The 20th anniversary of The X-Files has got me thinking not just about that show, which was once so wonderful and then sort of faded out, but also Lost, the other great failed landing of American serial TV. At one time I loved both these shows, but now I'm done with them. The way I'm done with them is different with each, though, and it made me realize The X-Files and Lost perfectly sum up every single failed relationship I've ever had.
The X-Files is a relationship that, when you look back at it, began kind of square, but in the moment it was fresh and new. It was a little awkward at first - you kind of started as just friends - but pretty soon everything clicked and you guys were getting very serious. It was wonderful. Yeah, not every week was great, but the best monster episodes were joys, and the mythology kept growing, further cementing you two. And then came the big time - a movie! You guys were really serious now.
But soon after it became clear that you wanted different things out of this relationship. You were looking for a big moment, but The X-Files was sort of stringing you along. It was still okay but things were changing. You were becoming different people... quite literally in the case of The X-Files, which ceded the show to new leads. And so you drifted apart. It all came to an end kind of quietly, slowly. You just stopped tuning in. You guys decided to give it another shot with the second movie but man, this clearly was a relationship that had run its course.
Still, you love The X-Files. Not like you did back in season three, but you're really fond. You can look back at the good moments and smile. When you see The X-Files pop up someplace you nod with appreciation. Yeah, this didn't work out, but for those years when it did work, it was truly special. And that's the best kind of failed relationship, the one where you can look back and see what was good, even when acknowledging that it didn't have a future to fight.
Lost was totally different. It was hot and heavy from the start. You were pulled right in; Lost had such high production values, looked so good. Every week was exciting. And it all seemed to MEAN SOMETHING! You were diving in with both feet, reading clues and signs. Not only was this intense and amazing, it was all going someplace profound. Lost got you, man. You were sympatico, you had read the same books, you saw the same movies. This was real. Lost looked at The X-Files and assured you that wasn't how it would end.
Technically Lost was right. It ended way worse. After a couple of years you began to get the suspicion that Lost wasn't who it claimed to be. Lost was spending all this time talking smart, being exciting, but you began to realize it was shallow. Lost knew what to reference, but didn't know what the reference truly meant. And that was okay for a while. It was still exciting. Lost was going with you on weekend trips to fun places, never giving you a moment to really consider what was going on. It was dazzling you with immediate excitement.
That's what made it all hurt that much more when it fell apart. You began to realize that Lost never actually loved you at all. Lost didn't care about anything except its own insular coolness. You found out later it was sleeping with other people behind your back, presenting a totally different persona to them. It was just taking up your time, using you as a buzz base to woo its real lover - the soap opera addicts who cared more about Sawyer and Kate's romance than big questions about the universe. You thought Lost was cool, but it was really just trying to fuck corporate suits who would sell commercial time and magazine editors who would give it covers.
And then Lost is like, let's all be friends! Which is crazy, considering how it betrayed you with this 'Everybody's in the afterlife' bullshit ending. You stuck with it through the rough patches, sure that it would all come together and in the end Lost wanted to kick you, the smart, engaged viewer, to the curb but still rely on you in the future to be friends. How could you not hate Lost after that?
You know how you run into The X-Files at a party and smile, make small talk, you're happy for the new guy who is with The X-Files now? Lost walks into a party and you have to leave. She shows up with some asshole who works in marketing or plastics or something. Where The X-Files remains sincere, Lost is just a glib jerk. You get the feeling The X-Files has fond memories too. Lost is off ruining Alien and Star Trek, leaving you forgotten (although sometimes you wonder if there's something personal about the way Lost has targeted these things you once loved).
You go home from the party sad. The X-Files made you a little wary about new shows, but Lost really put the stake in your heart. You're done. You'll wait until a show is over to get into it, because you've been burned enough times. Who needs TV shows anyway? Your friends keep telling you to watch stuff - Fringe is the one they all think you'd like - but you're not interested in getting set up.
Then you're home alone and bored, and there's this show your friends keep telling you about. "You'll like it," they say. "You guys will be good together." What the hell, you figure. You're not doing anything tonight anyway. You pick up the remote, put on Netflix. You meet Orange is the New Black. It starts slow, but pretty soon you're really into it. Your initial hour get-to-know-you investment goes for five more hours. You promise to meet again next week.
You figure however this ends, sometimes it's worth it getting involved in a new show.