Vancouver Sun

Podcasts create new audiences for old shows

Their water-cooler-type forums have revived interest in classic series like The X-Files and Twin Peaks

- LAURA KANE

TORONTO — The X-Files died an unceremoni­ous death. When the moody sci-fi series hobbled to a close in 2002, it had basically lost one of its stars, David Duchovny, and suffered from three critically panned seasons. A 2008 movie, The X-Files: I Want to Believe, did little to counter the bad taste left in the mouths of many fans.

Fast-forward to 2014, and The X-Files has re-emerged in popular discussion. Creator Chris Carter revealed this summer that he was in talks with Fox for a possible reboot, Gillian Anderson hinted on Reddit that another movie could be on its way and Buzzfeed lists about the show abound.

“I think it’s just the right time for X-Files to be back in the conversati­on,” said Kumail Nanjiani, comedian and star of HBO’s Silicon Valley. “The stuff of not being able to trust the government, it really, really works with the NSA and phone tapping that’s such a big deal these days. It’s still very relevant — the idea of these covert things going on.”

Nanjiani won’t take credit for playing a part in resuscitat­ing the show, but his podcast, The X-Files Files, is offering fans a new avenue for discussion. Starting with the pilot, he is lovingly dissecting two episodes a week with a guest, reviving the intense debate that surrounded the show at its height.

The availabili­ty of shows including The X-Files, Twin Peaks and Gilmore Girls on Netflix is prompting episodeby-episode podcasts that allow fans to engage with old shows in a very modern way. These podcasts are attracting new viewers to long-defunct series and reviving week-by-week viewing in the binge-watching era.

Nanjiani grew up watching The X-Files in Karachi, Pakistan and has long been vocal about his obsession with the dark, Vancouver-shot series. When he started his podcast in June, he hoped to hook new viewers and get them talking — slowly.

“I think we’re sort of in this binge culture now where people for the most part — there’s some exceptions like Game of Thrones and Walking Dead — but for the most part, especially these Netflix shows, people watch them so quickly, that conversati­on sort of falls away, that: ‘Hey, did you see last night’s episode?’” he said.

“I like doing this podcast because I want people to watch this show slowly and be able to talk about the episodes at the same time.”

Listeners have taken to Reddit to discuss the podcast, creating a dedicated forum called a subreddit about The X-Files Files. Nanjiani thinks his listeners are a mix of diehard fans and people who are watching the show for the first time.

He’s also been able to attract original cast and crew members to appear on the podcast, including actor Dean Haglund, writer Glen Morgan and theme song composer Mark Snow. Both Carter and Anderson have said they’re aware of The X-Files Files.

“If you have Gillian Anderson’s email, just ask her to do the show. Thank you,” Nanjiani joked at the end of a telephone interview.

Another show that is seeing a renaissanc­e is Twin Peaks, David Lynch and Mark Frost’s surreal crime drama that first set audiences ablaze in 1990 with the question, Who killed Laura Palmer? This fall, the creators announced that a new season would air on Showtime in 2016.

The hosts of Fire Talk with Me, Allison Goertz and Jeremy Smith, are cautiously excited. Goertz said Twin Peaks has a timeless quality because it is so original.

“Something we’ve talked about on the show is how Twin Peaks is in its own period of time. It is ’90s but it feels like its own thing,” said Goertz. “Those feelings, those colours, that fashion, these types of dramas are kind of coming back again — and obviously literally coming back again with season three coming up. So it’s in the air.” Goertz is 23 and had never seen the series before launching the podcast, while Smith is 41 and watched Twin Peaks when it first aired. He recalled the frenzied discussion around the show in 1990 felt “unusual” for the time.

“Entertainm­ent Weekly, for example, had a weekly run down of what happened on Twin Peaks and who are the suspects,” he said. “Everyone was really into the show right at the beginning. It had a kind of Dallas popularity ... I can’t think of any other time that that really happened.”

Both Twin Peaks and The X-Files paved the way for the kind of online debate that happens around TV shows today, said Aubrey Anable, an instructor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Visual Studies, who has studied digital culture.

“They are shows that withhold a lot of informatio­n. They are mysterious. That’s their entire point. They actually invite a sort of audience interactio­n that has become very commonplac­e now in the television shows that have become huge hits in the past few years,” she said.

Because people are turning more to PVRs and online streaming, instead of watching TV when it airs, new media is stepping in to replace water cooler conversati­on, she said.

“The idea that one can show up to work and expect that all of their coworkers watched Dynasty the night before just doesn’t exist anymore. So things like podcasts and online fan communitie­s, it provides that water-cooler effect that we used to have around traditiona­l broadcast television,” she said.

“You need to now seek out the people who are fans of this show and talk to them if you want that engagement with it.”

 ?? JAIMIE TRUEBLOOD/HBO/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Martin Starr, left, with X-Files fan Kumail Nanjiani, centre, and Thomas Middleditc­h, appear in the series Silicon Valley. New fans are discoverin­g classic TV shows thanks to Netflix, prompting podcasts, such as Nanjiani’s, to let people engage with...
JAIMIE TRUEBLOOD/HBO/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/THE CANADIAN PRESS Martin Starr, left, with X-Files fan Kumail Nanjiani, centre, and Thomas Middleditc­h, appear in the series Silicon Valley. New fans are discoverin­g classic TV shows thanks to Netflix, prompting podcasts, such as Nanjiani’s, to let people engage with...

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