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“Stay with me now, this is complicated but kind of fun.”
–Animation and Comic writer Dwayne McDuffie

The world of television is, almost by definition, a very imaginative place.  Over the last 60 years or so, in everything from I Love Lucy to Fringe, various shows have created worlds and characters designed to excite, intrigue, and amaze us.  What most people don’t recognize about all of this wonderful entertainment we’ve had through the years is that, in some ways, it’s really all connected, and not just through our common viewing experience.

Television has come up with numerous ways in which to reference itself, to relate to its own past (or present), and to feature characters in places where you might not otherwise think to see them.  While the more skeptical among us might see this as a scarcity of originality, those of us who love TV also love the chance to see our beloved characters in new and unusual ways.

I thought I was a guest on your show?

There’s a curious phenomenon called the “crossover” episode, and in this case, I’m not talking about Fringe and its multiple worlds.  I’m talking about where a character from one series “crosses over” into an episode of another.  At times, it’s just been a brief cameo where shows sharing the same creative team thought it would be fun to have an actor show up in an unexpected place.  Other times, there’s been a deliberate team-up for promotional purposes, such as when Thomas Magnum of Magnum, P.I. ended up on the same murder case as Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote.  Fans of each show would tune into the other to see their favorite, and networks hoped audiences would not only be large, but people would become hooked after a taste of the “new” show.

Shows that skewed slightly older took advantage of the possibilities afforded by nostalgia as well, with Dick Van Dyke’s Diagnosis: Murder featuring a plotline bringing the lead character of the 1970 Mannix  series into the late ’90’s.  Murder‘s Dr. Mark Sloan (Van Dyke) is searching for the answers to a long-unsolved case originally investigated by Mannix, allowing Mike Connors to recreate his Mannix role.  Fans loved tuning in to see an old friend in a new venue, and rekindling an old viewing relationship.

The years may change, the character stays the same

Paul Reiser’s character from Mad About You was a filmmaker, and one storyline had him working on a documentary about a fictional 50’s TV hit called The Alan Brady Show.  Now, there never was such a television show in reality, but it was the background show for the writers’ room in the original Dick Van Dyke Show, which featured Carl Reiner as the Alan Brady character.  Reiner reprised his performance on the Mad About You episode, winning an Emmy and linking two shows that were in production over thirty years apart, just as Van Dyke himself had featured Connors in linking Diagnosis: Murder and Mannix.

Same actress (Lisa Kudrow), different characters, different shows

As a promotional device, the crossover has been used extensively.  NBC was a master at this for a while, having sitcom casts appear in “theme nights” on different shows.  Whether brief mentions or full-fledged guest spots, characters from Mad About You, Seinfeld, Caroline and the City, and Friends were seen to know and interact with each other.  Kramer on Seinfeld had rented his apartment from Paul’s character on Mad About You; Phoebe Buffay on Friends and Ursula the waitress on Mad About You were revealed to be estranged twin sisters, appearing on both shows.  Of course, it helps when Lisa Kudrow played both parts!

Even brief cameo spots were nice little “easter eggs” for viewers (and you never knew what NBC characters were going to be calling into the radio self-help line on Fraiser).  Lt. Hunter (James B. Sikking) from Hill Street Blues shows up silently in the squad room after a musical number in Cop Rock, and lawyers Victor Fuentes and Abby Perkins from L.A. Law (Jimmy Smits and Michelle Green) appear in the following episode.  All three shows were Stephen Bochco productions, and apparently all existed in the same universe.  Anyone could show up almost anywhere… and even when they didn’t show up, they got mentioned.

On Fox’s Strange Luck (paired on Fridays with The X-Files), Chance Harper’s long-lost brother mentions to him in passing that, if anything unusual should ever happen to him, to get in touch with a FBI agent named Mulder, linking the two shows in the minds of the viewers.  There was supposed to be a crossover episode between, of all things, The X-Files and Picket Fences, with Mulder appearing on both shows investigating cattle mutilations, but that got shot down at the last minute for the simple fact that the two shows appeared on different networks, and some of the higher up brass didn’t think it was proper to be essentially promoting a different network’s show.

It’s not just actors that create connections.  Whenever the various Law and Order series need a newspaper shown, they use The New York Ledger.  But then, the short-lived series Deadline was about a reporter working in New York… at The New York Ledger.  But this phenomenon doesn’t show up just in a newspaper.  You’d figure after a major disaster like the crash of Oceanic 815 on Lost, the airline might cut back a little on its flights, but watch and see at least seven different shows (including the aforementioned Diagnosis: Murder) use Oceanic as their airline of choice.  The real reason:  it’s a name that’s legally cleared and easy for producers to use.  But it’s more fun to believe that the airline exists in all those shows, although I probably wouldn’t fly on it!

