Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cult TV: Firefly

Minor spoilers about the show; nothing too revealing. I knew I was going to have to watch this show at some point, I just didn’t know it would be this past week. I happened upon a listing at a local movie theatre for a midnight showing of the follow-up film “Serenity” and promptly forwarded the information to a friend of mine who is fully obsessed with the show. She urged me to get into the show and accompany her to the screening. As a result, I watched the entire series straight through over the course of about a week. This is definitely a good show to watch in marathon form, I just wish there was more left, because after all fourteen episodes, I was finally really into it and I was (and still am) eager for more. That’s where the movie comes in. But first: the show itself.

Describing it to anyone while I was watching it, I consistently said that it’s a true space western, a term often used to describe the genre of “Star Wars”. In this case, it’s even more relevant: they fly around in spaceships and then land on spaceships and ride around on horses. What I was initially perplexed by and quickly came to enjoy is the sheer disregard for, well, anything that all the characters have. Mal goes around shooting people, sometimes kicking them into an engine and killing them, and he just doesn’t care. The preacher aboard the ship jokes about how it’s okay to shoot people in the kneecaps because he’s not killing them (I believe John Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger had a similar understanding). They accept dangerous jobs without the slightest hesitation. They all act so recklessly, and it’s a wonder that they come out of everything okay. But that’s what’s so fun about the show.

The cast is very smartly assembled and they all play their roles quite well. I particularly enjoy Adam Baldwin as Jayne and Alan Tudyk as Wash. Kaylee sorts of annoys me and Inara’s just weird (the clothes!), but they work well enough in their respective roles. It’s refreshing to see Gina Torres in this kind of role, since I’m familiar with her primarily from her turn as Anna Espinosa on “Alias” and her regrettable appearance in season three of “24”. I didn’t realize she had a calm, polite side. At first I thought Nathan Fillion’s Mal was too much of an asshole, but by episode two or three I was a fan. The show’s brief season does include some cool guest stars, including two pre-“Desperate Housewives” husbands, Doug Savant and Richard Burgi, as Alliance henchmen; Christina Hendricks, currently starring on “Mad Men”, as Saffron; Mark Sheppard as Badger; Melinda Clarke as Nandi the prostitute; and a truly superb Richard Brooks as Jubal Early.

Basically, I’m into the show. I’m not going to dress up as a character any time soon (read my take on the movie for more on that), but I will consider myself a fan. I enjoyed it, and I’d like to see more. Unfortunately, however, I can’t. The show was pulled off the air after less than a season. I watched it on Hulu, and checked a separate episode guide only to find that the episodes had been aired on FOX in a completely different order. The most jarring switch was the two-hour pilot, which aired after all the other installments rather than before. The episodes as I watched them followed a seamless timeline and I cannot imagine how people watching the show live could possibly have followed it – and more importantly, how FOX could have expected a mass audience to sign up for a show which was aired hopelessly out of order. The reasoning, as I’ve been told by the friend who got me into the show, was that episode two (“The Train Job”) contained more action than the pilot. It’s just stupid, in my mind, and even more embarrassing and despicable than NBC’s recent folly with the “Scrubs” season finale. It makes me even angrier than CBS’s passion for killing off new shows by airing them Tuesdays at 10pm.

Luckily for me, “Firefly” has perhaps the most devoted fan base with which I have ever come into contact. The entire cast came back three years later to make a movie – not one cast member missing! And three years after the release of that movie, insane numbers of fans flock to screenings around the country to see it for the umpteenth time! This is the kind of thing that gets me excited all over again about being really into movies and television. Cult fans are terrific for sharing obsessions with – especially when they’re way more into it than you. I definitely recommend getting into this if you like sci-fi and especially if you like having fun. That’s really the spirit of this show, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

The show: B+
Best episode: “Pilot” or “Objects in Space”
Where to watch: Hulu.com or DVD

Continue on to my review of “Serenity”

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