Revisiting 'Firefly'

Thursday, 03 March 2011 12:00 AM Written by 

fillion_in_fireflyIt's not unusual for past failed series to get rerun on cable networks without much fanfare -- anybody care that "Frasier" reruns bow on Hallmark Channel in April? Didn't think so -- but news that Science Channel will rerun the 2002-03 Fox series "Firefly" beginning Sunday at 8 p.m. brought a rush of blog posts and news items.

Partially that's because this news is geek catnip and partially because of what "Firefly" star Nathan Fillion said in an interview. In what I'm sure was an offhand remark, Fillion said if he won the lottery he'd buy the rights to the show and re-launch the franchise. That was all some fans needed to hear before they started expressing a desire to fundraise for just such an effort. Fillion asked them to essentially simmer down.

Even before this latest "Firefly" flareup, I had the chance to talk with the woman who canceled the show, former Fox Entertainment president Gail Berman, for an upcoming Post-Gazette feature story. Read what she had to say after the jump. ...

When asked about some of the more painful cancellations during her tenure, Berman mentioned both "Dark Angel" (2000-02) and "Firefly," which was created by "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" impresario Joss Whedon.

"Canceling 'Firefly' was as difficult as anything I'd ever been involved in because Joss and I had been creative partners at one time," she said. Indeed, I remember seeing Berman sitting with a script and headphones on the set of a season two episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." "I worked with him very closely on this particular show and when it didn't perform [in the ratings], having to cancel it was very difficult."

When Fox aired "Firefly," the network chose to air episodes out of order, presumably in an effort to put forward what executives considered the better episodes first. Of course, that decision wrecked Whedon's attempts at character development and also screwed with the show's continuity. I asked Berman if she thought changing the episode order hurt the show and if she'd do it different if she had to do it again.

"If I had to do it over again, I might have reconsidered it but I'm not sure it would have changed anything," she said. "It was a numbers things. It was a wonderful show and I loved it and I loved working with him on it but that was a big show, a very expensive show and it wasn't delivering the numbers."

From a practical standpoint, Berman is probably right. Maybe "Firefly" would have still failed, particularly in a dreadful Friday night time slot. But part of me does wonder because when the show first aired, I was not that charmed by it. I gave it another shot when Fox released it on DVD -- in the correct episode order -- and watching the show the way it was intended did have an impact on my appreciation of it. While I quit watching "Firefly" episodes on Fox, I made a point of watching the whole series on DVD, so clearly the episode order did have an impact on my willingness to commit to it.

When "Firefly" reruns air on Science Channel,"Sci-Fi Science" host Dr. Michio Kaku will appear to comment on the science behind each "Firefly" episode, explaining "why the science fiction featured in the show really isn't that far from science fact.," per the Science Channel.

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