Icons of 70s TV: Fonz and Mork

Other “creative” connections became a way of launching potential new series ideas as crossovers, and they became quite a well-used (and cost-effective) method for many years.  “Backdoor” pilot episodes were done on various series, presenting possible guest stars and premises on already established shows.  This was done in order to gauge audience reaction to potential new series… or just make sure viewers were aware of shows that were about to premiere.  The first television appearance of the Mork character from Mork and Mindy was… in Ritchie Cunningham’s dream sequence on Happy Days (Mork shows up in a later Happy Days episode for “real”, and not just as a dream).  More direct spin-offs were done by taking regular supporting characters from one show and giving them their own chance to shine (or fail), such as Gloria from All in the Family, Flo from Alice, and The Tortellis from Cheers (Frasier worked, The Tortellis didn’t… this method is not a guarantee of success by any means).

Classic Star Trek -- in an episode of Deep Space Nine

A variation of the spin-off is the direct sequel, such as the extensive Star Trek franchise.  From the original Star Trek to Star Trek: The Next Generation, ST: Deep Space Nine, and ST: Voyager (all three taking place roughly 70 to 80 years in the future of the original series), these newer versions could all build on mythology created in the original (or stumble on it when those “facts” were ignored or forgotten by producers, and fans cried “foul”).  Star Trek: Enterprise did this in reverse, becoming a prequel series that, especially in its final season, provided background on some of the concepts shown in the original series that had aired thirty years earlier.

Like the Star Trek franchise, other shows have built upon basic ideas and expanded their style and universe into multiple shows.  The long-running Law and Order franchise from producer Dick Wolf has begat L&O: Criminal Intent, L&O: Special Victims Unit, and other similarly designed shows.  (There’s even a British version now airing on BBCAmerica here in the states.)  Characters from one Law and Order have appeared on the others occasionally, and a few characters have made the jump from regulars on one show to become regulars on another, an example of a character spinoff rather than a spinoff to create a series.

Det. John Munch (Richard Belzer)

The actor/character who has become king of the crossover is Detective John Munch, played by Richard Belzer.  Starting as a regular in Homicide:  Life on the Street, Belzer showed up on no less than TEN different shows as the same character.  Munch (and Belzer) were featured on many of the Law and Order shows (becoming a regular on Special Victims Unit after the demise of Homicide), plus the character turned up on shows as varied as The X-Files, The Wire, and is mentioned in the BBC production Luther.  He even appeared in comedies, both on the Fox series Arrested Development and NBC’s 30 Rock.  Detective Munch’s character has turned up across five different networks, plus other mentions and parodies elsewhere (including as a Muppet, of all things).  Counting up episodes, Belzer has appeared over 300 times in the character, and still counting.  (And the surprising thing is, the character has never been the lead in his own series… but then maybe this kind of longevity is better for an actor’s career!)

Homicide:  Life on the Street was also on the receiving end of this type of crossover behavior.  A character from NBC’s medical show St. Elsewhere appeared on Homicide (Dr. Roxanne Turner, played by Alfre Woodard), although it was long after St. Elsewhere had ended production.  St. Elsewhere characters also had a habit of either showing up in other programs, such as Cheers (also set in Boston), or simply mentioning acquaintances from the past (one character rather seriously claims Dr. B.J. Hunnicut from M*A*S*H is an old Korean war buddy).  Other famous TV doctors are mentioned in passing on the hospital PA system, although they aren’t really commented on by the characters themselves.

The extensive crossover instances of Homicide:  Life on the Street and St. Elsewhere with other shows brings up a rather interesting and unique idea.  After some research (by someone with much more time than I have to spend on such things), 282 different shows (and counting) have been “linked” together by the various methods shown in this article.  Character appearances, cameos, offhand mentions of common knowledge and such have all combined to create, like the old Kevin Bacon “six degrees of separation” game, a way to go from one series to another through common character threads.

Fans of old TV love this sort of thing, as it becomes a game to see what show can link with something totally different (which links Batman with Hogan’s Heroes, even though they’re set years apart, through an in-character cameo appearance by Werner Klemperer as Colonel Klink in a Batman wall-climbing sequence).  Since All in the Family had no less than 7 different shows as spin-offs (some successful and some not), these links can be both direct and obscure.  But thanks to the ending of one particular show, there’s yet another really strange feature to this inter-connected world of television.

And it’s all due to a boy named Tommy Westphall.

Just imagine the possibilities....

Tommy was a minor character on St. Elsewhere, played by Chad Allen.  The autistic son of the lead character Dr. Westphall (Ed Flanders), Tommy was featured in few episodes, yet played a significant role in the final installment of the series.  In that episode, the camera shows snow falling gently on the main location of the show, St. Elegius hospital, then the scene turns to a small apartment.  Westphall comes home, although his dress and manner suggest he’s been working at a job more similar to construction or manual labor than being a doctor.  Tommy is playing with something on the floor, and Westphall comments to his father (Tommy’s grandfather) about the difficulty in raising an autistic child, and how he wishes he could just understand what goes on inside his child’s mind.  Finally gathering the family for dinner, Westphall takes the toy out of Tommy’s hands and herds him toward the table.

