On the small screen

Silly ‘X-Files,’ ‘War (& Peace’) is hell, and 'CSI: Cyber.'

‘X-Files' (photo credit: PR)
(photo credit: PR)
Two new big-budget series have turned out to be disappointments: the retooled The X-Files and War & Peace.
The first episode of the new version of The X-Files is almost indescribably muddled. Mulder (David Duchovny, most recently, he starred in the series Californication) and Scully (Gillian Anderson, who has appeared on many TV shows and movies since The X-Files ended, among them Hannibal and The Fall), the two FBI agents investigating paranormal phenomena, had great chemistry in the original series. I rarely watched it, but I enjoyed the characters and their dynamic, although the supernatural plots, while well done, struck me as absurd.
In the new iteration of the series, which airs on YES Action Mondays at 5 a.m. and Tuesdays at 10 p.m., Mulder and Scully have become glum and don’t seem to enjoy seeing each other, which takes away much of what made the show fun. Scully, the skeptic and scientist, is working as a surgeon, devoted to her patients and not very open to getting back into ghost busting (isn’t this show essentially a serious version of Ghostbusters?). Mulder, as you might have expected, just sits around his apartment surfing the Net, trying to chase down paranormal activity and government conspiracies from his living room. When a mysterious right-wing politician brings them together to investigate a mystery so pressing they can’t say no, they banter a bit, but it doesn’t seem as if their hearts are in it.
But the mystery is as much of a problem as their sullenness. It’s about an attractive young woman who is routinely abducted by aliens, apparently the same group, impregnated by them and forced to have alien babies, which are removed from her just before they would be born. Understandably, she is quite upset about this, and the politician wants to help her, since – you guessed it – no one else believes her.
I couldn’t believe that a plot like this was what Mulder and Scully would come back together for. But come back they do, and as they delve deeper, it turns out that a vast government conspiracy torpedoed all their previous work and is trying to cover up this new mystery. There’s a sequence with an anti-government rant that would make Edward Snowden look like Ronald Reagan. Whether you agree with it isn’t the point: The real problem is that it’s boring.
The second episode is a bit better, but I wouldn’t have stuck with it if I weren’t writing this column. I’ve read that the third episode is better still, but you’ll have to check that out on your own.
Another new high-profile series, War & Peace, which airs on Sundays on YES Oh at 10:50 p.m., is extraordinarily elaborate and expensive. The costumes, sets (19th-century real-estate porn at its finest) and production design are gorgeous and detailed. It has a good cast, including Paul Dano (Love & Mercy, There Will Be Blood) as Pierre, Stephen Rea, Jim Broadbent, Lily James and even The X-Files’s Gillian Anderson. But as attractive as everyone is, the series is hampered by the contrast between its realistic look and the fact that everyone speaks that hushed English in reverent tones that actors use when they are supposed to be speaking foreign languages, in this case Russian and French, in a literary adaptation.
One critic wrote that it seemed as if the young actors were fidgety without their smartphones, and I have to agree that they don’t seem convincing as 19th-century Russian aristocrats.
As the plot gets going, the series fails to come to life, and the battle scenes, which should be the most gripping and suspenseful, are sadly lackluster. The production was filmed in Lithuania, Latvia and Russia, and the urban scenes look great, especially those set in St.
Petersburg, but this isn’t enough to keep viewers coming back.
The new season of CSI: Cyber, the CBS network’s attempt to keep the CSI franchise relevant, airs on HOT Zone on Saturday nights at 9 p.m. starting on February 20, and free on HOT VOD. It stars Patricia Arquette (who won an Oscar for Boyhood) as a psychologist investigating cyber crimes.