Apparently Joss Whedon is putting Firefly in his rearview mirror. The 2002 television series gained a cult following before being cancelled early; and its 2005 box office resurrection, Serenity, earned a disappointing $25 million. Whedon says he's done. Let me be the first to say: Good riddance.
I never knew Firefly was on FOX, and I never watched it on the Sci Fi Channel. But I had read its fanmail on Slashdot, and eventually I became inundated with testimonials from friends whose taste I trust. Everyone insisted: This is the best show you're not watching. So I bought the DVD set, and I sat through the first few episodes.
The emperor has no clothes.
It wasn't the worst thing I ever watched. I once sat through an episode of The Bachelor during its first season, and I usually catch the tail end of Wife Swap leading into Monday Night Football. Kerrie and I even once saw about three minutes of The Osbournes, to which I could only react by saying, "That's what comes of prolonged heroin abuse." Yes, those were all worse than Firefly. But none of those had my friends drooling over Joss Whedon's jockstrap. Pardon the unfortunate pun, but: Where's the beef?
As I understand it, fans loved the idea of reinterpreting Star Wars through the lens of a Western. And apparently Whedon intentionally avoided any mention of warp drives or travel at the speed of light; I'm not sure exactly what he intended to achieve by that, but his fans seem to think it was a brilliant stroke of nonconformity. Whatever. Aristotle said the two most important elements of story were plot and character, in that order. I watched Firefly; and I didn't care about the characters, and I don't remember the plots.
After staring at the screen like a Magic Eye, waiting to see whatever buried treasure everyone else seemed to find in this show, I gave up and sold my DVDs to Newbury Comics. A few weeks later, I stumbled across a revelation: Joss Whedon had written the screenplay for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and he had created the TV series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. I promise you: If I had known Whedon was this sort of teen-targetting tripester before I had bought the DVDs, I never would have wasted those hours discovering the obvious.
So Firefly is dead. Its cult will live on, but Whedon is making the right decision choosing to put it behind him. Firefly wasn't killed by network conspiracy; it wasn't stifled because it was too smart for its audience, and it wasn't the victim of bad luck. It had three chances at success, and it failed every time -- because it sucks.