Are Some Shows Poisoned by Nostalgia?


God help me, I’ve tried.

And I’ve tried.

And I’ve tried.

To get into the X-Files.

But I can’t.

I made it through two episodes. Then five. Then nine. And every time, I’ve given up. It’s supposedly one of the greatest science fiction shows ever made, and while I adore all the other “classics” from Twilight Zone to Firefly to Battlestar, I cannot for the life of me bring myself to get into the show.

My problems with it? At least in this string of opening episodes, it’s unbearably slow, it’s horribly procedural, and it’s often hokey. Not hokey in a fun Doctor Who way, but just plain hokey. I have literally fallen asleep during more than one episode of the show, as Mulder skulks around some dark sewer for the fifth time in six episodes. And the plot? “You’ve gotta believe me!” “You don’t have proof!” and so on, and so forth.

I’m perfectly willing to admit I might be at fault here. I have no patience, and I’m not able to understand the subtle mastery of the show. But usually everyone arguing with me about why the X-Files is so godly is biased. Not like, unreasonably or purposefully so, but they are biased because chances are, they watched the show when or around when it was actually airing, twenty years ago.


The thing is, I could understand why everyone loved it back then. For 1993, in a land of endless sitcoms and other unbearably cheesy low-budget sci-fi/fantasy, there probably wasn’t anything else like it. Back then, it would probably be a god-tier show among the wretched masses, but now?

TV is just too good.

We’re spoiled now by the amount of quality on TV. What would have been a revolutionary show twenty years ago might get cancelled at episode six this time around. Some shows I just don’t think can stand the test of time, and the X-Files is one of them.

Perhaps I’m wrong, and there are others who just started trying to watch the X-Files within the past few years and love it. But if so, I never hear from them. I only hear from die-hard fans who were watching from the start, or at least were watching live somewhere during its 1993-2002 run.

I find this happens a lot with the late ’80s/early-mid’90s, with both film and TV. Trying to go back and watch “cult classic” movies like The Lost Boys, The Crow, Escape from LA, just doesn’t work if you’re seeing them for the first time in say, 2014. They just sort of…suck, and the people that love them simply grew up with them.


Obviously lots of great movies and TV shows do stand the test of time, and are universally loved decades later from Star Wars to Star Trek, but I think a few shows are in this weird “quality limbo” where fans who grew up loving them will always love them, but those coming in cold will remain that way, cold. I’ve felt this with the X-Files three times now, and I’ve found it tough to get into a few other shows that everyone swears by, Buffy, Alias, and a couple others. I’m not ready to declare all of those “bad,” but something is simply impeding my enjoyment and ability to make progress with them.

Advice like “it gets better after season one,” is always rough to hear, because with these old shows, seasons are always 20+ forty minute episodes, as is network TV tradition. You can’t simply skip them or you miss too much build-up and backstory. But today? If you want to get into most “quality” shows, things like Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Dexter, House of Cards and so on are 8 episodes minimum, and only rarely 16 max per season. TV is more consumable now, and staring up at a wall of nine, 24-episode seasons of the X-Files to get through is daunting in and of itself.

I think I’ve lost my battle with that show once and for all. Am I to blame, or does nostalgia really produce this “you had to be there” effect which makes average shows amazing in people’s minds?



  1. Steve March 21, 2014
  2. Shawn March 21, 2014
  3. Beorn March 21, 2014
  4. Indy Z March 22, 2014
  5. goseebananafish March 22, 2014
  6. Daniel Rodriguez Diaz March 24, 2014
    • Shawn March 24, 2014
  7. Mutant Turd March 24, 2014

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