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Series creator Joss Whedon took a somewhat familiar concept (science
as the new "wild west frontier") and freshened it up with a lively,
chemistry-rich cast of characters, a richly detailed, plausible and
interesting social setting, a dash of excitement, classic science fiction
"find the better part of humanity" ideals, a goal to avoid or make light
most of the tired and worn-out genre cliches and a fantastic production
team. The resulting product? An excellent piece of original artful
entertainment that was a breath of fresh air in the stagnating science
fiction scene on television (or anywhere else).
Today, where is Firefly? Canceled after airing about 11 episodes, out of order, of the mere 13 episodes contracted. Why? Fox executives considered the ratings to be "abysmal." Were they? This may be subjective. At the time, Fox was (and still is) pushing almost costless, content-free exploitative "reality television" (such as Joe Millionaire) and formula-reuse "genre simulation" eye candy (such as "John Doe"). In comparison, Firefly, with film quality special effects, a full cast, directors, writers, editors and so forth likely looked to be a much smaller payout. After all, television in the USA is not about art or entertainment; it is about making as much money from sponsors as possible.
Fox didn't think that the Firefly pilot was "exciting" enough. Joss Whedon made some changes to address their concerns. Then Fox didn't even bother to SHOW the pilot until the very last airdate of Firefly, prior to cancellation ("tonight's special: two hour celebration of the cancellation of Firefly!"). Promotion of Firefly was half-hearted at best. On a channel that tells its viewers "Hey, who needs drama?" is there any chance that the marketing people even know HOW to promote something other than sitcoms and exploitative reality shows? Fox is basically telling its own audience that it doesn't like its own programming, so why should people watch it??
As we face the homogenization of television content, Firefly was a brilliant spark of newness and excitement for those of us (the few) in the television audience that desire thought-provoking story-telling and entertainment that actually requires a viewer's mind to be active instead of blank. To some of us, the outcome was never really in question; how could something this good survive on networks (and with advertisers) that believe the lowest-common-denominator is their ideal target?
Knowing the likely outcome, the failure of Firefly hurts all the more because of just how good it actually was in such a short amount of time.
It wasn't about the space ships; it was about the life lived in and around them. It wasn't about the aliens (there weren't any); it was about the people. It wasn't about the struggle between the evil bad-guys and the super heros; it was about the daily struggle to BE a "good-guy" in a world filled with people who often didn't try very hard and the fact that sometimes the heros are just regular people afterall. It wasn't about the sex; it was about the attitudes people have about sex. It wasn't about the profits; it was about selling a good product and deserving the profits.
It is quite telling to see what kind of programming thrives in this economy and what kind of programming gets a sharp stick in the eye. If we are to believe the executives of Fox and other networks, the viewers of television in the USA are unintelligent, selfish and naive automatons that are only capable of being entertained by programs that exploit the failures, ignorance and stupidity of others.
What if they're right?
Luckily, we have the "hard-core" groups of fans to remind us that there are indeed a few active brains seeking stimulation out there. Not to say that all science fiction fans are the best of humanity, it is easy to see that they spend a little more time considering narrative and consequences of actions.
The fans of Firefly funded, organized and accomplished an advertisement in Variety magazine to support Firefly. Yes, that's right. The fans bought advertising for their favorite show.
Though it warmed the hearts of the Firefly production team, Fox wasn't impressed. Such groups of fandom are considered fringe and insignificant when compared to the mighty marketing numbers. Still, you have to admit, there must be something good about a show when the fans purchase advertising in major publications to support it.
The fans still hope that Joss Whedon gets another open-minded network to see that Firefly has great potential as a successful, revenue-generating series. Whedon's previous exploits, the highly successful "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" series and its spin-offs, started with a similar "abysmal outlook" but another network had the foresight to give it a healthy chance when Fox was too eager to give up after not seeing instant success and profit after a handful of out-of-order showings. They didn't even bother to show all 13 episodes completed. Maybe someone at Fox's accounting departments ought to make note that it's a waste of resources to pay for episodes and then do nothing with them.
The chance of recovery isn't good. People move on in search of more employment when the project they were on has been killed. The landscape of television business today has a tendency to portray intelligent programming as "unsuccessful" and "profit-less." Joss Whedon's past successes seem not to matter much to networks hell-bent on making huge profits on zero-product (much like the dot com explosion that ended spectacularly badly years back).
Networks say they are giving the audiences what they want. It may be more accurate to suggest that networks are limiting the audience's ability to choose anything other than what they're given. It's not likely that everyone will simply turn off the TV and go read a book in protest, is it?
Back to Firefly: If you like smart science fiction (or just smart fiction in general), well drawn characters and worlds, Firefly would have been a great show to escape into every Friday night as you relax from the daily rituals of work and responsibility. Too bad it never got much of a chance to entertain us.
