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The Contemporary Television Series$
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Michael Hammond and Lucy Mazdon

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780748619009

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748619009.001.0001

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Quality/Cult Television: The X-Files and Television History

Quality/Cult Television: The X-Files and Television History

(p.57) Chapter 4 Quality/Cult Television: The X-Files and Television History
The Contemporary Television Series

Catherine Johnson

Edinburgh University Press

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

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