Cash Cows – Firefly

Creator/Director: Joss Whedon

Writers: Joss Whedon, Tim Minear, Ben Edlund, Jose Molina

Cast: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Ron Glass

Years: 2002-2005

“…You can’t take the sky from me.”

Let’s hop in the wayback machine. In 1997 a limited-run program titled Sessions at West 54th presented a live performance of an up and coming band calling themselves “Ben Fold Five”. Host Chris Douridas intorduced them with this brilliantly simple statement: “If you’ve heard these guys perform, you’re a fan. If you haven’t, you’re about to be.”

Ladies and gentlemen…

This little slice of sci-fi aired in 2002 under the watchful eye of 20th Century Fox. It came to life, the brainchild of one Joss Whedon. Yeah, you know him – the guy who gave us this:

And this:

And next year he’ll be giving us this:

Which is why we’ll forgive him for this.

Whedon’s shows are…hmm…unique, to say the least (as are Whedon’s fans, and thank God I don’t have to review them in any way).There is a very distinct quirkiness in the kind of world he creates – something that somehow penetrates pop culture like few others can do and imprints new language, fashions and an overwhelming desire to conduct entire conversations utilising only quotes from a specific episode. Whedon is the very definition of “cult”; and so far as things go, so is Firefly.

It shouldn’t be.

Firefly is a show with the rarest kind of alchemy at work. It was cancelled before the first season was completed – before it had even been written – which would lead most to assume that it’s not really worth watching. But they’d be wrong. In crudest terms it’s a “Sci-Fi Western” – we got ships in space, words like “terraforming” getting thrown around, there’s an “Alliance” (a term seemingly reserved for sci-fi); and at the same time we got fellas in dusty brown clothes, pistols slung low on their hips, riding horses and generally talking through gritted teeth. None of this, however, is what makes Firefly worth checking out.

Verisimilitude. When Richard Donner began work on Superman in 1977, he drummed this word into the heads of his entire team. Verisimilitude. “We must be true to the reality of Superman. We must embrace this world and present it like it’s real.” Verisimilitude – the appearance or semblence of truth. Superman was great because the entire team believed in the truth of it all. Not tongue-in-cheek, but sincerity. Firefly is great for the same reason. From the creators to the writers to the cast to the guys who hold the microphones in the air – everyone was commited to the world that had been created for this show. As a result, we have 14 near-flawless episodes of a show that is really, really fun.

There are two people, however, that the television studio networks seem to hate. One is Moon Bloodgood, the other is Joss Whedon.

They’ll be cancelling Falling Skies any minute now

For whatever reason (I have little interest in understanding the studio system) the show got canned. Fox actually seem to have quite a talent for this kind of work.

And that’s the end of the story. After all, they don’t bring back cancelled shows that didn’t get to the end of season one; and they certainly don’t greenlight movies off those shows…right?

In one of the most stunning “In your FACE Fox!” turnarounds, Whedon’s veritable legion of fans (calling themselves “Browncoats” after an obscure reference from some TV show they’d all been watching) made such a racket, and bought so many copies of the show on DVD (which, honestly, was probably more responsible than any other factor) that Fox told Whedon to go ahead and make a movie. In a testament to the passion and enthusiasm of the cast and crew of Firefly, when the call went out for Serenity, every last one of them came running.

And so we got the conclusion that we never should have got. What’s equally brilliant about the flick is that they don’t answer every last question raised during FIrefly‘s 14 episodes – but they do resolve things in a manner that perfectly fits the show, the flick, the world and everything we’ve come to expect from Joss Whedon.

I am going to make you cry

Serenity doesn’t quite come to the heights of the show, though it does come damn close. It’s hard to put a finger on exaclty what didn’t gel on the big screen, but it’s hardly enough to diminish enjoyment of the film. The question is: Is Serenity accessible to those who haven’t seen Firefly? I would have to say yes, based largely on the fact that I saw Serenity after watching only one episode of the show, and I loved it. Of course, the movie is designed as a conclusion to a story, and so everyone really should go through the series first.

You don’t have to be the kind of person who’ll dress up, recite the dialogue at the drop of a hat and names their first child River. You don’t even have to meet those people. Just check out the show…trust me.

It’s shiny.

How To Enjoy It

Set aside a day with a bottle of whiskey, a handful of trailhands and when you’re done, smoke a cigar to the memory of The ‘Verse.


Firefly – 5 out of 5 stars (Awesome)

Serenity – 4.5 out of 5 stars (Extremely Enjoyable)

5 thoughts on “Cash Cows – Firefly

    • Too right. It’s the language that studios understand. Fan campaigns to save shows will only work if they bring serious coin to the table. A similar example is “Chuck”, which was renewed after the fans started a campaign that targeted not the studio, but the shows sponsors. People had a mass drive buying sandwiches from Subway.

  1. If there is one show i wish was brought back and that is Freaks and Geeks. A fantastic show and just about everyone involved with that show in front and behind the camera went to bigger and better things.

    • Yeah, y’know I never saw Freaks and Geeks, and I kinda feel like I missed out on something good there. Only ever heard good things about it though. In the end, fans have to get on board with their shows damn quick, because there’s a limited time in which they can act to save something.

  2. Zee. See Freaks and Geeks. It’s smart, it’s incredibly well written. It launched the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogen and Jason Segal. Just to name a few. The soundtrack is pitch perfect i can’t say more about it.

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