With the failure of Firefly at the hands of businessmen and executives who do not even like to watch their own programming, it is clear that the "future Joss Whedons" of television will have a harder time selling their projects to the networks. The result? There's plenty more where "Joe Millionaire" came from; there are countless other profit-seeking formulas that are taking the place of intelligent programming everywhere, calling themselves "Entertainment."
When I first saw it on Fox, I didn't really like it.
As a huge Buffy fan, I had to give it a chance, so I watched most of its original run. I grew to like it more and more, but I wasn't too upset that it was cancelled. I didn't allow myself to get hooked cause I knew it wouldn't last anyway. But, I must admit, when I finally saw the 2-hour pilot, "Serenity", I was really fond of the show and realized how badly it had been screwed by Fox.
I got the DVDs for Christmas. I started with "Serenity" and watched every single episode (a regrettably short 15 hours of television) in a couple of weeks. I finished today, and I started over again. When seen the way it was supposed to be seen, this show is fabulous! Damn! Now, I'm hooked and it's over. Great.
The cast is amazing. It doesn't hurt that Joss is behind the show. He has a real talent for dialog and established their characters beautifully for them.
And the camera work! It brings a realism you just don't expect from Science Fiction. More harsh, realistic lighting and camera angles that make you feel like a spy on the action. A totally different direction from shows like Farscape (brilliant in it's own direction for surrealistic and slick camera and lighting work), it shows the future as gritty and human, rather than the sterile, alien feel of most science fiction.
This show was a gem, something really brilliant, that was shafted by Fox (there's a shock. Fox has always been such a caring network. /sarcasm).
At least we have a theatrical movie to look forward. Go and see that when it comes out! Maybe then the series will find a new life.
First off I should say that I only watched this as I read it had replaced
Dark Angel (which I kind of liked, first series anyway) and wanted to see
it was any good. Anyway, I've just finished watching the last episode of
Firefly here in the UK, and I am thoroughly appalled that this series has
been cancelled. The ONLY bad things I can say about it is that
*occasionally* the western parts seemed a bit contrived, and that I never
really got to identify with some characters much (Wash and Preacher
For the first point, it's not nearly as bad a mix of sci-fi and western as some people comment on. I suspect they haven't really watched it as it usually works very well. For the second point, I'm sure that I would have gotten to know the other characters better in the future as the story developed. The characters (and actors) in this series were fantastic as individuals and as a team. They are a real credit to Firefly and helped make it seem real, generate emotion, humour and occasionally despair. Nathan Fillion above all surprised me as I'd never seen him as an actor before (I've never watched Buffy much), and he's simply fantastic. Believable from the first episode and acts out Mal's great strengths and flaws of character perfectly. The rest of the cast support (and occasionally take the lead) very well.
As for the rest, the stories were very good and usually inventive despite staying in the supposedly cliched sci-fi and/or western domain, every episode has laughs, some have a few tears. The effects are generally not too bad (some bits really nice, others a bit ropey - nothing an improved budget wouldn't have fixed). Even the title music (by Whedon!) is fantastic. I watch most things recorded and normally fast forward past the titles (Babylon 5 excepted).
Bottom line is that above all it's a shame it was canned. It was a great series, had *real potential* to be a blockbuster (I doubt that many TV execs thought that a vampire hunting female would be so popular), and was easily the best debut series I've seen in the sci-fi/drama genre (even the mighty Babylon 5 took a while to get started). For it to have failed ratings means that people inside Fox need sacked for not doing their job properly, due to bad planning, bad promotion, and for being so stupid that they can't see a good show or even potential even if it is the best in the 'Verse.
The fact that Whedon thinks strongly enough of Firefly to do a film version (and can get the backing to do so) should be a wakeup call to the top level bosses that those under them aren't interested in quality or investing in potentially hit series, they are only reacting to immediate ratings despite the fact they influence them badly by getting their programming all wrong.
While I'm only too happy to see a film version, the production values of the series were so high that it's really just going to be a higher budget longer episode (albeit more polished), when all I (and many others) want to see is a new series. I really hope that the film springboards the series back, but I'm not holding my breath...
Firefly is like no other television program. Only lasting one year,
with episodes randomly thrown on strange nights on FOX, this series
boasted a classic combination of science fiction with a western flair.
