Millennium After The Millennium
Review by Mark Schwab
August 1st, 2018
Picture it; American Television, circa 1996. After rebounding from the recent economic doldrums, U.S. audiences are tuning in and laughing along in record droves to shows like FRIENDS, SEINFELD and FRASIER. The only "serious" drama they were drinking in was E.R. and...most important to this review...THE X-FILES. Yes, a different, almost quaintly innocent, viewing landscape indeed.
Created by Chris Carter, THE X-FILES had been on the air for three years in 1996 and doing very well for the Fox Network, fostering a strong cult following. X-FILES dealt in sci-fi government conspiracies with a nice dash of underlying sexual tension between its two strong lead characters - FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. Needless to say, the network came to Chris Carter with the proverbial blank check to give them another series...was there anything he was cooking up that they could put into development? Turns out there was. A very different, much darker series about another FBI investigator named Frank Black with almost supernatural powers who tracked down serial killers. Carter called it MILLENNIUM.
Personally, I do dimly remember watching just one episode when it first aired back in '96. I was an X-FILES fan after all and this had Chris Carter behind it. I should have been the perfect repeat viewer they were targeting. Obviously, it didn't stick with me though since I never went back to it although I still watched X-FILES. Maybe it was the downbeat and violent tone of it or the creepy, push-the-t.v. envelope violence but I can't be sure. Something didn't quite jibe though since MILLENNIUM was cancelled in 1999 (ridiculously on the front door of the actual millennium) after a steady decline in ratings. I anxiously awaited the mystery of why MILLENNIUM "failed" after just three seasons (which is ironic today when so many shows flame out after only eight episodes). How did this all happen? A very good question that Director Jason D. Morris tries to answer in his feature-length doc MILLENNIUM AFTER THE MILLENNIUM.
To his credit, Morris gets pretty much everyone who was integral to the show to go on camera; star Lance Henricksen and Chris Carter are here as well as a number of co-stars and episode directors and writers. It says something for Morris that they all showed up and were willing to talk and I'd happily listen to Lance Henricksen even read a phone book with that great voice and soulful stare. Unfortunately it all never really ramps up the interest as much as it should.
One issue is that the doc is almost entirely headshot interviews. Solidly produced of course but none of the interviews really strays from the main themes - "this was a great show", "the actors were wonderful", "we all worked really hard", "the show was ahead of its time". It plays too much like a series of special features marketing clips you'd find on the Blu-Ray box set which isn't necessarily a bad thing at all but there is no drama, no conflicts...nothing to keep the non-fanboy/girl really interested. There is also a paucity of clips from MILLENNIUM itself which is a real shame since the interviewees all talk about the impressive production value of the episodes (back when they had to shoot on film in crazy short shooting schedules) and their influences on today's shows. This may well all be true, but there just isn't nearly enough visual evidence or context on display to prove it here.
In the end, I think Jason D. Morris does manage to find an answer as to why MILLENNIUM was made ahead of its proper time and I agree that the series could easily be revived and slide perfectly into the Netflix/Amazon/Hulu/(insert cable network) universe. But it takes a long-winded road to get there for the uninitiated that will require patience. However, I will admit that if you are a fan of the original series, there is probably plenty for you to savor requiring you to track down this doc with all the compulsion of Frank Black himself (and add an extra Diamond to this review).