The cast of “Firefly” (from left): Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Ron Glass, Sean Maher, Morena Baccarin, Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, and Summer Glau.
Starting Friday, July 22, at 7 p.m., the Sci-Fi channel will begin broadcasting the best science-fiction series ever made. Coincidentally, it will also be showing one of the best western shows and one of the funniest comedies. And it’s called “Firefly.”
Five hundred years in the future, a veteran of the losing side of a galactic civil war must find a way to survive on his own terms under the government’s radar. With a small, quirky crew and a small, quirky ship, Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes on whatever job, legal or otherwise, that he can get. And one day he picks up something that the government wants very badly.
“Firefly” was created by Joss Whedon, who also created a blonde vampire-slayer you may have heard of. His sci-fi show was cancelled midseason, only airing 11 episodes. So why should you watch a half-finished science fiction/western from three years ago? Here’s why:
It was cancelled by Fox, which shouldn’t count.
Cannily realizing that viewers enjoy the thrill of the chase, Fox skipped the pilot, ran the second episode first, mixed up the rest, and waged a heroic battle to keep interest high by endlessly airing commercials about “Oliver Beene.” Had “24” been handled the same way it would never have made it to “12.”
Of course, after “Firefly” was canceled, Fox finally ran the first episode because TV executives like a good joke as much as anybody.
It could be the only science-fiction show ever with a Chinese/bluegrass soundtrack.
The lack of this is exactly why “Enterprise” failed.
It’s a dessert! It’s a floor topping!
In this future the farther settlers travel from the central Core planets, the more rural they get. So you get spaceships and computers, but you also get horses and revolvers and pretty floral bonnets. There’s excitement and comedy and romance and crime and even an autopsy or two. No swapped soccer moms or entrails-eating for money, but I think the other networks have those covered.
You won’t feel stupider afterward.
Regular television consumption will leave you with the inescapable conclusion that everyone in the world is a moron. People say stupid things, make stupid assumptions, and consistently fail to see obvious solutions because then the show would end 52 minutes too soon. You can actually feel your brain freezing up from vapor lock
The folks in “Firefly,” good and bad alike, tend to do the same things you usually scream at television people to do, before you think to scream them, except when they’re doing something even better. As it turns out that doesn’t always help, but at least then you’ve got no one to blame but yourself.
Anyway, how much “Stargate” can you watch?
I mean, seriously.
No weird new science.
No time travel or glowy swords or teleportation or clones or dimensions or sonic bathrooms or food in pill form or anything that isn’t an obvious extension of existing technology. Our heroes’ ship “Serenity” (transport vessel, “Firefly” class) is comparable — in personality, performance, and gas mileage — to my 13-year-old Tercel.
Most importantly there are no aliens, bug-eyed, lobster-headed or otherwise. “Firefly” is about human-type people, and that’s plenty interesting enough.
It has whores and preachers.
Ordinarily two professions that television shows run away from like scared little girls. People don’t change much, even in 500 years, and both the thrill and mystery of sex and the challenges and comfort of religion will still be with us. I hope.
It’ll get you ready for the movie.
Yes, the major motion picture type movie.
Thanks to massive DVD sales and — well, let’s go with “devoted,” because “dangerously obsessive” sounds so negative — fan interest, Whedon and all the original actors will gleefully return to fly in the big damn movie “Serenity,” which is scheduled to be released Sept. 30. This does not generally happen with canceled TV shows, but it happened with this one.
You may notice I’ve said little about the characters. I haven’t mentioned Mal’s frightening pragmatism, Zoe’s loyalty, Wash’s sense of humor, Kaylee’s sunny nature, Jayne’s cheerful violence, Book’s wisdom, Inara’s sensuality, Simon’s sacrifice, or River’s peculiarities, and that’s because trying to label any of them with a single description is useless. You really should meet them yourself.
So, now’s your chance. See the shows as they were meant to be seen — in order (!), with the three unaired episodes — and enjoy a truly great science-fiction show.
And remember, every time you support a canceled Fox show, somewhere a network executive loses his wings.
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