‘The X-Files’ flashback: Vince Gilligan’s ‘Small Potatoes’ debuted 20 years ago today

Editor’s update: Minutes after this item went live, Fox officially announced that “The X-Files” would return for Season 11 sometime in 2017-2018, for a total of 10 episodes.

Twenty years ago today (April 20, 1997) marked the premiere of “The X-Files” Season 4 episode “Small Potatoes,” the wildly hilarious entry written by Vince Gilligan and directed by Cliff Bole. It also happens to be my all-time favorite of the show’s more than 200 episodes. In the two decades since the episode first aired on Fox, Gilligan has become a household name thanks to creating “Breaking Bad” (for which he won two Emmys for producing the Best Drama Series champ in 2013 and 2014); he also co-created spinoff series “Better Call Saul” with Peter Gould. Above, watch an old interview with Gilligan talking about the episode.

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“Small Potatoes” is remembered for its fun and creative way of playing up the infamous flirtation between David Duchovny‘s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson‘s Dana Scully. Bad guy Eddie Van Blundht (Darin Morgan) was born with a tail and had the unique ability to shape-shift, and at the end of the episode he transformed into Mulder and seduced Scully. Eddie got Scully drunk and even tried to kiss her, but then the real Mulder barged in and Eddie shifted back into his normal appearance.

“I was halfway through the script and I realized that there was only one person to play the part of Eddie Van Blundht,” said Gilligan about Morgan, who won an Emmy in 1996 for writing the third-season episode “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.” Morgan recalled that Gilligan pitched the character to him as “a fat ugly loser who’s impregnating women, basically by raping them, because you were born with a tail.” But then Gilligan quickly had to add, “Darin, I don’t think of you that way!”

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Nearly 21 million people watched “Small Potatoes” in its Fox debut, a number almost unheard of today. For comparison’s sake, only 11 million viewers watched the Season 7 finale of TV’s current #1 show “The Walking Dead” on AMC. “The X-Files” reviewer Todd VanDerWerff (The A.V. Club) named it one of the “10 must-see episodes” and even declared it to be “Gilligan’s finest comedic achievement.”

I ran into Vince Gilligan several years ago at a “Breaking Bad” event and asked him if he would sign my “Small Potatoes” DVD. Gilligan was happy to oblige my uber-fandom, autographing the disc and writing, “Keep watching the Skies!” (see photo below). Click through our photo gallery to see what Duchovny, Anderson and the rest of “The X-Files” cast has been up to since the series ended back in 2002.

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