X-citement grows for hot TV show

Somewhere, out there in the spooky darkness, they’re cloning by the thousands.

For most of the week, these creatures, called “X”-Philes, look much like any other average humanoid, in California, Chicago or New York.

But that’s just a front. In secret these closet aliens feed their heads with UFO sightings, supernatural powers, psychic phenomena and the like. And every Friday at 9 p.m. ET (on Global in Toronto) they congregate behind closed doors in homes across the United States and Canada for ritual viewing of The X-Files, the sizzling hot, paranormal-skewed Fox TV show that holds more and more of us in thrall. Since its debut in September, The X-Files has grown steadily into a cult phenomenon, a Twilight Zone of the ’90s for thinking men and women who’d rather ponder invisible cosmic truths than go out and party down on a Friday night.

“My husband, Bob, and I look forward to curling up on Friday nights together and watching X- Files,” said “X”-Phile Suzi Cassidy, 26, a buyer for the University of California, Irvine’s, computer store, who grew up watching Twilight Zone reruns.

“I’ve been watching X-Files since its pilot,” Cassidy said. “It’s popular because it’s daring and intelligent. The stories seem plausible. Sure, this stuff can happen. Who’s to say there aren’t UFOs?”

When X first marked the spot with its tales of UFO sightings and genetic mutation at the beginning of the ’93-’94 TV season, its ratings were in the Nielsen basement, ranking No. 80 or below. But as the X-Files virus spread, ratings grew to recent respectable Nielsen numbers of 8.2 and 8.6. (One ratings point equals 942,000 households.)

While it’s still not within shouting distance of Roseanne, it’s moved ahead of such other Fox cellar-dwellers as The Adventures Of Brisco County and Front Page. The network has already signed X-Files for a full ’94-’95 season of 24 episodes.

So hot is the X-citement right now that even the hard-nosed, high-browed New Yorker magazine recently gave X-Files a lengthy, extravagantly positive review.

But the biggest X-Files buzz of all takes place on the computer Internet, where on an average day more than 800 messages are listed in a special newsgroup called alt.tv.x-files, posted from viewers as far away as Canberra, Australia, and Vancouver, (where X-Files is filmed).

“With X-Files we’re playing on universal fears of the unknown,” said Chris Carter, 37, creator/executive producer/writer of the series, who prefers to call his show “speculative science” instead of “science fiction”.

“I think we all live in fear, and a lot of the time we just deny that we do.”

As created by Carter, the appeal of X-Files is clever and clear.

Take some shivery, unresolved FBI cases involving aliens, reincarnation, or liver-eating cannibals, and call them the “X” files. Add a seductively mysterious and caustic leading man, FBI agent Fox Mulder (David Duchovny). Toss in a sexy flame-haired female agent, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson).

Mix together with an FBI plot to keep Scully and Mulder from learning about the U.S. government’s full involvement in these cases, just to keep the paranoia level high.

 
 
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