TV Preview: From ‘The X-Files’ reopening to ‘The Shannara Chronicles,’ a lot of geeky goodness coming your way to winter TV
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully and David Duchovny as Fox Mulder in “The X-Files.”( Ed Araquel / Fox)
David Duchovny as Fox Mulder in “The X-Files.”( Ed Araquel / Fox)
Gillian Anderson, left, Joel McHale and David Duchovny in “The X-Files.”(Ed Araquel / Fox)
Annet Mahendru, left, and Gillian Anderson in “The X-Files.”( Ed Araquel / Fox)
Joel McHale, left, Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in “The X-Files.”( Ed Araquel / Fox)
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in “The X-Files.”(Ed Araquel / Fox)
Expansive space operas, nostalgia-baiting reboots, comic book adaptations, fan-serving specials and an epic translation of a massive fantasy book franchise: The TV shows set to debut this winter read like a geek’s wish list.
The upsurge in genre television for 2016 shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Last year produced a bounty of science-fiction spoils and fantasy rewards for both longtime fans and new viewers. These nerd shows were more than just fan candy — they explored important cultural depths.
“Supergirl’s” Kara Danvers (played by Melissa Benoist) became the cape little kids could idealize, while “Jessica Jones” (Krysten Ritter) toppled past tropes with the introduction of her character’s anti-superhero. Animated characters from “Steven Universe” pushed against gender identity norms. Will Forte introduced an exceedingly uncomfortable but brutally realistic end of the world. And “Rick and Morty” forced the audience to examine its own meaningless existence in the universe via a burping cartoon scientist.
Spectacle dotted with analytical hindsight is the bread and butter of the geek world. Will future series live up to the legacy of the past? What’s next?
In 1993, the monster-of-the-week series “The X-Files” flung open the back door to the Internet’s conspiracy theory world and slapped a pair of charming faces on the bizarre underground. Special agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and skeptical partner Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) were your guides to the insane rabbit hole that was 1990s big-brother trolling. And it looks as though the world is still ready to believe, because the band is getting back together starting Jan. 24 for a six-episode miniseries on Fox. Series creator Chris Carter has returned with classic “X-Files” characters such as the Smoking Man and the Lone Gunmen in hopes of channeling chills from the series with the familiar whistling title opening.
But how can a show that was so innately tied to a past paranoia reach a generation with its own fresh fears? Perhaps by taking on the doubters head on with a new character, over-the-top conservative news anchor and staunch conspiracy theorist Tad O’Malley, played by Joel McHale. He knows all past classified government cases by memory (seriously, Mulder quizzes O’Malley about random UFO cases upon their first meet and greet), but maybe that’s just what the government wants him to know? It should be interesting to see how a new age of “The X-Files” will adapt to the social media age. And how can Mulder and Scully fight against the man if they’re apparently working for him?
We saw it happen to “Battlestar Galactica” and “Game of Thrones.” Now Terry Brooks’ fantasy series from the 1970s and ‘80s, “The Shannara Chronicles,” is getting run through the Hollywood hot machine thanks to MTV. (See “MTV’s Big Fantasy” on E14). Also mined from the 1970s is HBO’s “Westworld.”
Little is known about this secretive series, besides the cast. And it’s impressive: Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton, James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood. Series creators Jonathan Nolan (writer of “Interstellar” and show runner for “Person of Interest”) and Lisa Joy are adapting Michael Crichton’s 1973 thriller (starring Yul Brynner) into something new. However, it appears that the original premise is intact: In the future, there’s an amusement park filled with humanoid robots that can re-create various scenarios for high-paying customers, including a vintage Wild, Wild West experience complete with gunslingers and boozy saloons. As all good things normally do, things go awry one day and the robots change. The original film is an often-forgotten but nonetheless compelling look at our own value of life. And with J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk included as executive producers, there’s a lot of anticipation that the androids will do more than seduce high-paying customers in old-timey bordello dresses. Of course, it’s HBO, so there will be some of that, but we’re hoping for more than salacious robot relations.
If you’re looking for blood, dust and sacrilege, perhaps AMC’s translation of the supernatural comic “Preacher” may tempt you. Spearheaded by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the western drama stars a super-powered preacher (Dominic Cooper), a drunken Irish vampire (Joseph Gilgun) and a sharpshooter (Ruth Negga) who go looking for God on the back roads of Texas. The comics have a cult following because of the truly twisted pack of characters and irreverence to the sacred material the plot tackles. If you thought things got weird and bloody for the cast of “Walking Dead,” hold on to your hat. We’ve seen only glimpses of this series, but the comic sets up a pretty big world for the show to play in. Fingers crossed that AMC can execute it.
Also pinging on our radar is a reawakening of “The Powerpuff Girls” from the Cartoon Network, Fox’s devil-went-down-to-Los Angeles series “Lucifer” (also adapted from Vertigo comics) and a grandiose space opera airing on Syfy, “The Expanse.”
For the record: An earlier version of this article said that “Lucifer” would be on the CW.
Pair this list with returning champs “Mr. Robot,” “Orphan Black” and “The 100,” and you’ve got a virtual onslaught of geeky goodies headed your way. So step off, sexy doctors hooking up in the break room, we have 201 episodes of “The X-Files” that need to be marathoned, right now.
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