Killing Firefly was Fox's biggest fail ever
Not for FoxNews or American Idol or any of the other questionable shit the network has thrown out there in the name of entertainment over the years. People like what people like, however inexplicable that may be, so I couldn't care less about any of that. No, Fox earned my everlasting ire and a golden ticket to go fuck itself when, after just four months on the air, it canceled what was quickly becoming one of the best science fiction series of all time: Firefly.
Four months. Fourteen episodes, only twelve of which ever aired in the U.S. They gave up just four months into a complex, serialized show in a niche genre, despite the fact that it was critically acclaimed and attracted a hardcore fanbase from the beginning. Fox couldn't be bothered to give it even a full season, despite the fact the show was created by Joss Whedon, one of the most acclaimed writer-directors working then, or now. At that point, Whedon had a few hit films -- Toy Story and Speed -- under his belt as a writer. Then there were the two hit TV shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel, that he'd created. And some of his best work was still ahead of him, as evidence by last year's excellent films The Avengers and The Cabin in the Woods.
It's not like Fox gave the show their best effort, either. If you ever wanted evidence that TV executives know nothing about what makes good television, that they pick and market shows by looking at spreadsheets and market reports rather than, you know, looking at the actual goddamn shows, look no further: Firefly is all the evidence you will ever need. It had a shitty timeslot. The show was aired out of sequence, with the excellent pilot -- which, like most pilots, kind of sets the whole damn series up -- pushed back to late in the show's run and one of its lesser episodes aired in its place. It was preempted for various reasons. It was advertised as a goddamn comedy. It's almost like Fox wanted the fucking thing to fail.
And what a waste. This was a strong, strong show. It had one of the best casts ever stuffed into a spaceship, led by the unbelievably charismatic Nathan Fillion. It consistently delivered excellent stories, frequently told in bold and unusual ways. The writing was smart and funny. The characters were well-drawn, consistent and all too human, and like all great dramas, they drove the plots, rather than simply being pieces moved around to make a point in the process of telling a story.
Now, Firefly was not necessarily an easy pill for everyone to swallow. Its mixture of sci-fi and Western tropes was offbeat, to say the least. It was a space opera without aliens. One of its main characters was a prostitute, another a priest. It was so full of ideas and back story and characters that it could, at times, feel a bit overstuffed. Its ideas weren't necessarily big -- if anything, it was as small-scale as space opera ever gets. Its settings weren't typically grandiose. But despite all of those reasons, or perhaps in some measure because of them, it was, for the short time it lived, one of the greatest sci-fi universes ever put on screen.