Why Serenity Will Succeed Where Firefly Failed

In 2002, a great science fiction series named Firefly debuted on Fox, won some critical acclaim despite the boneheaded re-scheduling efforts by network bigwigs, and was promptly pulled after 11 episodes.

It was probably one of the great science fiction series never seen, and at the time its passing was mourned by only a handful of fans. I was not among them — the show was aired on Friday nights, which is my normal gaming night.

But a funny things been happening since the show went off the air — people are actually starting to watch it. A┬áDVD set with 14 episodes — 3 of them unaired — was released in December, and a slow but steady buzz has been building as people watch the series, and then pass on word of it to their friends. A recent story arc on PVP Online sums up situation perfectly: a geek gets Firefly DVDs, and then gets utterly caught up in them, watching every episode back to back and then clamoring for more. It’s a sentiment I’ve seen reflected quite a few times in blogs around the net, as people see the show, are converted to the cause, and then go out to subvert others.

I know that’s what I’m doing. The show is definitely worthy of high praise, especially among science-fiction-loving libertarians. It’s got a Wild West, heroes-on-the-edge feel to it, and is a welcome change from the sterile, boring version of the future we see on Star Trek.

The cool thing about this Firefly resurgence is that Joss Whedon, the creator of Firefly (and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel) is in the process of making the Firefly movie, which will be called Serenity. Whedon began plans for the Firefly movie almost as soon as the series ended, and was recently given the green light to produce it. At the time, someone questioned him about the wisdom of making a movie from a failed series, to which he commented that he’d succeeded in turning a failed movie (“Buffy”) into a hit series, so why not do the opposite with a TV series?

My suspicion is that he’s going to strike pure gold with Serenity, mostly because he’s got this groundswell gathering around Firefly. To my mind, it’s not that much different from what we saw with the original Star Trek after the series ended, but before the movies return. The time scale is condensed, and unfortunately Firefly has only a half a season of episodes instead of Star Trek’s three, but the feel’s the same. At the same time, the series appears to be appealing to women as well as men (unsurprising given the strong female characters we see in it) and that can only help its prospects.

So I think we’ll see Serenity make a tidy some of money. It won’t be a billion dollar blockbuster, but I could see it quietly racking up $100 million, especially if it were released during one of the quieter movie months, like say October or January. And who knows, if that happens maybe we’ll see the return of the franchise to television — heaven knows we need something to replace Enterprise’s banal offerings.

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