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July 25, 2008

Tempus Fugit

By: Robert ToTeras

Maybe I'm more nostalgic than I thought.

For a good portion of the Clinton Administration, I always knew what I would be doing every Sunday night.

After a hideous week of working as a law firm temp... After those desperate Friday and Saturday nights of playing guitar for inattentive New York bar and coffeehouse audiences... Sunday evenings at my friend Emily's apartment provided me with a few hours of amnesty from my self-inflicted chaos.

At 7 pm, I'd walk through the door and she'd hand me the takeout menus. After placing our order, we'd sit and talk about the week, work, people we knew, books we were reading, who we were dating and why we shouldn't be dating them.

Soon the food would arrive, and the conversation would turn to last week’s episode (and the main reason we kept meeting like this in the first place):

"You know, that part at the end? It didn't really make sense did it?"


"Wasn't it a great moment when Mulder taught Scully how to swing a baseball bat?"

There was always something so wonderfully smart, funny, touching and compelling about the X-Files. Because of these wonderful qualities, it was always easy to forgive the usually confusing last few minutes of every episode. Much like the characters on the show, the audience also seemed to be on a never-ending quest for some answers. Somehow this frustration never deterred our return. Every week brought with it a renewed hope that somehow the last five minutes would live up to the first 55. That rarely happened, but it was always such a wonderful ride anyway. Monday morning, all you remembered was the roller coaster and not the dizziness.

Since the X-Files ended, there have been more artful television shows (with higher production values), but in my opinion, none so damn entertaining.

At 10 pm Emily and I would clean the dishes and talk in the kitchen, simultaneously admiring and admonishing the show:

"Too much conspiracy stuff, I just want them to get back to solving strange cases."


"Wow, Scully's looking really hot lately." (Yikes! That's me talking.)

Afterwards, I'd make the long trek from east 23rd street back to the upper west side. Later, when I moved to Philadelphia to care for a sick relative, I'd still drive 2 hours to New York on Sunday to visit my friend and watch the show. That's probably a long way to go to watch a TV show, but I never thought anything of it at the time.

My weekly X-files ritual brought me a lot of happiness at time when I had no idea what I was doing with my life, or who I was supposed to be. That weekly ritual helped turn a pretty good friend into a lifelong friend. It also turned me into a great admirer of composer Mark Snow. Mark Snow had this amazing ability to turn in an outstanding (wall to wall) score for that show week after week. This admiration for Mark's work had a direct bearing on my decision to pursue a career as a film composer.

Sometimes there is something so astonishingly fulfilling about good television. Your real life conditions have to be so perfectly chaotic that you are willing to give yourself over to the simple and satisfying joy of a great idea, funneled into a fairly cheaply realized narrative, spiced with some wonderfully poignant moments along the way. For me, these things all came together and actually had a positive effect on my REAL life.

Recently I read an interview with actress Gillian Anderson where she mentioned that someone had sent her a link to the fan video below. She said watching it had reminded her of all the things she loved about the show but hadn't thought about in a long time. I have to admit, seeing it (against the backdrop of Thomas Newman's score from American Beauty) has also confirmed what I guess I already knew...

I'm WAY more nostalgic than I thought.

—Robert ToTeras

Posted at July 25, 2008 07:40 PM

Worst. Blog Post. Ever.

Now I'm in charge!!!

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at July 25, 2008 09:11 PM

Welcome, Robert! And thanks for such a neat post. (I've never watched the show, unfortunately, and I don't even know who these two characters are, but I am sure I am in the minority around here.)

Hope to hear more from you and about life as a music composer in Hollywood. My son is embarking on a career in film, so I hope you have only beautiful stories to tell me about how incredibly nice and generous and helpful and kind and welcoming everyone is...

PS: Don't pay attention to the previous comment. The guy is just trying to take over the world and turn the rest of us into talking E. Coli. You know, the usual.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 25, 2008 09:19 PM

Oh, wow, this really brought me back. I was in middle and high school during the clinton administration, but I too had elaborate Sunday night rituals surrounding this show. My friends and I were crazy obsessed. Generally we would call each other during the commercial breaks of each episode, exchange rapid expletive-filled assessments of mulder's facial expressions and then reconvene in school that morning to gush. One friend of mine kept a journal of all her favorite moments! It makes me want to watch the whole series all over again, until where it fell completely apart.

Posted by: Alaya at July 26, 2008 03:15 AM

Don't pay attention to the previous comment. The guy is just trying to take over the world and turn the rest of us into talking E. Coli.



Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at July 26, 2008 01:54 PM

Thanks for the nice welcome Bernard. I actually have wonderful things to say about Hollywood. Then again, I'm a glutton for punishment and completely insane, so I might be a compromised source.

