A few weeks ago, Gillian Anderson, known to us most recently as the icily formidable English police officer Stella Gibson on The Fall, unleashed an interesting question on Twitter. It was this: "Mulder, it's me. Are you ready?"
And with that came an avalanche of coverage – The X-Files is being revived for a short-run "event" on Fox. Anderson back as Scully, David Duchovny as Mulder, looking into strange, unknowable events and conspiracies.
It's not the only old show to be the subject of a reboot or revival. There's now a long list of coming or promised revivals, from the sublime to the ridiculous.
Asked about his show's revival and the trend, X-Files creator Chris Carter seemed to have mixed feelings. He told The Daily Beast, "The cynical part of me says this is programming by feather duster. This is the stuff that's worked before, and because it's worked before there's a possibility it can work again. The other part of me says that if something is good, that doesn't necessarily mean it's over. It's not just sitting on the shelf gathering dust, it's actually accruing value."
That's fair comment. At a time when an ever-expanding number of channels, on-demand services and streaming platforms are desperate for content, the temptation to revive a previously popular or acclaimed series is strong. As Carter says, there's a tendency to play it safe – something worked before, so it might again. And simultaneously there are TV executives who are tempted to reboot something that still has potential, has more life left in it.
Even the CBC has gotten into this trend. The announcement that the comedy Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays would return, was startling. Didn't that show simply fail to find an audience? Are all revivals a gamble, or are some no-brainers? Herewith, an assessment.
A good idea but not guaranteed to impress. With Chris Carter overseeing it, the six episodes are likely to be solid. Gillian Anderson is a far better actor now than in her X-Files days, but David Duchovny is an unknown quantity and hasn't improved as Anderson has. The original series had a fabulous writing team, including Vince Gilligan who went on to create Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. If Carter can create the ideal dynamic, it could be a six-episode stunner, not merely a nostalgia exercise.
Showtime's announced revival was intriguing, an opportunity to reboot a truly great, imaginative series now on premium cable, with all the freedom that premium cable allows. Everyone from David Lynch to creative sidekick Mark Frost to Kyle MacLachlan as FBI agent Dale Cooper was ready to do it. However, Lynch has pulled out, saying on Twitter, "I left because not enough money was offered to do the script the way I felt it needed to be done." That's a brutal blow, and unless Lynch can be persuaded to return, it's highly unlikely Showtime's Twin Peaks will be anything but feeble.
NBC's recent announcement that it was reviving the mild-mannered 1990s comedy was greeted with a mixture of derision and horror. Craig T. Nelson is set to reprise his role as Coach Hayden Fox in a sequel series, and the show will pick up 18 years after the original comedy went off the air. The idea reeks of desperation. As one of my counterparts in the TV critics racket remarked, there was no need for April Fool's jokes after that NBC announcement. But it's all true, not a joke at all. And ridiculous.
Netflix is looking to revive the sitcom, possibly as Fuller House, with a good deal of the original team (it ran on ABC from 1987 to 1995) involved. It's a worse than ridiculous idea. Perhaps it serves notice that Netflix has more money than brains in its original-programming department. The sitcom, about a widower (Bob Saget) who creates an elaborate extended family to help raise his three daughters, was always trite. Viewed through a lush nostalgia lens, some viewers think of it fondly, but a revival seems idiotic.
Michael: Tuesdays & Thursdays
CBC's decision to revive it was met with both puzzlement and cheers. While it is usually described as "critically acclaimed but little-seen," that tagline isn't quite accurate. Not every critic loved it. It's about male neurosis, which isn't everyone's bag of jolly. Essentially it's about the social-anxiety problems of Michael (Matt Watts) as he works with therapist David (Bob Martin) to overcome them. A weakness was its caricature-like depiction of women. Streamlined and less about male narcissism, it could fall somewhere between sublime and ridiculous.