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The X-Files Spin-Off You Never Knew Existed

In the fall of 1993, "The X-Files" abducted television viewers everywhere, becoming a massive hit and a cultural institution. There was nothing like the Chris Carter-created sci-fi show on the airwaves at the time, and it ran for nine seasons in its initial run, returning twice more in 2016 and 2018 for two additional special event series seasons on Fox. It also jumped to the big screen for two feature films. Starring David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI agents investigating the strange and paranormal cases no one else at the Bureau wanted anything to do with, the show garnered great ratings and quickly developed an avid fan base.

Many episodes offered a monster-of-the-week format, although some fans preferred the ongoing mythology stories that perpetually explored a larger conspiracy theory down a never-ending rabbit-hole of alien plots and shadowy government operations. Many shows have copied this structural device since — notably, "Lost." If questions without answers are your thing, "The X-Files" mythology episodes are for you. But the real gems are some of the monstery installments (that actually have resolutions).

The show was at its best with agents Mulder (Duchovny) and Scully (Anderson) digging into some unexplainable phenomenon somewhere, usually involving an unsolved murder or reports of an unusual creature with fantastical powers. Mulder, ever the believer, would gravitate towards the paranormal explanation, while Scully would opt for an answer grounded in science. The perfect couple!

There were also a few interesting peripheral characters, and the network even attempted an ill-fated spin-off around some of them in 2001.

The Lone Gunmen spinoff was a flop

Three conspiracy theorists had a minor role in "The X-Files "over the years. Mulder (naturally) connected with these rabbit-hole dwellers, known as "The Lone Gunmen." They would occasionally help out with some murky info or shadowy pursuit to aid the team's investigation. There was Richard "Ringo" Langly (Dean Haglund), John Byers (Bruce Harwood), and Melvin Frohike (Tom Braidwood). Each of them had a very distinct look, which made them come across like a hacker version of The Village People — and in an increasingly online-relevant society, the famous sidekicks got their own spin-off show.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be. "The Lone Gunmen" lasted only 13 episodes, and it was pretty clear why. Aside from the dark-web trio making better sidekicks than leads, "The X-Files" didn't work without Mulder and Scully as the driving force. Those characters with their dynamic (and the chemistry between Duchovny and Anderson — at least onscreen) are everything that was missing from "The Lone Gunman." Even when Duchovny left "The X-Files" for a while near the end of its initial run, the flagship show suffered. 

But that doesn't diminish Langly, Byers, and Frohike's impact on the franchise. While they may have worked best in smaller doses, "The X-Files" wouldn't have been the same without the conspiracy-slinging contributions of "The Lone Gunmen."