The truth is out there in Hollywood. You just have to read through the lines.
In honor of Sunday night’s return of “The X-Files” on Fox, here are some of the truths I learned recently during the Television Critics Association tour in Pasadena, Calif.
To be totally honest, I didn’t love the first of the six “X-Files” episodes that are part of the reboot of a series that ended 13 years ago and had two movie versions, the last in 2008.
Since it ended so long ago, it was understandable that creator Chris Carter spent so much time explaining who Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) were and what they’ve been up to lately.
It just wasn’t that interesting. Perhaps subsequent episodes will improve.
Carter believes the present is ripe for more stories of conspiracy theories and alien visitation.
“We’re living in a time now when there’s a tremendous amount of distrust of authority, government, even the media,” said Carter. “And so this is a really interesting time to be telling ‘X-Files’ stories. Conspiracy sites are chockablock with the most outrageous stuff, but some of it actually is quite plausible, and I think that’s what you find in the mythology episodes here. I’ve kind of cherry picked through some of the things that are frightening to me, the prospect of them are frightening.”
“We have an opportunity here, and it is a chance to make good on a promise, that we are coming back for a reason … to do really fresh, original material, not a victory lap. This is an opportunity to show people that the show has more life to it.”
And truthfully, possibly make a third movie.
John Travolta, who plays attorney Robert Shapiro in the FX miniseries “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” gave the perfect response when asked if doing a news conference for his first TV project in 40 years brought back memories of doing one for “Welcome Back Kotter.”
“Well, interestingly enough, and fortunately enough, ‘Welcome Back Kotter’ wasn’t critically, let’s say, dependent,” said Travolta to laughter.
Truer words were never spoken here. I doubt “The X-Files” reboot is critically dependent, either.
The power of Netflix seems to have made network and cable executives a little nervous. That’s partly because the streaming service doesn’t rely on advertising and doesn’t tell how many viewers its series gets.
“I think it’s ridiculous that we don’t have usage numbers on Netflix,” said FX President John Landgraf. “I can understand the debate about secrecies sparked by Edward Snowden. Right? We are having a debate about whether we should have secrecy in the national security state from a guy that released a bunch of data. But I think we can all agree that there’s probably … some information that a national security apparatus has the right to keep secret. That’s important for our national security. I don’t know that I feel the same way about television usage data.”
NBC researcher Alan Wurtzel gave a presentation that downplayed the harm the streaming service is doing to the broadcast networks. He even came up with viewer figures for Netflix shows based on some questionable methods.
According to Wurtzel, even popular Netflix and Amazon series like “Master of None,” “Narcos” and “Jessica Jones” and “Man in the High Castle” don’t get audiences that are half or a third as large as networks shows like “Big Bang Theory,” “Empire,” “Blindspot” and “Blacklist.” He added that viewership for streaming series decline significantly after a month or so.
“The point is this, is the contemporary environment changing?” said Wurtzel. “Yes. Is it challenging? No question. … Has this affected everybody? Absolutely. Does it mean that this is sort of the death knell of broadcast networks? Well as that famous media pundit Mark Twain has said, ‘The reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated.’ So that’s my story. I’m sticking to it.”
Truthfully, I’m not buying Wurtzel’s argument for much longer and I told him afterward. I can’t tell you how many people of all ages tell me they don’t watch broadcast network shows now that they’ve found Netflix.
Broadcast networks are safe now because they still get the majority of viewing. But long-term, as younger viewers ignore them, they are in danger.
FX’s Landgraf made news a year ago by saying there was too much good television. This year, he did something no political candidate would do. He praised the opposition, including HBO, Netflix, Amazon, Showtime and several other cable channels.
It seemed to be his way of saying that his 2015 remarks were misinterpreted. He meant there was too much good television to make it a good business.
He noted that the list of 409 series that FX named in mid-December was off by three because they missed that many shows. “So counting television series, it’s like counting lemmings,” said Landgraf. “Right? Hopefully, they won’t all run off a cliff and plunge to their deaths into the ocean.”
Landgraf acknowledged that there can never be too much good television, which his critics pointed out.
“I’m not saying that more television doesn’t beget more good television,” said Landgraf. “I’m saying that from a business standpoint and increasingly from a consumer standpoint, it’s hard to launch shows. I think it’s harder and harder for consumers to see good shows.”
I agree. I didn’t get to binge watch Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” until this week and had to ignore several shows premiering to do so.
And now for something completely different: Zach Galifianakis playing journalist.
Louie C.K. was asked during a session for “Baskets,” the FX comedy he co-created, when he plans to do another season of his Emmy-winning FX comedy “Louie.”
“I don’t know,” he said.” “I think about it sometimes and don’t know yet.
Galifianakis asked how often he thinks about it.
“Every 48 days,” said Louie.
Like a good journalist, Galifianakis followed up and asked where he is in the cycle.
“I just reset the clock at zero,” said Louie to laughter.
Truthfully, I’m more interested in when Larry David plans to do another season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
...Caitlyn Jenner, promoting the second season of the E! series “I Am Cait,” had a funny line when a fawning critic told her “you always look so fantastic” and asked what she does to stay in shape and keep her skin “so nice.”
“Eat your Wheaties,” cracked Jenner.
Truthfully, many critics in the audience in their 40s or under didn’t get that Cait was referring to the endorsement received for winning the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics.