After The X-Files came the short-lived series Millennium, starring Lance Henrikson. Now, nearly twenty years after it left our screens, Jason D Morris brings us a documentary looking at the beloved show in Millennium After The Millennium.
In 1996 creator of the X-Files Chris Carter was asked by 20th Century Fox to follow up his huge success by coming up with a new hit TV show for them. What he gave them was ‘Millennium’ a bleak oppressive piece of genius that was so dark and so far ahead of its time it regularly lost its viewers and lasted only 3 years. We take a look at what happened to this well respected and fondly remembered TV show in director Jason D Morris’ new documentary, Millennium After The Millennium.
Today, the cable and digital networks are overrun with hundreds of TV shows all attempting to be mini-movies with budgets, effects, and atmospheres that match even Hollywood’s best output. Back in the mid 90’s, the TV landscape was much different with bright and breezy US sitcoms like The Simpsons, Friends and Frasier all being the rage. Recovering from the recession of the early 90’s, people wanted to be entertained, to laugh, to quote sound bites and jokes to each other, and to escape from the real world and real problems.
The X-Files was part of this 90’s zeitgeist of escapism too, every week the whole world would tune in to Mulder and Scully’s weird cases and while in no way a sitcom, focusing on the supernatural and paranormal it was indeed a phenomenon. The far-fetched yet intriguing storylines and the will they won’t they romance of its leads made The X-Files compulsive viewing for everyone, a modern-day Twilight Zone, it became part of TV history.
In response to the X-Files huge success, 20th Century Fox wanted a new hit TV show and asked its creator Chris Carter to come up with one. What he gave them was ‘Millennium’ a Lance Henriksen starring vehicle where he gets to fight serial killers every week which actually sounds like it should have been a bonafide hit. The fact it wasn’t is investigated in Jason D Morris’s extremely well produced 90 minute documentary Millennium After The Millennium.
Opening with a truly dystopian quote from W.B. Yeats ‘Millennium After The Millennium’ starts extremely strongly with a great Seven-esque credits sequence. Documentaries about cult or well-loved shows live or die by the people who are interviewed about them and here Morris and his collaborators gain full marks as we get an all-star cast. Not only does series creator Chris Carter and star Lance Henriksen speak often and interestingly about the show but we are treated to a number of writers, producers, directors and actors all with their own take on the work they did, their feelings about each other and the influence the show had on others.
What is abundantly clear is this documentary has been made with a huge amount of love for the subject, fans will be spoiled as every interview manages to wrangle some important piece of information that will help improve the viewing experience of the series. For example the influence of Dario Argento and the Italian Giallo movement.
It is obvious what Chris Carter wanted to do, take advantage of his success and create something decidedly different, more realistic and darker than The X-Files. Unfortunately, in doing so Millennium became uncomfortable and a tough show to watch so viewers gradually turned off.
What is clear to see is that Millennium was so far ahead of its time that viewers simply weren’t ready for it. It undoubtedly influenced the majority of the shows that came after. This is a point that Writer/Producers Frank Spotnitz and Rich Whitley rightly hammer home during their interviews. Despite its short lifespan Millennium led the way with a gritty realism and graphic depiction of violence that would be taken up by later shows such as The Soprano’s, Dexter, The Wire and Breaking Bad.
As it approached the year 2000 Millennium was made with an even greater sense of foreboding and although this was effective and atmospheric in the end it proved suffocating. Audiences just wanted Chandler to fire off witty one-liners or Frasier to exchange comedy barbs with his brother so switched over instead. Ironically for a show titled Millennium, it was axed in 1999 and the way it finished still sticks in the craw of many of the people interviewed.
The documentary does finish on an upbeat note though as it helps to prove that Millennium is probably more relevant today than it ever was in 1996 and all of the cast and crew involved in the making of this film say that they would be more than happy to pick up the reins 20 years later.
‘Millennium after The Millennium’ is an excellent film that is so well-made it would not look out of place on any of our major networks. An obvious labour of love for all those involved; Jason D Morris creates an enthralling documentary that interests, entertains and delights in equal measure. An absolute must see for any fans of Millennium itself, but it will also be appreciated by those with an interest in TV and its workings.