How could it go wrong? A humorous program that had fun, fought bad
guys, and harbored extremely dark secrets. Why did it only last one
season? Marketing. FOX, as we all can learn from my review of Outfoxed,
is not quite the "fair and balanced" type of programming that it
promotes, but instead attaches itself to the hottest trend and pushes
it nearly to the point of sickness. For those that would disagree, I
ask you to check out how many predictable seasons of American Idol we
will have to endure until someone realizes that it lost its steam a
many a moon ago. Or how about the disaster of a series called Wife
Swap? Honestly, did FOX just ignore the idea of creativity and push
directly for insulting "reality" television? From what I see on
television today, I could only assume the answer to be "yes". Firefly
was a bold, unique, and highly original series that gave us powerful
characters, detailed stories, and that Lost itch in the back of your
mind that keeps you asking that age old question, "why". Yet, in all of
its power, it was canceled.
Firefly is perfection on a stick. The twang of the guitar, the stone-face stare of Mal, the goofiness of Jayne (is that a girls name?), the questionable past of Shepard Book, the humor of Wash, the power of Zoe, and the innocence of Kaylee is exactly why I fell in love with this show. This is honestly, one of the few series that I could go back from the beginning and watch again, loving every moment of it. Whedon created a masterpiece in my eyes, and a huge opportunity was missed by several major networks to keep this imagination alive.
While some will argue that Firefly was full of nothing more than C-rated actors who were "shallow cut-outs, and whose dialogue never rises above the level of a so-so sitcom", I thought that they brought so much personality and charisma to a smorgasbord of unoriginal programming. I wanted to know the truth behind River and the darkness behind the good Shepard. I continually waited for a snappy comeback from Mal, and was excited whenever he showed humility. Jayne was a big favorite of mine, always questioning authority, yet as loyal as the family dog. The love between Zoe and Wash brought a new layer of honesty to this sci-fi series. It wasn't just about paying for the ship, flying through unmapped terrain, or stealing, it was about humanity. That sense of humanity could be found in the opening episode for this series aptly titled "Serenity". In it, the crew takes upon some passengers with some rather unknown cargo. Inside one of those crates is a girl that will change their lives forever. For this series to work successfully, as it did, we needed human characters that bled, felt compassion, and demonstrated connectiveness to each of us. Mal's ship, Serenity, was a living example of how television could be done creatively and originally.
The characters could only be as strong as the words that were handed to them. Listening to the words that pass through Mal's mouth, the charm of Wash, or even the inconsistent ramblings of River, you could only wonder where Whedon could have gone with all of them. In each of these characters, Whedon had written secrets. While, sadly, we may never know what they all were, that is what made you itch for more episodes. You not only wanted to see the creative "western" adventures that Whedon was sending his crew, but you also wanted to learn more about these band of renegades. They were good, but possibly darkness reigned inside of them. The character most guilty of this (outside of River) was Shepard Book. I loved this character. Whedon drew him with so much passion and conviction, yet with every episode you learned more about this man than imaginable. He is an excellent example of what this series was like. He represented the smart words of Whedon, the humanity of his character, and the secrets that each of these shared. He was a "priest", yet he knew more about the Alliance than anyone aboard that ship. If anyone were to ask me to describe the series in two words, I would simply say, "Shepard Book".
George Lucas is credited with creating this detailed futuristic world that gives us glimpses of a possible future, or a galaxy far far away, Whedon succeeded in this series by giving us a plausible future in the not-too-distant future of 500 years. Prostitution in legal, in fact respected in the community, the Chinese and Americans have forged one super power called the Alliance, and our hero is a war veteran, still not shaken by the loss that his side took due to the Alliance control. While Lucas gives us far-fetched characters and situations, Whedon gives us a imaginative look at our future. I think that is why this series worked so well for me. I could imagine this future. I could see it past the characters. I wasn't bogged down by dopey looking aliens, but instead a plausible man vs. man situation. Firefly was simple, yet so complex.
I could honestly go on forever about how much I enjoyed this show. I have never watched a series where I found myself prepared to watch over and over again. Firefly blends a power mixture of comedy, western, and action all together and the characters bleed. Villains die in this series. How often do you see that? If you have not watched this series, or have not spent the money to support it, DO IT RIGHT NOW!
Grade:(proudly) ***** out of *****
Absolutely, totally and completely worth owning. I had not had the
priviledge of seeing it while it was on television. I bought it on a whim
one day after reading a few good reviews (mainly in Entertainment Weekly
which gave a raving review) and hearing good things from friends. I am so
glad that I took that opportunity.
What can I say about it? It's innovative with intriguing characters and it makes me laugh uproariously when I probably shouldn't! I would highly recommend it to all who would listen.
Take this chance - you won't be sorry.
The best action adventure science fiction series I've ever seen. From
Whedon, the guy who did "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", this show is well
rough and tumble action from start to finish.
"Star Trek" is too bright and squeaky clean. "Earth 2" is dull and slow. "Babylon 5" is the only other show which even comes close to matching the quality of "Firefly".
