MILLENNIUM (FOX, 1996-1999)

(DVD) Sadly, there’s no way to stream this show, no way to digitally purchase any eps, and the DVDs are definitely costly, but I can’t talk about undersung TV shows without discussing MILLENNIUM.

MILLENNIUM was Chris Carter’s second FOX show, launched midway through X-FILES’ run. The first season was a severely grimdark and mostly lackluster procedural about Frank Black (Lance Hendrickson, giving it his all), a gifted profiler hunting down serial killers, with a mostly untouched framing device about the killers being obsessed with the upcoming millennium. I do not recommend the first season.

The second season was handed off to X-FILES alums Glen Morgan & James Wong — yes, the folks behind FINAL DESTINATION — and they reframe the show into a battle of Christian sub-sects — the Owls versus the Roosters — and they ramp up the ‘gifts’ that have been bestowed upon Frank Black in that he can see devils and angels, then they double-down on his family guilt by adding Darrin McGavin as his father. The show culminates in a ‘burn the fucking world down’ finale that Morgan & Wong surely thought would result in the show being cancelled, because they were fucking pissed off at FOX’s notes and knew they would not be invited back.

Not one, but two episodes of the second season were written by legendary TV writer (and Glen Morgan’s brother) Darin Morgan, probably best known for his X-FILES ep -Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’-. Darin brings Chung back in Morgan’s -second- most memorable MILLENNIUM episode: -Jose Chung’s ‘Doomsday Defense’-, which is a must-see, and entertaining enough as a stand-alone.

For my money, Darin Morgan’s most memorable episode is -Somehow Satan Got Behind Me-, and it’s something special: four devils — literal devils — gather in at a donut shop in the early morning hours to discuss their latest accomplishments in corrupting humanity. That’s it, that’s the episode. It’s surprisingly melancholy and hits hard, and it deserves more attention.

The other facet MILLENNIUM S2 excelled at was silence. So many MILLENNIUM S2 episodes went five or more minutes without anyone saying anything, and the pinacle of this is with their Halloween episode, -The Curse of Frank Black-, in which ‘modern day’ Frank Black maybe utters 100 words, tops (most of which boil down to an argument with his tech sidekick as to whether the killer in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT is a spree killer or a serial killer). Instead, the score speaks for him.

What Glen Morgan & James Wong always excel at is infusing their scripts with the perfect song, usually via counterpointing or general sentimentality. Season two introduced so many classic artists and songs to my young mind: Terry Jack’s Seasons in the Sun (via -Goodbye Charlie-), the muzak of Love is Blue from Paul Mauriat (via -Room With No View-) and, most importantly, the goddamn entirety of Patti Smith’s Horses for a ten-minute scene in -The Time is Now Part 2-, which is paired with a no-budget experimental phantasmagoria that, as I watched it live in 1998 — imagine watching this on network TV in 1998 — dropped my jaw. I’ve still never seen anything quite like it on TV. (No spoilers concerning the link below — it’s mostly context-free.)

Morgan & Wong — predictably — were jettisoned after season two, and the third season rolled back their finale and, apart from the addition of Klea Scott as Frank’s new partner and a somewhat amusing Halloween episode, it limped along for 22 eps before being cancelled. There’s an epilogue episode in X-FILES’ seventh season (the fourth ep) but it’s perfunctory and lackluster.

Just stick with the second season and you’ll be fine.

(Shoutout to the hardcore MILLENNIUM site They’ve been doing great work for so many years.)