Best Lips on TV. Period.

I’ve mentioned that I’m an old-school nerd, from a time when watching the original Star Trek and knowing all the episodes was the main requirement for entry into that exclusive club. And by “exclusive” I mean a lot of people pretended not to like the show so as not to be lumped in with the likes of people like me. When Star Trek Next Generation (STNG) came along, it was suddenly OK to like this show—dare I say cool, even, with a Shakespearian actor taking the captain’s role and the money and technical advancements to make it look a little more realistic than kids putting on a show in the back yard. Oh, sure there was a lot of casual fans still pointing and giggling at the rest of us, and Trekkies and Trekkers were taking pains to distinguish themselves from others, but Paramount was happy to take all our money for all things Star Trek, including wearing out the franchise with two additional so-so series. We hard core fans watched anyway because it’s in the nerd contract. Good or not, though, the shows still left big sci-fi hole when they were finally cancelled.

And then, like the answer to the collective sci-fi yearning, X-Files appeared in 1993, a new show on a new network. We nerds rejoiced and sweated every week waiting for it to be cancelled because that’s what happens when we like a TV show. But it kept going and went on for nine seasons. It was science fictiony, but based in reality and involved FBI agents, who are much cooler and less scary than CIA agents. They hunted down unexplained phenomena that were sometimes otherworldly, sometimes explainable, but nearly always interesting. And as if that wasn’t cool enough, the main characters, Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) were two smart, beautiful people. But they weren’t beautiful in a glam Hollywood way. Scully wasn’t prancing around in blouses with plunging necklines and skin tight “suit” pants. Mulder wasn’t ripping his shirt open while wrestling with creatures or FBI agents trying to divert him from the Truth. No, they always wore straight up serious FBI business suits. All of which, to my expert eye, framed their pièce de résistance—the best lips on TV. Ever. Period. They are perfectly matched. Full and shapely. Oh, and the lip pursing! It’s like art. The way they’d purse their lips at each other while engaged in an intelligent debate of the overly scintillating, but often scant evidence of whatever it was they were investigating. God, I miss those lips to this day.

And then Netflix evolved to the point where I knew I could rewatch all the episodes, but that seemed like a daunting task even for a hard care fan like me. This isn’t A Netflix “season” with 14 episodes. This is hard core TV season episodes, 24 or so a year, with a total of 202. This wasn’t a weekend binge watch.  So as I was pondering what to do, I happened to see a post on Twitter by the nerd sage George Takei recommending a podcast called “The X-Files Files” by Kumail Nanjiani. It got me to achieve two goals at once: a way to watch X-Files and get onboard with the podcasting thing, so when people told me what podcasts they were listening to, I had something to say other than, “What’s a podcast?”

In preparation for the podcast, I watched the first two episodes with some trepidation—I’d first seen it more than 20 years ago—would it hold up? Would the lips still be captivating? Would I wonder what the hell I’d been thinking all that time ago when some episodes would leave me frozen on the couch, too afraid to put my feet down on the floor? I watched and fell in love all over again. Right out of the gate the first episode was so good. Great dialogue, fully formed characters, and the conspiracy plot is established right in the first episode. The podcast was great too, like sitting with a friend to gush about our favorite show.  I was 28 in 1993, but Kumail was only about 10, so it’s been interesting to get his perspective. He points out things I took for granted, like how the show straddled the internet—starting when it was still in its infancy, so there’s no Googling things or running computer searches. By the end of the show, they introduced some renegade hackers to incorporate that piece. Kumail and his guest, often a friend who is also a fan, talk about how you had to tape the show or never see it again. And there was no way to know the name of the episode except on message boards. Apparently hard core fans managed to get their hands on it somehow and post it.

What also struck me is how Kumail says it took him a number of years before he found people who loved the show as much as he did. So his podcast is partly to hang out with these folks and partly to introduce the show to a new generation. When he said that, I thought, wait—there were movies, merchandise, and it’s a show that’s often cited as the beginning of the CSI-type procedural. Plus, nerds of all kinds are out in force, we’re lousy with them for cryin’ out loud. How can that possibly be?

But as soon as I excitedly told people what podcast I’d found, I’d get blank stares. “Did you ever watch X-Files?” No, no, no. Except for my ex who I watched it with all those years ago, I’d be hard pressed to think of one other friend who liked it. I do know someone who was good friends with one of the shows writers, so that was fun, but I don’t remember if she was a fan herself. And if so, that’s only one other person. What the hell?

From Star Trek to X-Files, apparently I’m still a nerd among nerds.  But I’ve got Kumail and his friends, only 191 episodes and 27 podcasts to go, and most importantly, quality time with the best lips on TV.

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