I bet Chris Carter couldn't believe his luck in 1993 when the world went X-Files mad. For a good few years there he was running one of the most popular TV shows in the world. At first, after he'd overcome his shock and good fortune, he must have begun to wonder if he was a creative genius. He'd dreamed up this show that had people gripped week after week, and if he could do it once, he could do it again. I assume Fox thought the same.
So along came Millennium, taking the darker aspects of the X-Files and making them even darker. I assume Carter must have known Millennium would only ever reach a select audience. Personally, I loved Millennium, but I know a lot of people who didn't. I mean, it really was bleak. Still, it lasted three years, which is no X-Files, but it's not too bad a run.
So he had another go.
Harsh Realm aired three episodes before it was cancelled. I'm only just getting round to watching it (knowing there's only a grand total of 9 episodes and a storyline that'll never be completed is a little off-putting) but it's not too bad. There are certainly a lot worse shows that run for a lot, lot longer. It's a much simpler show too on the conspiracy front. The X-Files pretended there was a big thought out Plan that was slowly being revealed, but all the inconsistencies quickly showed that they were really just making it up as they went along. Harsh Realm, however, could actually have gotten away with being made up as it went along without ever tripping itself up.
Anyway, the audience had spoken and Harsh Realm was gone.
Time to try again.
The X-Files is still on the air at this point, so Fox must have figured Carter had some creative spark in him somewhere to give him yet another go at recreating the success of the X-Files. This time Carter played it a little more safe and decided on The Lone Gunmen, spinning off popular characters from the X-Files into their own show.
Sadly, this was yet another failure. Sadly, The Lone Gunmen was a really good show - much better than the X-Files was at the time. The main show should really have been put out of its misery by this point, it's mythology so complex, confusing, and a tiny bit dull. The Lone Gunmen, however, had the sense not to take itself seriously. It was fun.
So a string of failed shows for Carter...and the X-Files is unbelievably still going. David Duchovny leaves and the show continues. Gillian Anderson's role is reduced and the show continues. It's only after nine seasons that the plug is finally pulled.
You have to give it to Chris Carter: he tried. To this day he must wonder why the X-Files succeeded and everything else failed. I can't see a reason for it other than luck, which is a tricky thing to try and control. I mean, just ask Joss Whedon...