The Lone Gunmen


Rating 1½

Series created by Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz

Executive producers: Chris Carter, Vince Gilligan, John Shiban and Frank Spotnitz

The Lone Gunmen characters originally created by Glen Morgan and James Wong

Written by Nandi Bowe (1 episode), Chris Carter (1 episode), Colin Friesen (1 episode), Vince Gilligan (6 episodes), Thomas Schnauz (2 episodes), John Shiban (6 episodes) and Frank Spotnitz (5 episodes)

Directed by Carol Banker (1 episode), Rob Bowman (1 episode), Richard Compton (2 episodes), David Jackson (1 episode), John Kretcher (1 episode), Vincent Misiano (1 episode) and Bryan Spicer (6 episodes)

Starring Tom Braidwood (Melvin Frohike), Dean Haglund (Richard ‘Ringo’ Langly), Bruce Harwood (John Fitzgerald Byers), Stephen Sneddon (Jimmy Bond), Zuleikha Robinson (Yves Adele Harlow) and Jim Fyfe (Kimmy the Geek)

Melvin Frohike, John Fitzgerald Byers and Richard Langly are self-styled investigative journalists who run their own conspiracy theory newspaper called The Lone Gunman. They reluctantly recruit the endlessly enthusiastic but hapless Jimmy Bond, because he can help fund their newspaper, which is always in financial trouble, and frequently find themselves pitted against or working with the mysterious Yves Adele Harlow (anagram of Lee Harvey Oswald) when investigating the various cases they become embroiled in.


The Lone Gunmen were three recurring characters from the hugely successful Fox network television series ‘The X Files’. They made their first appearance in the season one episode ‘E.B.E.’ in February 1994. This episode was written by Glen Morgan and James Wong, who went on to make the ‘Final Destination’ films and the 2006 remake of ‘Black Christmas’. The characters proved popular enough to appear in 37 more episodes, right up to the concluding episode of the ninth and final season in May 2002. The Lone Gunmen also appear in the 1998 ‘X Files’ film ‘Fight the Future’.

‘The Lone Gunmen’ was a spin-off television series based around these three characters. It premiered on 4 March 2001, during the second half of the eighth season of ‘The X Files’. Thirteen episodes were made, but only twelve were broadcast, the first eleven and episode 13. The missing twelfth episode was included on the DVD box set, released in 2005. The closing episode ended on a cliff-hanger, with subsequent resolution to the story being provided in the season nine ‘X Files’ episode ‘Jump the Shark’. The pilot episode of ‘The Lone Gunmen’ is notable because it revolves around a plot hatched by a secret group inside the US government to hijack a Boeing 727 commercial passenger airliner and crash it into the World Trade Center in New York City. This rather eerily foreshadows the events of 9/11, six months later.

I was, at one time, an enthusiastic viewer of ‘The X Files’, from its pilot episode onwards. It was undoubtedly my favourite television series of the time and I think it would be fair to call it one of my favourite television series of all-time. However, I was losing interest by the time of the seventh season and I have only seen a handful of episodes from seasons eight and nine. I have still never seen the final episode. I liked the Lone Gunmen characters and was interested to hear that a spin-off series was in the pipeline, but having largely stopped watching ‘The X Files’, I didn’t pay much more attention. To the best of my knowledge, the series was never broadcast in the UK, although I have now belatedly had the opportunity to watch it, some eight years after it was cancelled.

I went in with reasonably low expectations, hoping to enjoy it, but not expecting great things. However, I still was not quite prepared for the pilot episode, which was, I thought, one of the worst things I’ve ever seen – at least from something that I actually wanted to watch and had hopes of liking. This pilot episode was directed by Rob Bowman, who directed 33 episode of ‘The X Files’ television series, plus the first ‘X Files’ film.

I was initially quite shocked how bad it was, but it did occur to that these likeable recurring characters , who worked so well when encountered only occasionally and briefly in ‘The X Files’, were simply not going to work as lead characters in their own series. The additional characters Jimmy Bond (from episode two onwards) and Yves Adelle Harlow were introduced, presumably with this in mind. Bond is a hapless dufus, a stooge for the lead characters. Harlow is so predictably pandering to fanboy fantasies and so ludicrous that she ultimately almost works, although my overriding memory of her is the silly walk – which I assume is supposed to signify that she is sophisticated, sexy, exotic and mysterious. Either that, or it was intended as a joke, which I would like to think was the case, but somehow doubt.

The episodes that follow the pilot are not much better and the series never really improves to any great degree, but by and large they do become easier to watch. I couldn’t make it through the whole of the eighth episode ‘Maximum Byers’, which was so unutterably awful that I gave up on it after twenty minutes or so, but for the most part I found it enjoyable enough, without ever losing sight of the fact that it was not actually very good. It owes more to the likes of ‘Remington Steele’ and the ‘Father Dowling Mysteries’ than it does to ‘The X Files’ or subsequent television series like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’.

‘The Lone Gunmen’ was easy to watch and I was probably predisposed towards it because I was already familiar with the three main characters, who I had liked in a television series I once watched with fervour. I don’t make any great claims for it, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it – up to a point.

The pilot episode attracted 13.2 million viewers when it was broadcast on the Fox network on 4 March 2001. By the time of the final episode ‘All About Yves’, broadcast on 11 May 2001, this had dropped to 5.3 million, although the low point came with episode ten ‘Tango de los Pistoleros’, which was broadcast on 27 April 2001 and attracted just 3.9 million viewers

Vince Gilligan is the creator and executive producer of the acclaimed ‘Breaking Bad’ on the AMC cable television channel, which has recently been commissioned for a third season. John Shiban’s credits since ‘The Lone Gunmen’ include ‘Enterprise’ (part of the ‘Star Trek’ franchise), ‘Supernatural’ and ‘Legend of the Seeker’.

Review posted 18 August 2009


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