Fox TV's popular The X-Files was a program whose writing staff knew how to use humor sparingly but with incredible effectiveness. Granted, the show had a few bottle-style episodes that went more for comic impact than did the bulk of the show's run; but when the writers served up a solid laugh it was usually extremely well-placed and well-deserved.
And as bottle episodes go, my money has always been on "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space" as being not only one of The X-Files' best but quite possibly one of the smartest, funniest, and most poignant hours of genre television ever. Darin Morgan's script is sprinkled with delight from start-to-finish, though the casual observer is likely to miss a whole lot of them. Paying close attention, having a solid grounding in UFO lore, and embracing that willingness to suspend disbelief grants rewards a viewer never expects with this hour, and it's one that I always recommend to folks who've never enjoyed what a phenomenon The X-Files truly was for its era.
Sadly, I get to mention it this morning because of Alex Trebek's passing.
For those who've never seen the episode, "Jose Chung" kinda/sorta takes all of the usual tropes involved with UFO and UFOlogy and packs them tightly into this smart script ... and then turns it all on its head as FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully detail one of the most bizarre and unsolved cases of possible alien abduction on record. Essentially, it's one curveball after another -- the way many abduction accounts get treated by the media -- with Mulder (the believer) verbally sparing with Scully (the skeptic) as they try to force these disparate pieces together into some kind of recognizable jigsaw puzzle.
How does Alex Trebek figure into this?
As fate would have it, it's the briefest of cameos, indeed, as the popular game show host and former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura end up appearing as the curiously evasive yet presciently ubiquitous 'Men In Black.' Still, it's all handled brilliantly, and though I've never read what Trebek had to say about his appearance I can imagine he was thrilled to be in on the joke.
Alas, he's passed on now ... but we'll always have this and the countless hours of Jeopardy to remember him by.
God speed ...