Okay, I have to admit it right now, I’m a Browncoat. If you don’t know what that means, well, I actually kinda feel sorry for you. And you MUST watch Joss Whedon’s Firefly right now! You’ve got no excuse, it’s on Netflix instant play. You know, that thing you all signed up for that never has anything you want to watch on instant play. But to their credit, they do have Firefly. (feel free to read this first, however)
I have to warn you, you will be angry. I haven’t known anyone who has watched the 14 episodes produced that didn’t have a visceral reaction to the fact that it was cancelled after only 11 episodes. It truly is a gem among TV shows. So why did it get cancelled? I, like all Browncoats ponder this very thing more often than most of you would imagine. The harsh reality is that not enough people watched it. But I don’t think 11 episodes was a long enough chance to build an audience, and there were plenty of reasons to keep it around to build a larger following. I’m going to list 4 of them here.
1) They Were Just Too Pretty To Cancel. Seriously, look at the cast. Being a somewhat average American male, I’ll start with the females first. Morena Baccarin, Jewel Staite, Gina Torres, and Summer Glau. Are you kiddin’ me? The only shows that have that kind of beauty are shows about beautiful women. You know, the shows with nothing else to offer. (Baywatch comes to mind) But Firefly’s women were smart and strong and at times truly amazing. We all know Joss Whedon has a thing for strong women, (Buffy, anyone?) and this shows it off. Oh, and the guys, according to my 14 year old daughter, were nothing to sneeze at! Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Sean Maher, Alan Tudyk, and Ron Glass.
2) Humorous, Intelligent Dialog. Really, it happens occasionally on TV. (but don’t hold your breath) I am thoroughly convinced that Joss Whedon is the master of dialog. His characters talk like we wish we and our friends talked. Notable catch phrases abound, that most of you have heard across the Internet. (“I aim to misbehave”, “Shiny, let’s be bad guys”, “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal”, etc.) I try to emulate him while I write dialog, and at times I almost make it, but alas, I am not worthy! Watch any of his shows, and you’ll know what I mean. (and Toy Story)
3) A Believable Sci-Fi Universe. I have trouble believing most of the sci-fi/fantasy worlds that writers create because their universes don’t quite match up with humanity as a whole. Firefly never was a problem for me, because although it was set in the future, the problems associated with humanity were ever present. I’m a huge Star Trek geek too, but trying to imagine a future where humans suddenly lost the urge to acquire wealth was always way too far-fetched. Firefly embraced humanity, the good and the bad, and created a future that was a product of that.
4) Big Damn Heroes. I saved the best for last! And this might be one of the big reasons it didn’t command the viewership it should have. Heroes have kind of gone “out of fashion” in our society, which is a shame. The general public seems to want characters who are as hugely flawed as we are. More and more books and shows are being written about people who are not good people. I think of things like “The Shield”, or “Breaking Bad” where the “heroes” are crooked cops or drug dealers, and there are several other examples. I suspect it’s all about us feeling better about ourselves, but it doesn’t make me feel better. And although the crew of Serenity were thieves and smugglers as a matter of survival, they had the nasty habit of always doing the right thing, even when it meant a great deal of self-sacrifice. In this day and age that sets the bar too high for most of us to feel good about ourselves. But that’s what I loved about it the most. William Faulkner when accepting his Nobel Prize said that authors must learn to write about “…the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths, lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed.” Joss Whedon understands this, and he creates characters that although they are very human, they have the courage to rise above their weaknesses to become truly heroic. He truly was the inspiration to write my book “Harold Finn – Ninja Warrior”, and to create a human, but heroic cast of characters. So even though Firefly was cancelled, it lives on through those who appreciate the ability of flawed humanity to occasionally rise above itself to accomplish the truly heroic. “You can’t stop the signal.”