Quality/Cult Television: <i>The X-Files</i> and Television History

Catherine Johnson

in The Contemporary Television Series

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2005 | ISBN: 9780748619009
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671168 | DOI:
Quality/Cult Television: The X-Files and Television History

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The X-Files (Fox, 1993–2002) appeared on our screens at a crucial moment in the history of American television, as the industry gradually adjusted to the increased market fragmentation brought about by the expansion of new services (satellite, cable, pay TV) and the deregulation of the communications sector. This chapter focuses on The X-Files and its place within the historical development of U.S. television. The X-Files has been linked with the development of ‘quality’ television in the United States. However, there has been little attempt to combine historical analysis of the series as quality television with a consideration of its cult status. This chapter argues that The X-Files can be understood as a new kind of quality television that emerged in the early 1990s — ‘quality/cult’ television. While academic analyses of the series tended to read it as either subversive/progressive, or reactionary, this chapter insists that the construction of a text able to sustain such divergent interpretations is actually a characteristic of quality/cult television.

Keywords: The X-Files; quality/cult television; cult; quality television; United States; television series; history

Chapter.  6487 words. 

Subjects: Television

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