06 May 2006

Firefly -- so fantastic, so depressing

I just finished watching the DVDs of Joss Whedon's "Firefly," easily the best science fiction I've seen since I saw the original Star Trek as a child. This show is just awesome, with a great ensemble cast, razor-sharp writing, and lots of humor placed intrinsically within the character interactions.

So, of course, I now have post-cancellation depression. Our culture must be truly doomed when something this high-quality can't even make a second season. And it's not like it was from some unknown new artist, either -- Mr. Whedon has made Fox plenty of money in the past. Is it stupid network executives? Is it a lack of patience?

Three season's worth of Firefly episodes would have created the next great science fiction franchise after Star Trek and Star Wars -- all the ingredients were there, we just needed enough episodes to make syndication viable. Instead, we have only one gem of a season and one pretty good movie (Serenity). Well, I'm certainly thankful for that!


Dan Lyke said...

Welcome to the cult.

In looking at the flaws of the movie, I think the problem is two-fold. First, the market for quirky and witty is small and has to be approached intelligently. Second, none of the Fox execs were smart enough to market it as it should have been sold. Usual rant about "they aired it out of order, they moved it around, bla bla bla".

But to the first point, I think that intelligent broadcast TV is dead. Even had this been on the regular line-up, we don't have either broadcast or cable TV, the person who finally sat Charlene and me down and made us watch the first DVD wouldn't have discovered it on TV, several of the friends that we're trying to introduce to it aren't likely to discover anything on TV, and most likely not in the first season on TV (which is when a show is make or break).

So there's a market out there for people who are willing to pay for content (we bought a set of the DVDs, the person who introduced us bought a set and has bought sets as gifts) for whom TV is not a viable introduction mechanism.

What I don't know is how to build some alternative channel that will work. I could imagine introducing a series as a set of teasers or short (5 minute or so) episodes downloadable via BitTorrent that might entice us to buy a subscription to DVDs or something similar, but the lure of millions from LA isn't overrideable by the risks, and while you could probably put together a few hundred thou to build a pilot and the teasers, getting decent writing and good enough production values at that price would have to be a labor of love.

And I've seen enough of various pitches for new (SF genre) TV shows to know that there are a lot of labors of love without the spark who are pitching in LA that I'm not optimistic about something happening on the net for a few years yet.

Leo said...

Sadly, I'm sure you're right. Not to be insightful or anything, but the only mechanism for getting quality TV out these days appears to be HBO -- certainly the majority of the [American] shows I've wanted to watch in the last few years (Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Sex in the City, The Wire) have all come through HBO.

Which brings up a good question... what is it about being a cable firm that lets HBO have more patience to let a series develop than broadcast does? I guess just that some fraction of their money comes from viewers rather than 100% from advertisers?