I always love your music posts by the way.

Jon (aka superbastard),
I've heard that story. Apparently where Mark rested his arm triggered the delay effect which you hear in the spooky A minor arpeggio in the opening. I'm pretty good friends with his music mixer Larold. I'll have to ask him if it's true.

Also, my plan to destroy you becomes fully operational in 7 minutes... 6:59...

- Robert

Posted by: RTT at July 26, 2008 02:54 PM

What timing. I've just introduced my 12-year-old son to the "X-Files," and he loves it. We watched a couple of first season episodes last night, and he wants to see the new film. I think maybe he should see more before that, yes, fellow geeks?

Posted by: Dennis Perrin at July 26, 2008 05:37 PM

What of the Millennium series? Not warm and fuzzy, but nicely conspiratorial.

The whole X-Files show (for me) breaks into the oddity stories that have some sort of vague closure, and the long story-arc that I still haven't figured out where it goes. It just meandered, and fucked with us like Twin Peaks did and Lost does now.

At this point X-Files movies are relegated to DVD rentals or waiting for cable runs.

Posted by: Labiche at July 26, 2008 06:30 PM

Dennis, yes, I think so. Please blog about The X-Files. I'd be interested to hear your take.

Posted by: Save the Oocytes at July 26, 2008 07:23 PM

Robert, I'm forwarding this post to my wife Kate because I think she will REALLY relate to it. The X-Files--and later Buffy--are touchstones for her in a way that I only partially understand. I hope she scrapes fifteen minutes together and adds a comment (we're also out here in LA, as she gets a foothold in TV writing, and I watch Sergio Leone movies and work on my tan).

Any Buffy fans here at ATR? I demand a site poll: favorite TV show!

Posted by: Mike of Angle at July 26, 2008 10:19 PM

Mike: Again, I am the local ignoramus here. I've never watched Buffy. Ever. But a dear friend of mine swears that's the best TV show that's ever graced our galaxy. I trust her judgment 100%, so please record this as a Yes vote.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 27, 2008 12:24 AM

When I think about it, I feel again the sadness that Ross and Rachel (of "Friends") ended up apart.

Miguel de Unamuno's "The Tragic Sense of Life" (translation into English) is available at

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 27, 2008 01:00 AM

Buffy = favorite TV show? Yes!

Posted by: Aaron Datesman at July 27, 2008 10:11 AM

Uh, because I'm new to this whole blog/comment dynamic, I'm not sure what the Ross and Rachel comment is supposed to be. Is it a poorly researched (Ross and Rachel ended up together - Wikipedia and my wife confirm this) jab a the nature of this post? Is it an actual lamentation because you've never been able to catch the series finale rerun (sorry I ruined it if that's the case)?

Please clarify.

Dennis, I love that you're rolling out the X-Files for your son. I've always thought about making a list of 'favorite things' to introduce to the future ToTeras brood. When they get here I'll have that list compiled.
Wait on the movie by the way. I haven't seen it yet but the first and the second seasons establish the characters and the myth so well that you wouldn't want to dilute it.

Mike, I'm in a similar pot with Bernard. Believe it or not, I've never seen a single full episode of 'Buffy.' The devotion people seem to have to the show tells me something about it though. Somehow, I just missed it - definitely my loss.

- Robert ToTeras

Posted by: RTT at July 27, 2008 12:31 PM

Save the Oocytes:

I may blog about "X-F" -- once I've been fully re-immersed in the narrative. Some of this stuff I've long forgotten.


Thanks for the tip. That's what I thought, too. The "X-F" movie, which has gotten some bad reviews from various loyalists, can wait. That's why the Lord created DVDs on the 8,678,945th day.

Anyone here a "Mad Men" nut like me? The second season premieres tonight on AMC.

Posted by: Dennis Perrin at July 27, 2008 03:21 PM

My family has seen ALL of BUFFY.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 27, 2008 04:49 PM

>>Uh, because I'm new to this whole blog/comment dynamic, I'm not sure what the Ross and Rachel comment is supposed to be. Is it a poorly researched (Ross and Rachel ended up together - Wikipedia and my wife confirm this) jab a the nature of this post? Is it an actual lamentation because you've never been able to catch the series finale rerun (sorry I ruined it if that's the case)?

Please clarify.

actually, more of the latter. i read the wikipedia article and found some of it surprising.
due to other commitments i missed the last couple of seasons. oh well. but if i'd really cared i could've informed myself, so i guess it's a little bit of the former too. not a jab so much as a rueful recognition that our imaginary friends, as well as our real friends, sometimes let us down - and vice versa.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at July 27, 2008 09:03 PM