Fox its first Emmy nomination. And it put “I Want to Believe” posters on countless dorm walls.
In 2015, it seems the mood is right once more, though “X-Files” planned six-episode run will not reinvent Fox. Of course, leftovers are nothing new for television. Even “Twin Peaks” is slated for a return to Showtime (if it can get into production).
The glow of nostalgia — and a prepackaged idea already familiar to viewers — has brought countless shows back from the dead, including but by no means limited to “Hawaii Five-O,” “Star Trek” and “The Twilight Zone.”
But those behind the “X-Files” better hope the reboot looks more like “Battlestar Galactica” — a stunning reimagination of a cheesy 1970s show — than like the new “Knight Rider,” which flopped in 2008.