Last year, Twentieth Television’s new “The X-Files” turned international heads at the Los Angeles Screenings, four months before the show even premiered to U.S. audiences.
Since then, the show has caught on in such international territories as Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Spain, and has built into a Friday night ratings power for FBC.
The key to the show’s success, its creators say, is its blend of fact-based “weird science” and the universal fright appeal of the unknown. “There are some really creepy episodes of this show that get under your skin and turn you into a raving psychotic even though you know the two leads are going to get out of it OK,” says USA today television critic Matt Roush.
“In terms of the sort of ‘fantastic’ franchises out there, ‘X-Files’ possesses a sort of special kind of terror,” he adds.
“We haven’t seen that kind of scary anthology since the 1960s or 1970s . . . where the show really dares to get under your skin.”
Before FBC slotted the new “X-Files” into what had been a weak 9 p.m. (ET) slot on Fridays, the show had already created a buzz with international buyers.
“‘X-Files’ was a bit of a surprise, because we all knew very little about it upfront,” says Marion Edwards, senior vice president for Twentieth Century Fox International Television.
“The paranormal aspects of the show are fascinating to people of every culture. Even though it’s a strictly American-style, one-hour show, it’s really universal in its theme,” she said.
Internationally, “X-Files” is posting strong young adult demographics for such leading broadcasters as Spain’s Antena 3 TV, where it airs in Monday’s 10:30 p.m. time slot, and on Australia’s Network Ten, where it runs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m.
Domestically, FBC had dedicated much of its Friday promotional efforts to the new 8 p.m. Western spoof “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.” early in the season, but since beefing up promotions for “X-Files” at 9 p.m., the show has taken off in the ratings.
In fact, its season finale on May 13 generated the best ratings for households and adults age 18 to 49 for any FBC series ever on a Friday night, scoring an 8.8 Nielsen Media Research rating (percentage of TV homes) and a 16 share (percentage of sets in use) and 7.2/23, respectively, in those categories.
“When people began hearing about the name ‘X-Files,’ there was a lack of awareness about what this show really is,” says Dan McDermott, FBC senior vice president of current programming and specials.
“Once people start to watch the show, what they find is that it’s one of the most original creative shows on television today,” he said.
“It’s a little bit sci-fi, a little bit paranormal, and involves the belief — or at least the acceptance of the potential belief — in the paranormal,” he said.
“What we do best is take the story and try to make it as believable as possible, and that’s where the big scare lies,” says series creator and executive producer Chris Carter.