Hello and welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
Now a friend of mine recently started to watch Firefly and, like many other people, gushed about how awesome it was and how it went too soon. However the question I posed to her was this: why did you start watching it. Her reply: Because everyone told me to. But would people have said that if the show went on?
First off lets look at Firefly’s greatest strength when it comes to selling it to new people: It’s length. It had a very short run of only thirteen episodes and one movie. Now compare that to trying to sell shows like Breaking Bad or Battlestar Galatica. Hell try selling someone Doctor Who, a show that has 50 years of mythology weighing it down (and yes you can watch it casually, but telling people where to start at this point is a real tricky business). So to convince someone to sit down and invest their time in a TV series is a lot harder then convincing them to watch a movie. But that’s where Firefly’s cancellation is a good thing. It’s only thirteen episodes, which isn’t all that long at all. And you can take time out of your schedule to just watch thirteen episodes. Now imagine if Firefly had instead been eighty to one hundred episodes long. You’d have a much harder time to convince someone to spend upwards of over fifty hours of their lives watching a TV show unless you could really, really back up your arguments. So because Firefly is so short more people are interested in watching it as a whole since it’s quicker to watch.
So that’s one upside to Firefly’s cancellation. Is there another? Well yes, we got a rather good movie out of it. Now sure you could argue that it would have been better to get an entire series or three out of the show and its plotlines. And you’d be right. But how many TV series have been abruptly cancelled and either have to cobble together an ending or leave things happening. Hell Stargate had to compress an entire season into one movie and use that was a way of wrapping up all the plot points that were meant to happen. So in one way it’s good that we got a movie that neatly and properly elaborates on the mythos of the show and resolves everything neatly enough that there are no real loose questions. Meanwhile if the show had gone on there was every possibility that it would have been cancelled mid-story and the viewers left unsatisfied with the result. In fact because it was cancelled so abruptly the fans demanded enough to get a movie out of it. So in a weird way it was thanks to never being able to have a resolution that we were able to get a resolution.
So that’s two reasons why Firefly’s cancellation saved it, can I come up with a third? Well thirdly, and perhaps even more importantly, the show survives as it does now on the basis of what it could have been. We often talk about Firefly as a show that ‘could have been great’ or ‘lasted for years’. A show that ‘ended too soon’. Which is great and all. But the question I pose is this: Would we still be fondly remembering Firefly is there was more of it? Would it have become this huge cult classic if it had found the mainstream appeal it needed to survive? Now don’t get me wrong, I love Firefly. I think it’s a brilliantly realistic take on the concept of sci-fi and really is â€œWild West in Spaceâ€. But had the show continued on its way would it have been as fondly remembered? Or would it have been that sci-fi show that ran for a few seasons and was moderately successful?
See when we talk about Firefly we more often than not lament about how good the show could have been, the potential it had. We very rarely discuss the show itself and what is found within it. More often than not we talk about the idea of the show more than the content of the show. And again, this isn’t a bad thing. It’s perfectly fine to speculate what the show could have been like. But time and again we often try to sell the show as something that ‘could have been’ rather than something that ‘is’. Whilst it’s tragic that it never got more episodes, we do tend to focus on the fact that it got cancelled rather then it was a great show. It survives as a cult hit because of its cancellation. Without it it wouldn’t be as fondly remembered as it now.
One last point I feel the need to bring up: The potential ‘what-if’ has made the weaker episodes of the show stand out more because of it. If there were a hundred episodes then there’d be episodes in the first season that are ‘bad’, or at least ‘not good’. That happens with any show. But because we have so little of it we have to focus on all the good that can be found within it. Now this isn’t a bad thing, we should try to be more positive in life overall, but what helps keep it floating is that we only have such a few episodes to work with. We have to treasure what we have rather than what we could have. So Firefly is excellent, but if it had gone on then who knows how much of it would have turned out good.
Show still shouldn’t have been cancelled though Fox, it’s the best thing that has been on your channel for years.
So there you have it. My look at Firefly and an argument that’s for its cancellation rather than against it. If you disagree with anything or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.