Firefly question from a non-viewer

Ok, so I went and saw Serenity friday night. I had no idea what I was going to see, but the wife watched the original Firefly series and wanted to go…and hey, I’m a SciFi kind of guy so we went. It was really good…I enjoyed it a lot. I asked the wife some questions about the series and she said it was a REALLY good series but that it died after only one season. Thats kind of the heart of my question…why? My wife says that all the major characters from the series were in the movie and that pretty much the movie just filled in a lot of blanks from the series…and, well, the movie worked pretty well as far as I’m concerned. I enjoyed it a lot. So…why did the series die so fast? I got some theories from the wife about it, but I figured I’d ask here as I know there are a few Firefly fans about.

I know this subject has been done before and that there are probably threads about it out there in the great beyond, but doing a search on Firefly comes back with a LOT of threads…to many to dig through right now (I’m out of town and writing this from a hotel connection). So…why did the series die so rapidly? Are there any plans to do anything with it now that this movie is out? I’ve seen the series on DvD at the local video store…should I get it? Or having seen the movie first should I not bother?


Easiest reply: FOX killed it because they were too stupid to understand it.

More involved reply: Joss delivered something FOX didn’t want, and then they showed the episodes out of order, pre-empted them, and generally made it impossible for the show to find its audience.

Buy the DVDs. You will watch them repeatedly, and curse the name of FOX. The plans are for the series to continue as movies, but the future is doubtful, since Serenity didn’t pull the audience they expected.

My wife mentioned the out of order thing. Makes no sense…did they WANT it to fail? Why didn’t another channel pick it up…seems a sure winner to me as there is never enough good SciFi on TV. There is (at least I THINK there is) a huge market for it just in the US.

Shame if it dies and they make no more movies and no more series…the movie alone really worked for me. I was definitely drawn in and the story line seems pretty vast…they could go with the story line they are in, talk about this war that was fought and lost…lots of possibilities IMO.


FOX didn’t understand Firefly. Whether that is FOX’s fault or Joss’s is open to debate. But SF has always been the red-headed stepchild of TV. It didn’t help matters that Joss delivered the most expensive pilot in the history of TV. The SciFi channel couldn’t afford to take it, and no other network thought it would draw more than a fringe audience.

Fringe we may be, but we are vocal, and we buy stuff!

The best chance: Summer Glau has a break-out role in an indie film, and everybody wants her for their next project. Somebody at Universal remembers the option they have on the next two movies, and bingo! Serenity 2: Electric Bugaloo is a rwality. :smiley:

Well they wanted ‘Buffy in Space’ when they didn’t get it they didn’t want to support it. They’d rather Preempt it with “When Animals Attack XIV”.

Because the vast majority of channels seem to think if it doesn’t start with “Star Trek:” then it won’t be popular enough to justify the cost. Look how Babylon 5 struggled to get renewed each year and it had a creator that only wanted 5 seasons.

Quick/Obvious answer: Bad ratings. Nobody watched it.

No conspricacy here, if it had had good ratings they would have kept it. FOX isn’t a charity.

Though I agree there’s no conspiracy making it sound like it failed solely on ratings isn’t correct. They showed the original pilot last in the series confusing viewers. They gave Joss something like 24 hours to write a whole new pilot (Train Job) which wasn’t nearly as good or as gripping. It was in a terrible time slot and near the end of the run it was preempted twice to show crappy reality based programming. I hadn’t even seen any commericals for it until it’d already been canceled (The only show I actually saw during it’s orginal run was the pilot which was enough to make me want to buy the DVDs when they came out) How is that giving the series a fair chance to attract an audience? If the show had been weaker it wouldn’t have had such huge DVD sales that interested people enough to make a movie out of it. Simply put FOX could have had at least a sleeper hit on its hands if not a whole lot better if they’d just not screwed it every chance they had.

No conspiracy just stupidity.

Oh and I forgot it did have better ratings then the first year of Buffy or Angel.

To be fair, any genre show on Fox, even an unpopular one, will get higher ratings than a genre show on the WB, a network that is not carried by nearly as many cable providers or available in as many areas. They’re all Whedon shows, but you’re comparing apples and pears, if not apples and oranges.

That’s true, but the first seasons of Buffy and Angel were on a fledgling network. They may have had sucktacular ratings, but they were still some of the best ratings that the WB was pulling in at the time.

Interestingly enough, Angel was pulling in the best ratings of the entire series when it got the axe.

