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TV Talk with Breanna: We’re Still Flying with Firefly


Television shows get cancelled all the time — unfortunately, that’s just how the industry works. Not every show will make it; some last a few seasons, while others get the axe after just a couple of episodes. Every season new shows are cancelled, whether prematurely or because it’s just time (the reason, of course, will change depending on who you ask), and are forced to join the ranks of the television graveyard. However, out of all of the newly deceased shows, none of them will have a more tragic cancellation story than Firefly.

Firefly began airing in 2002 … and ended that same year. Technically, a few unaired episodes got released in 2003, but the unfortunate truth is that the show only lasted a few months either way. Despite having a generally positive critical response and an already big fan following, the show was cancelled after only 14 episodes.

 The story of Firefly is a little difficult to explain, but anyone can gain a bit of insight just by recognizing the genre that it’s in: space western (this genre takes the idea of the American cowboy and puts it on the frontier of space). In simple terms, Firefly can be summed up quite well through the original pitch of the creator, Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers), who said that it is about “nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things.”

 To summarize, the show is about Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), who leads a group of renegades in the year 2517 as they venture through space in their ship, Serenity. His ragtag crew originally consists of his second-in-command Zoe Washburne (Gina Torres), pilot Hoban “Wash” Washburne (Alan Tudyk), companion Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin), hired gunman Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin), and mechanic Kaylee Frye (Jewel Staite). The crew then grows to include shepherd Derrial Book (Ron Glass), and Simon and River Tam (Sean Maher and Summer Glau), two gifted runaways with a mysterious past.  The group spends its days attempting to make a living in the pioneer culture of the outskirts of society, as well as running from the Alliance, the huge government that controls almost everything — and the same group they lost the civil war to years ago.

 With such an interesting plot and large fan following, it’s a surprise that Firefly only lasted 14 episodes. There were actually several things that led to the cancellation of the show, and many of them were out of Firefly’s control. One of the main reasons that has been cited for the show’s early end was ratings, as Firefly was not performing very well. However, this can be accredited to its Friday night time slot (as almost all shows on this day have poor viewership) and FOX’s decision to air the episodes out of order after the network claimed the two-hour pilot was unsuitable to open the series, opting instead to air the second episode first. Despite its short life, Firefly has won several awards, including an Emmy for visual effects, and its post-airing popularity even led to a continuation movie, Serenity, which was released in 2005.

 Most of the time when a show gets cancelled, the fans lament for a while but eventually continue on to other shows. However, Firefly’s fans, known as the Browncoats (named after the clothing that the Independence soldiers wore in the show), are still going strong 10 years later. When the show was nearing cancellation, the fans organized a plan to save the show by purchasing an ad in Variety magazine, and while their efforts were unsuccessful in this endeavour, the fans did lead to the production of the follow-up movie.


In 2011, the Browncoats created a plan called Help Nathan Buy Firefly in hopes of giving Nathan Fillion (who played Captain Mal)  the rights to the show so that he could bring it back, and they raised over $1 million before shutting down. And while the fans have done a lot for the show, they have also combined their efforts to help their community by creating several charities that benefit organizations such as Kids Need To Read, which was co-founded by Fillion.

Even though the show has been cancelled for over 10 years, Firefly is nowhere near dead. The legend the show left behind still lives on in the hearts of all the Browncoats across the globe. Firefly showed that Whedon was right when he said “a show can be important even if no one watches it.” With just 14 episodes, Firefly was able to bring fans together to enjoy a show that will never be forgotten. As Captain Mal said in the pilot, “We’re still flying,” and though it’s not much, “it’s enough” for the Browncoats around the world.

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