CTP Episode of the Day - 10.04.06 - Hungry

Today's Cherished Episode: Hungry (7x01)
Original Air Date: November 21, 1999
Written By: Vince Gilligan
Directed By: Kim Manners

Mulder and Scully come to sunny Southern California to investigate a mysterious killing at a drive-thru burger stand and find a tormented brain-eating mutant monster who constantly fights the urge to eat meat.

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"I have compulsions to eat. I get hungry and I try to put it off for as long as I can but then, finally, I just... I get so hungry that I can't help myself."

Some "Hungry" Tidbits & Musings:

-- An X-Files director since the second season, Kim Manners liked to sum up the general process of creating the show this way: "We're going to hell but we're having a great time." When it came to the episode "Hungry," the director had a lot of help in this down-and-dirty nightmare of the true terror that lurks behind the disembodied voice of your favorite fast food drive-thru restaurant, beginning with the story idea, courtesy of veteran writer and co-executive producer Vince Gilligan.

-- According to producer Frank Spotnitz, "Vince's career on The X-Files has always been about doing something different than what has been done before." It was that attitude that allowed for his stand-alones "Drive" and "Tithonus" in Season 6. Given his track record, it was not too far-fetched a notion when Gilligan brought his concept of a brain-eating monster behind a burger stand to the pitch meeting.

-- "I had always wanted to do a story where Mulder and Scully were the antagonists rather than the protagonists," said Gilligan. "The idea was that 'Hungry' would be solely from the monster's point of view and that the only time we would be aware of Mulder and Scully is when it was through the monster's eyes. I knew going in that this would be a real experimental type of episode. I wanted to take a bad guy and spend enough time with him to understand him so that he becomes sympathetic."

-- At the story meeting, Gilligan's gross-out concept, complete with a toothy, very shark-like monster, was an immediate hit. Spotnitz latched onto the basic intent of the idea. "The monster was sympathetic because he could not help himself. He didn't want to be a monster. He just was." Chris Carter likewise applauded Gilligan's idea of a "really great monster show. It was mentally scary and just a bottom-line quirky idea," said Carter. "It took the creep level to a new high."

-- "Hungry" would also prove to be a challenge on a number of fronts. Going into Season 7, The X-Files's production company found itself with a bit of a scheduling problem. David Duchovny was putting the finishing touches on the motion picture Return to Me and Gillian Anderson was finishing up The House of Mirth. Consequently, neither would be available for the time required to work on the two-part season premiere, "The Sixth Extinction" and "Amor Fati."

-- But with plenty of experience in handling this kind of scheduling challenge already under their belts, The X-Files's production company simply juggled the schedule so that "Hungry," which would ultimately be the third episode aired, was bumped to be the first episode filmed. Kim Manners, who always did well by the creepier outings, was a natural to direct the episode.

-- As it turned out, Duchovy and Anderson were available for only a combined two days of filming for "Hungry."

-- The out-of-order filming explains why Scully's hair was long again (after it was short at the end of "Amor Fati"). Although Scully's hair was short at the end of "Amor Fati" because its final scene was filmed weeks after production on that episode was finished (due to the rewrite of the final scene).

-- Behind the scenes, the detailed and seemingly rote elements of "Hungry" were being addressed by the costume designers, special effects department, and location manager. The big set pieces for the production design department for "Hungry," specifically the design of the Lucky Boy restaurant and Rob Roberts's apartment, had the requisite challenges. Corey Kaplan found that making over the Lucky Boy, with its inherent retro-kitsch, was not too daunting. The apartment was a whole other matter. "Doing the apartment interior was very complicated," explained Kaplan, "because Vince really didn't want to give us a thing in the script in terms of detailed explanation. So we went with a fairly stark, super-in-order look, and that seemed to work."

-- Monster shows were makeup coordinator John Vulich's favorite kind of show. Vulich, whose company, Optic Nerve, also provided alien images for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Roswell, found the challenge of turning put-upon Rob into a shark-like, brain-eating mutant complex on a number of fronts. "The character had to be passable as a human being and the disguise had to look slapped together," said Vulich. "The makeup was complicated in its level of subtlety. We had to get something that was a dynamic monster, but at the same time, we had to do a little tweaking so that he would look like a human being."

-- The job was accomplished with two basic prosthetic pieces, a forehead and a nose applied to the actor's features. Additional disguise bits, contact lenses, and ears applied to the main prosthetic appliances completed the looks. "Everything was very subtle and natural," explained Vulich.

-- "The hardest part about that was hiding his ears because we had to hide his ears underneath a bald cap and still put ears back on top of it, without making his ears look giant," said Vulich. "There's a lot of little tricks. Every illusion we could pull to make it look like he didn't have huge giant ears, we did."

