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10 Years Later, Firefly Soars

July 20, 2012


Come September it will have been 10 years since the television show Firefly debuted on Fox, and on July 28th, it will have been nine since it last debuted a new episode. Why does this one-season show matter? Because 10 years later at San Diego Comic-Con thousands of people camped out to get into the Firefly panel, because at a little mention that if he had the money, star Nathan Fillion would buy the rights and put it back on air, fans started to raise funds and Fillion had to tell them to stop, because 10 years later, the show is more popular than ever.

For the uninitiated, Firefly is a science fiction-space western. It
follows Captain Mal Reynolds (Fillion), a former sergeant in
the losing side of a civil war for control of the ‘verse, and his crew
as they work odd smuggling jobs for generally shady characters and are
joined by three mysterious new passengers. Perhaps the most important
thing to note, however, is that this show was created by Joss Whedon
who, until this summer and a little film called The Avengers, was most
famous for Buffy The Vampire Slayer. With his intense cult following
and his latest success, he is now one of the biggest names in

Firefly had the perfect storm for a cult show: a network that didn’t
understand it and changed its episode order, a bigger name behind the
camera than in front, being a part of the science fiction genre, and
looking mighty out of place. The early 2000s was the heyday of
reality television. 2002 also saw the debut on Fox of American Idol
and one trick pony reality dating shows like Joe Millionaire and
Married By America. The dating shows didn’t last, but for that first
season Joe Millionaire’s 22.84 million viewership sure looked a lot
nicer to Fox executives than Firefly’s 4.48 million.
The TV landscape has changed drastically in ten years. While
there are still a few successful reality shows kickin’ around, high
quality scripted shows are back in vogue thanks to the success of
cable channels like HBO and AMC. If AMC’s The Walking Dead, a zombie
apocalypse tale based on the long running comic book series, can be
one of the biggest shows on TV, a show like Firefly could stand a
chance too. Not to mention that with Joss Whedon now being a big
name, his vision probably wouldn’t be fucked with the way it was on
Firefly and his follow-up show, Dollhouse.

With all this love, how did the show get ripped of the air? At
the Comic-Con panel last Friday, which involved multiple tears and
standing ovations from both the audience and the panel, (because
everyone just loves this show so goddamn much), One audience member
asked if they wondered where the support was when the show was
actually on, to which Joss Whedon replied, “in preschool.” Now those preschoolers are young adults.

The adults watching TV in the early 2000s had lived through the pretty good decade of the 90’s, so why not binge on the silly drama of a reality TV show? Us, we grew up with war, saw our college, or at least a lack of post-graduation debt dreams dashed, and now have to stare with gaping mouths at a government we can barely identify with that wont even talk to each other. It seems that everyone is just trying to get by these days. On Serenity, the name
of Mal’s ship, the crew was trying to do just that. They went from
job to job, the whole time frustrated with the corruption of those in
power, but nearly powerless to do anything. There is a connection
there, a through line to the woes of my generation.

It helps too, that the show is incredibly sincere. The cast and
crew put an incredible amount of love into it, and that shows. Though
Whedon gave a rousing and tearful speech to a standing ovation from
literally everyone attending at the end the panel, I think it was
Fillion who summed it up best when he said, “When Firefly died, I
thought it was the worst thing that could possible happen. Now I
realize the worst thing that could happen is that if it stayed dead.
That it died is okay.”

Firefly now airs in reruns on Science Channel, who will also
present a 10th anniversary reunion special on November 11th.