I became a fan of BtVS January 1, 2002. I realise that at this time I was
slightly behind, as well as on Angel, but I managed to recap all the
episodes I missed (from FX and computer downloads and the such) and I was
amazed at how wonderfully crafted these two shows were. Everytime a new
comes out for Buffy or Angel, I HAVE to pick it up within the first week
its release date.
Then I heard of Firefly. I never watched it when it was airing on TV, which I guess was good, considering they screwed over 3 unaired episodes and aired them not in order, and literally screwed over this wonderful television show.
Then the DVD came out, and although I was interested, had never seen the show before in my life. So one day in my local Circuit City I decided to throw away 40 bucks and check out this new Joss creation. I bought it purely on trust and luck. It was worth it...
It is truly a sat feat that Firefly ended so quickly. For a cast of mostly unknowns, the acting was superb, and they all portrayed their characters to the tee. Each character had their own complex story, personality, and no one was a carbon copy of another character. The ship was beautiful, the special effects were beautiful, the plots were skillfully crafted, the twists fresh and exciting, it was really an exciting adventure to watch every episode.
I am very excited there is talk (and possibly already in the works) of a movie, because hopefully Fox will get it through their heads that this is a quality show, and maybe Universal will give rights back to Fox to make it a show again. That would be a true delight for the die-hards that love and adore the show.
It will not be forgotten.
What a wonderful show this was. Watching the DVDS made me miss it. I loved the concept of the the future but with things we were familiar with too. Loved the whole western idea and I thought the Chinese influence was very interesting. I like that when they needed to cuss, it was in Chinese and you could use your imagination as to what they were really saying. I like all the actors and thought each was terrific in their part. There are still plenty of questions unanswered and I really hope they make the movie but it would also be great if they had "made for tv" movies so we could have more. The ultimate would be to have it back on tv but it would have to be a cable station and not network. I could go on but I know the other reviewers have gone in depth better than I. The DVDS are great, loved the behind the scenes and commentary. I highly recommend buying it!
Firefly. Where do I begin. There are times, now and then, when
something new arrives, be it music, painting, scientific discovery,
film or TV which just makes me take a step back (metaphoric or
otherwise) and go - 'Ooooh!' Something is so good, so in-tune, that it
sucks me in and creates an indefinable something which is impossible to
put into words without sounding like either a pretentious idiot or a
yabbering nutcase. Without a doubt it is one of the best pieces of
television ever created and the heartbreaking thing is no one but a few
interested souls have seen it. This should have been as important a
step in TV terms as The X-Files, or before that Hill Street Blues.
Instead it was cancelled before anyone got a chance to see it.
Over the last couple of days I've tried to describe the series to people. It's a western set in the future with spaceships and horses. They swear all the way through it but in Chinese. One of the main characters is a Shepherd or holy man and another is a Companion or prostitute. It's about a group of interplanetary traders trying to make their way. And there are no aliens. No sound in space. And funny in a Douglas Adams / The Simpsons way and in places better than Star Wars. It sounds ridiculous and the blank faces I've been getting are heartbreaking.
Basically its impossible for me to review it. I feel like I'm too close, unable to express rational thought. I can't see its failings. No its only failing is that it strives to be utterly original in the face of overwhelming banality. At no point does it do anything if it can't be done interestingly. For example, the aforementioned Shepherd somehow has a genius knowledge of weapons and vehicles. Being a Companion is a legal and respectable trade. The comedy relief pilot is married to the amazonian second in command but he can be utterly serious when need be and she can be a laugh riot. And time after time you'll think an episode is about one thing and it'll be turned on its head and it'll actually be about something else even more extra-ordinary. That cack like Andromeda continues and this does explains why the world is still run by the children of morons.
It's not often I will recommend something unconditionally, but here I am. Just buy it. Its 25 pounds at Amazon on DVD, and Tesco have got it in store for 30. It's a bargain. If you like sci-fi - buy it. If you like Buffy or Angel buy it. If you like comedy adventure - buy it. If you simply want to take a chance to see something extra-ordinary - buy it. Think of it as an investment. Even though by the end you'll be a wreck because you won't understand why something so right could only last for so few episodes, and you want to know what happens next, you'll be heartened to know a film is coming next year, which hopefully answer some of the questions. So think of it as an investment, so that when all of your friends are talking about it you can smugly say you were there first. Or if you want to be a real friend invite them along now for the ride.
This is a wonderful show. The fault lies completely with Fox in showing
episodes out of order and putting it in a really bad timeslot.
The ensemble cast is spectacular with good plots, some silly, some deep.
If you love Joss Whedon one-liners and Sci/Fi, this is not one to miss.
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