As for why Firefly went to FOX in the first place, FOX owns Buffy and Angel and has a “first option” clause on Joss Whedon’s work as well as Tim Minear’s. That’s why FOX had the privelege of axing not only Firefly, but also Wonder Falls and The Inside.

As much as I love Firefly and as much as I enjoyed Serenity I’d really be OK if there were no more movies.
Spoilers for the movie follow, and discussion and possible additional spoilers for other Whedon projects continue after the spoiler box. Be warned.

The deaths of Book and Wash tore such enormous holes in the fabric of the 'verse that I don’t know how much I care to see more without them.

Yes, Joss has killed off important characters both in BtVS and AtS, but either it was late in the series when the rest of the setting was better established (Joyce) or before the character was really established, not to mention that the character was created to die in the first place (Doyle). In the Firefly 'verse we’re talking about two of the core ten characters (including of course the ship) and there’s little reason for two or possibly three of the remaining core characters (Simon, River, Inara) to remain with the crew. A forced and artificial reason keeping them there would possibly be worse than their departures.

You REALLY need to put the rest of that in spoiler boxes.

“Only” five seasons is a lot more than the vast majority of shows get.

Another reason for the death of Firefly, in my opinion - it had the misfortune to air right at the peak of the reality show craze, and networks were shedding shows right and left and replacing them with crap like Big Brother and Fear Factor. Why spend a million bucks to make an hour long drama when you can put a camera in front of a few regular people living in a house and draw three times the ratings? Reality TV was cheap to produce and for a while they had big audiences.

What they forgot is that these shows have zero repeat value, zero syndication value, zero home video value, and in general forgotten once they go off the air. Shows like Serenity become franchises that are shown in syndication for decades, and have very desirable DVD sales. Short-term thinking sunk Firefly.

Babylon 5 really wasn’t very good. It had some interesting themes and plots which were hampered by bad acting and writing. Like the Wheel of Time books, I kept watching because there was occasionally something really good hiding in there, but at the end of the 4th season I just didn’t care anymore.

Please be careful about spoilers. I’ve added spoiler tags to Otto’s posts.

I know, most of this is old news to almost everyone. At what point does the secret of “Rosebud” cease to be a secret? I don’t know, but I’d rather err on the side of caution.

I’ll go along with this hijack as the main question in the thread has been pretty well covered.

I think you’re wrong.

[spoiler]You don’t want to see anything more set in the universe they created because 2 of the 10 original characters died? That seems a little odd, especially considering that the lynchpin of the series is Mal. Wash and Book were good characters but they were by no means essential to Firefly.

Plus I liked the ideas behind the universe enough that quite frankly I would see another show in the same universe with a completely different cast.

As for Simon and River sticking around, well for one River’s clearly the new pilot, and they also made it clear at the end of the movie that the Alliance is big enough that it wasn’t even significantly crippled by the information released in the movie, so S&R are probably still fugitives even though their capture is no longer a priority. [/spoiler]

Okay, chiming in a bit.

Re the out of order: No, they didn’t want it to fail, but I don’t think the network people appreciated it like they did. They rejected Joss’ first pilot (though it was eventually aired near the end of the broadcast run) and essentially forced him to write another premiere episode, shorter and easier to get into, (the original pilot was a two hour episode,) with more action and ‘less boring introductions.’

I don’t know, but I imagine that most of the other scrambles were somewhat similar. The network suits didn’t understand what Joss was trying to do, so they picked and chose episodes based on ‘we knows what we likes.’ They didn’t care that this was hopelessly twisting the narrative and continuity, because ‘nobody watches TV for a series-wide continuing plot anymore.’

And no other channel picked up because it had a tarnished record… nobody wanted to take the risk of picking up ‘a proven failure’, even if they thought it had a good shot of winning the audience back over again.

Part of the reason it wasn’t picked up, by the way, is that the sets were broken down and destroyed by Fox. If the sets had been left intact, the chance it would have been picked up would be somewhat greater. With the movie sets now existing, there’s a good chance, barring legal issues, something can happen.

Well, I hope someone picks it up. I’m planning on going to the local video store when I get back home and picking up a copy to check it out. Maybe now that all the reality TV stuff seems to be winding down someone will see the potential. I have to admit its been years since I watched a TV series…but since I started getting into Lost last year I’ve been revising my thinking on that and would love to find a really good SciFi series I could get into (I never got into the various Star Trek spinoffs).