Sunday, February 18, 2007


Firefly was a scifi TV show that lasted for one season and spawned a movie, Serenity. I watched the movie first, which is a bit like watching the Star Wars movies in chronological order. So many of the surprises are spoiled. It doesn't matter as the show's mix of humor and interesting characters make for a enjoyable time.

No doubt hoping for a fan-based revival a la Star Trek, you can find fan sites like, and Still Flying. Who knows, maybe it will work. I for one think the show is missing a key element required for current TV show success, grimness. The show is just to happy go lucky, even when they end up killin' those what need killin'.

The show is set in a star system settled by a merged US - China alliance. Originally it was a loose confederation, but the alliance imposed a strict federal system by force. Sound familiar? There is a definate reference to the U.S. Civil war with the future confederates as the freedom lovers and the federals as oppressive bastards. Joss Whedon makes even more of a connection with overt Western references (country music theme, guns for hire, train robbing.) The heroes, ex-soldiers from the losing side, are jolly robbers who steal from the bad and give back to the good. Really this is like the Outlaw Josey Wales in space, if Clint was a lot nicer.

In order to succeed in modern TV, the main characters have to face nasty moral choices, sometimes making good ones and sometimes choosing among bad ones. The Shield's Mackie is a rather nasty but occasionally likable fellow, a sort of Tony Soprano with a badge. The main characters on Lost have great sins on their hearts. BSG is one giant grimfest. Rome and Deadwood feature characters that are as violent as the worlds they inhabit.

I'm not saying I want the Firefly crew to roll into town and get all Peckinpah on whatever unfortunates stray into their path. But they are criminals trying to eke a living in a nasty corner of their universe. Yes, they are killers with hearts of gold, but they ARE killers. Again, I like the show and recommend it to fans of quirky scifi. But as the quirkiest show of all, Arrested Development, demonstrates, better to be grim than quirky if you want to stay on the air.

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