X-Files: "Humbug" displayed the right way to poke fun
I am rewatching the X-Files for the first time since it aired. I have been enjoying it so much. Over the years I have always remained fond of Scully and Mulder. They have made just about every list we have done. In rewatching the show, I am realizing that this show should be on every top ten list. It excels right out of the gate. The characters are set, the relationship is there and it is perfect. The series grows more confident and more interesting with each episode. I could pick many topics in the ways that the writers of today's television should be studying the X-Files. I want to focus on their use of what I am calling, Elasticity. I am defining a shows elasticity as the pull that a show has in moving out of its comfort zone. How much can the writers poke fun at their characters, their concept and themselves? A show like Downton Abbey, really can't move too far off its spot or it becomes melodramatic and "soapy." Star Trek, is hit or miss at doing this. The Next Generation used the Q Character to poke fun at itself. The Original show used Shatner's acting. Although that may have been unintentional. Darin Morgan is the writer that started to poke fun at Mulder. He begins this in the episode entitled Humbug, takes it to new heights in Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose, and throws a nuclear bomb in Jose Chung's From Outer Space. It is his work in Humbug that is most daring and most subtle. It was also the first time anyone had poked fun at the characters that we have grown to love. In this episode, Scully pays $5.00 for a Barnum exhibition that turns out to be a sucker's deal. One of the "freaks" sneaks a peak at Scully's Cleavage while she sneaks a peak at his. Mulder is lambasted by Michael Anderson (Twin Peaks) for being so ruggedly good looking, but bland. Most shows don't try to poke fun of their leads and succeed.
I always found it amazing how one week they could be so serious about the government conspiracy and how we would follow Mulder to the ends of the globe for the truth and then the next week we hear him give a girly scream and they mock the way he stands like a GQ model. Darin Morgan also does this on Millennium. I would put his writing on television up there with David E Kelley, Joss Whedon and David Milch. He is a genius at turning everything we know from television upside down. This brand of humor is exactly what was missing from Lost. I would love to have seen what Darin Morgan would have written about the characters of Jack, Sawyer and Ben. To see him take a swipe at Battlestar Galactica? So Say We All. There are very few shows that are brave enough to do this to their characters and do it successfully.
Over the past few months, I have been praising Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I am also rewatching this show. Season's 2-3 are masterpieces of entertainment. Season 4 is plummet that explodes into the awful 5-7. Watching season 4 while I watch X Files is fascinating because they travel in opposite directions. Buffy makes jokes at the expense of their characters. They ruin Giles, Xander, Buffy and Willow, all over a 6 episode streak. That is an amazing feat. The viewer has so much respect for Giles over the first 56 episodes in yet they destroy him over only 6. They make him the butt of the jokes. They do with over and over on Buffy. This does not happen to Mulder or Scully. The jokes do not puncture their characters they humanize them. It is a joy to watch and a joy to behold. There are rumors of Blu Ray's coming for the X-Files, so I respect if you are waiting for them to rewatch. But if you have nothing else to watch this summer, I suggest you taking another look at this great show and you will see: The truth is still out there. Follow The Red Room on Facebook or twitter @redroompodcast