Back to Frank Black: Remembering Chris Carter’s Millennium
Millennium premiered in late October of 1996 and brought in one of the highest ratings that the FOX network has seen up to that point and was one of the most unique shows in television history. Millennium was created and executive produced by Chris Carter, the man behind The X-Files, the network’s highest rated series.
The X-Files had premiered three years earlier and went from one of the lowest rated shows on television to a nice hit for FOX during its third season. Though the show’s ratings were still low compared to a series like Seinfeld, each season saw the show increasing its audience while most other television shows were suffering from decreasing audiences. So happy were the executive at FOX that they offered Chris Carter a deal that no writer could refuse, the chance to produce a second series that he would have total control of with little network interference.
Like The X-Files, Millennium had no writer’s guide. Carter told the network that the series would be like the recently released film Seven, and nothing else. Instead of aliens and supernatural monsters, Carter wanted to do a series about real life monsters, the evil people in our society who hurt the innocent in an attempt to fulfill their own twisted agendas.
In Millennium’s pilot episode, ex-F.B.I. criminal profiler (True X-Files fans know that Fox Mulder originally was recruited to the F.B.I. as criminal profiler.) Frank Black, has moved with his wife Catherine and 5-year old daughter Jordan to Seattle where he believes that they will be safe from the evils from society and where he will be working with a criminal consulting firm called the Millennium group, ex-law enforcement men and women who assist with difficult to solve crimes. Carter based his fictional group on a real life criminal consulting firm called the Academy group.
Frank Black has been investigating murders for so long he has the gift (or curse) to literally envision what the killer was thinking at the time he committed the crime. Frank and his family haven’t even had time to settle in their new home when Frank finds himself assisting the Seattle police in an investigation of a serial killer know as the Frenchman (While visiting peep shows he would hold notes written in French up to the window for the dancers to see), who is stalking Seattle’s sexual underground after killing a stripper named Calamity.
Stylishly directed by David Nutter from a brilliant script by Carter, the pilot for Millennium remains was of the greatest single moments in episodic television. However, Carter feared that the show’s darkness and intensity would be a turn off for some viewers and that the show would not maintain the same type of numbers that the pilot had brought in and that FOX would view the show as a failure.
As Chris Carter has predicted the second episode called “Gehenna” saw a drop of 30% in ratings. Thanks to FOX’s heavy promotion of the series many people tuned in to see what the series was about but did not find it their cup of tea.
Millennium was cancelled by FOX after only three seasons but today maintains a loyal fan base. An online organization called “Back to Frank Black” has been in action for several years now in trying to get a Millennium movie made. Chris Carter, star Lance Henrikson and producer Frank Spotnitz are all in favor of the idea by 20th Century Fox has yet to be convinced. In fact, Fox isn’t even interested in another X-Files film after the disappointing box office returns of 2008’s The X-Files : I Want To Believe ( I don’t care what anyone says, I love the movie!).
For the time being us Millennium fans have a new book to look forward to, Back To Frank Black: A Return to Chris Carter’s Millennium. It is being published by Fourth Horseman Press and is edited by Adam Chamberlain and Brian Dixon. The book, which will feature introductions by Carter. Henrickson and Spotnitz, will be available on Fourth Horseman’s webpage next month.
Millennium Theme Song (Extended):
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