-- Duchovny's relative absence from the show opened the door for his stand-in Steve Kiziak to make that rare on-screen appearance as a private detective who was tailing the monster Rob Roberts and met a bloody demise at the business end of the monster's brain-sucking tongue. "It was a lot of fun to be in front of the camera," said Kiziak. "I got to play this real hard-core private dick and it gave me some valuable screen time, which never hurts in this town."

-- Getting the most out of the limited availability of the show's stars proved an ongoing challenge during the filming of "Hungry," and producer Spotnitz related that ingenuity was the watchword. "There were some scenes where Mulder and Scully were together but were not even on the set the same day. But we made it look like they were together by the use of doubles. The main thing was that we knew we were taking a risk with this episode by giving the supporting actor the responsibility of carrying the show. Fortunately, we had a very good actor in Chad Donella."

-- Casting director Rick Millikan added that the choice of Donella, who he described as having a "subtle, interesting quality," was integral to keeping viewers of this monster-sensitive episode off-balance. "Casting monster episodes can be tough because you don't want somebody who is going to jump out at viewers as the obvious bad guy. We always try to keep the true identity of the monster hidden as long as possible. And there was just something in Chad's eyes that was creepy but not in-your-face creepy."

-- "Chad Donella was great," said Kim Manners. "In that final scene, he looked at the doctor and, through those black contact lenses, you can't see tears, but you can see the mist in his eyes. And he takes this long moment before he makes the decision that enough is enough. And then he turns and he runs at Mulder. And he commits suicide basically, and again, just like in 'Leonard Betts,' trying to root that in an emotional place and give him some soul."

-- The episode also turned out to have its share of stunts. The opening sequence in which Hungry Guy gets pulled through the drive-thru window was accomplished with a stuntman and high-speed cable rig. Doing the "blind driving" inside the car as it careened across the restaurant parking lot and into the tree was stunt coordinator Danny Weselis. A stuntman was also used in the sequence where the dead body dumped into a trash can was picked up by the garbage truck and dumped into the trash compactor.

-- Rob's prescription bottle that Derwood found was dated June 28, 1999, with instructions to take the medication three times a day. That would seem to date this episode occurring sometime in July, though it's unlikely that was meant to be the case (especially since the next episode aired was "Millennium").

-- For the obnoxious speed metal music playing in Hungry Guy's car in the opening sequence, producer Paul Rabwin went to his daughter for advice. She was dating a musician in a band called Unearthed, who were more than willing to allow the production to license their music.

-- The real Lucky Boy restaurant was located in Los Feliz, California, which substituted for the fictional drive-thru which was located in Costa Mesa, California.

-- Vince set the episode in Costa Mesa because his brother Pat lived there.

-- This was the first of eight episodes in Season 7 totally or partially set in California.

-- Originally the script called for the drive-thru to be called Burgerlishious. But the location department found a restaurant location that was ideal except for a big sign saying "Lucky Boy" that couldn't be removed. So the show simply changed the fictional drive-thru's name to match.

-- Rob Roberts, the main character in the episode, was named for Vince Gilligan's helicopter flight training instructor, as well as the morning traffic reporter, in Richmond, Virginia (Vince's hometown). The psychiatrist, Mindy Rinehart, was named after the real-life Rob Roberts' wife.

-- In keeping with writer Vince Gilligan's habit of putting his girlfriend's name (Holly Rice) in each episode he writes, the manager of the fast-food store is named Mr. Rice. Another employee is named Lucy, which is Holly's real first name.

-- Derwood Spinks was named for Vince Gilligan's sixth grade teacher, Derwood Guthrie. The last name came from World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Leon Spinks.

-- Oopsie! Mulder tells Rob that Derwood's car disappeared, but all indications were that Derwood rode a motorcycle (at least he carried around a motorcycle helmet).

-- The monster even got the Mulderisms: "I'm sorry, but this is like good cop, insane cop."

-- Ultimately, "Hungry" was an example of The X-Files's ability to conform to a season that found itself fraught with professional challenges and surprises that would bedevil the show through the entire season.

-- Said Gilligan about the final product, "My intention for the episode was that at the end, when Mulder and Scully show up and kill the monster, to have the audience out there hoping that they would not show up. We want the monster to get away at the end, even though he cracks people's heads open and eats their brains."

-- Actress Judith Hoag, who played Dr. Mindy Rinehart, starred in the 1990 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie.

-- Kevin Porter, who played the motivational speaker, was Lazer in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

-- Once & Future Retreads: Steve Kiziak also appeared in "Hollywood A.D." (as Tea Leoni's date David Duchovny) and in "Fight Club" as the Man Who Looked Like Mulder.

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(Thanks to chrisnu for today's pics.)

Please share your first impressions, favorite (or cringe-worthy) moments, classic lines, favorite fanfic, nagging questions, repeated viewing observations, etc., as today we celebrate "Hungry"!

Polly