Airdate: April 30, 2000
Hey, didn't we already see this scene in that William B. Davis episode... oh wait, it's a spoof.
Around the end of The X-Files's fifth season, you'd be hard-pressed to find a man more loathed among internet geeks -- er, connoisseurs of fine drama -- than David Duchovny. (And yes, I'm including John Shiban.) It was Duchovny, after all, who was responsible for the move to Los Angeles; Duchovny, who bad-mouthed the hallowed series on so many occasions; Duchovny, who would shun the loyalty of the fans to shack up with Tea Leoni, that dreaded Yoko Ono of The X-Files. Resenting the move from Vancouver, I joined in on the bashing, even meriting the attention of the suddenly non-superfluous Society for Prevention of Cruelty to David Duchovny. And for that, I'd like to say I'm sorry. (And that, in retrospect, I probably could have gotten out more.) Because David Duchovny, in the last two seasons, is not only the best thing about The X-Files, he's pretty much the only good thing we've got left. When he leaves, so goes the series.
My favorite episode of last season was Duchovny's "The Unnatural", a sweet, funny and wonderfully written tale that combined aliens, baseball, and that hot guy from Ally McBeal without making it seem at all hokey or contrived. My favorite this year may well be "Hollywood A.D.", an ambitious, often ingenious and occasionally flawed sophomore effort concerning the entertainment industry, religion, and pretty much everything in between. "Hollywood A.D." fails only in that it tries to fit so many ideas and storylines into an all-too-brief time period; in a just world, Fox would have fired all their writers except Vince Gilligan and let Duchovny call the shots all season long.
The poor man's MSR.
The first scene of "Hollywood A.D." is one of its best. Mulder runs through a graveyard, dodging the "Cigarette-Smoking Plaintiff" and his evil crew of sniper zombies. Scully, in full Wonderbra mode, is being held by the CSP, begging for mercy; Mulder then comes to her rescue and the two proclaim their undying love. What is actually quite sad about this description is that, in light of the past three seasons, one may not immediately realize that it is a spoof on the series instead of a really bad Chris Carter/Frank Spotnitz/John Shiban clunker. Nevertheless, it's very well-done -- Duchovny, who has spent the last three years proclaiming The X-Files' flaws to the world, parodies the show dead-on. The casting of Garry Shandling as himself and Tea Leoni as Scully is also inspired; more than just a source of in-jokes for the geekily inclined, they're excellent in their respective roles, particularly Leoni's imitation of Anderson.
Following the opening scene -- which, by the way, is purported to be a scene from a movie based on a case Mulder and Scully solved two years back -- "Hollywood A.D." becomes more complex. The agents are investigating a bomb explosion beneath the church of Cardinal O'Fallon (who, unfortunately, bears similarity to the late, great Cardinal O'Connor of New York). A screenwriter sits in attendence for the investigation, making asinine remarks and irritating everyone with his omnipresent cell phone. Duchovny spoofs all the Hollywood cliches -- the phones, the tofu, the executive pitch -- but placed in the context of a serious and somewhat spiritual case, the jokes become surreal in tone. "Hollywood A.D." basically tells two stories in the same episode, mostly, but not always, to the show's advantage.
I'm not even going to attempt to fully explain the plot, but a brief outline -- while examining the crypt, Mulder discovers a cell phone under a body identified as Michael Hoffman, a 1960s activist. A visit to Hoffman's apartment reveals both a bomb-making workshop and a set of forged religious documents, including the "lost gospel" of Mary Magdelene. They also find a clay bowl which, when tested, plays a voice in Aramaic summoning the dead. Meanwhile, this turns of events is all being made into a film executive produced by Assistant Director Skinner (remember him?) and starring Leoni and Shandling --
Forget it. I'm not going to even try to sum it up, and the fact that I can't is the beauty of the episode. "Hollywood A.D." raises a number of issues concerning faith, religion, death, and show business. It contains too many amusing and smart lines of dialogue to quote, too many in-jokes to name, and too many memorable moments to list. While at times cluttered and confusing, this is another passionate, unique effort from Duchovny that will likely stand as the best of the year, and a nice exit for him at that. My only regret is that he didn't step into a writing/directorial role sooner. As I once thought to myself after watching "Duane Barry" during my Duchovny lust years (oh, like you didn't go through that phase!), "I'm sorry to see you leave... but I sure loved watching you go."
-- Sarah Kendzior
The X-Files airs at 9pm EST, Sundays on Fox.
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