The toy, as the camera closes in upon it, turns out to be a snowglobe, shaken just before Westphall takes it and places it upon the television set in the apartment.  Inside the snowglobe is St. Elegius hospital, in a shot that mimics the previous winter scene of the venerable hospital, setting for the entire series.  Many fans interpreted this to mean that the entire series was simply the manufactured dreamings of Tommy’s autistic mind….

But, if we take that as a given, then we also have to assume that each of the appearances of the St. Elsewhere characters on other shows were also merely thoughts in Tommy’s mind… which means Cheers and Homicide: Life on the Street both were creations of his concepts and ideas.  Which means that those 10 different shows in which Detective Munch appears were also part of Tommy’s dreamings… as were the “theme night” crossovers from Cheers, the cameos on Frasier, and so many, many other shows that became inter-connected along the way… from, as intimated in the beginning of this article, I Love Lucy to Fringe.

282 shows, all together thanks to Tommy

Fifty years of television, all connected, and perhaps all in the mind of a single child.  An interesting way to look at this amazing world of television, if nothing else.  You can visit the Multiverse of Tommy Westphall (which includes both a graphical and text interpretation of all the connections made by 282 different shows).  And if you’re just interested in crossover-type appearances that aren’t necessarily in Tommy’s mind, there’s Poobala’s site full of spinoffs and all types of cross-pollination.  For any student of television, it’s a wonderful journey through history… which is what this website, and the articles I write, are all about.

“Someone did the math once… and something like 90 percent of all television took place in Tommy Westphall’s mind.  God love him.”
St. Elsewhere writer Tom Fontana

Of course, there are some holes in this theory.  But that’s fine.  As an exploration of television, it’s at least a fun diversion and an interesting mental exercise to see the wonderful and strange ways so many shows from so many different eras and settings can connect.  But when you suddenly realize in your explorations that the original Star Trek and Happy Days, supposedly centuries apart, have only the one series Mork and Mindy connecting them (thanks to a brief cameo by William Shatner as Captain Kirk), you see how much television references itself.  When you can discover for yourself the somewhat convoluted string that links BBC’s Torchwood and forty-five years of Doctor Who continuity with both the 20 years of the American based Law and Order and the short-lived existence of The Tortellis, “surprising” doesn’t begin to describe what our viewing experiences have brought us.  The shared experience of everyone watching the same shows is reflected by those who make those very shows, and their desires to connect and relive all the things they love (now and in the past).  And all of us at home get to enjoy that process with them.

282 degrees of separation, but only one mind.  And it’s not Tommy Westphall’s… it is the collective mind of all us viewers at home, and the comfort and recognition of our shared experiences.  It may be the Tommyverse, but we all get to explore it, one episode at a time.

Comments and suggestions appreciated, as always.

–Tim R.

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Another general piece this week, in which I talk about more than one show.  In fact, if I wanted to talk about ALL the shows I could touch on this week, there’s 282 of them!  No, I don’t mention them all, but I do take note of more than a few, and what they all shared along the way… from the ’50’s to current day, and a great many in between.  Five quotes:

“Stay with me now, this is complicated but kind of fun.”

Fans loved tuning in to see an old friend in a new venue…

…but that got shot down at the last minute for the simple fact that the two shows appeared on different networks…

…plus other mentions and parodies elsewhere (including as a Muppet, of all things).

An interesting way to look at this amazing world of television, if nothing else.

Come look into the very strange world of television (and where so much of it might start) this week on Friday @ 8/7 Central!

–Tim R.

“I had three different separate shows running with three different writing crews, shooting crews, and casts. I would go into my dailies to see the filming from the day before and I’d be in the dailies for like three hours. It was really hard, but we had a great time””
–Producer/Creator Kenneth Johnson on making Cliffhangers

Welcome to the thrilling days of yesteryear!  Pay your nickel admission to the theater, and sit back with popcorn in hand to watch this week’s exciting adventures of heroism and dastardly villiany!  And when it’s all over, make sure you come back next week… you don’t want to miss seeing how our hero (or heroine) gets themselves out of their terrible predicament, because (of course) all good serials end with a terrifying cliffhanger!

OK, that’s from the movie screens of the thirties and forties, and Saturday afternoon serials like the original Buck Rodgers and The Perils of Pauline… but since this is a television site, I’ll have to settle for a show that tried to harken back to those days, the 1979 series Cliffhangers!

Three shows in one

Even though it was a throwback to an earlier time, Cliffhangers was unique for a television format.  It featured three very different “shows” during each hour, with each part finishing, of course, on a cliffhanger ending.  Like the old Saturday movie serials, an installment of each continuing story was featured every week.  So, viewers would see roughly 20 minutes of a modern-day globe-trotting action-adventure show, followed by a strange hybrid of sci-fi western, and finally a good old NEW gothic horror story, all in an hour program.  Something for everyone, NBC hoped.

And NBC rested a lot of hopes on Cliffhangers, as it was a spring replacement series in 1979, after NBC’s ENTIRE new fall line-up had been canceled before the previous November was out.  They were willing to try anything at this point, and in Cliffhangers, the network tried three different things… all at once.

CHAPTER 1:  Stop Susan Williams starred actress Susan Anton as the title character, a news photographer whose reporter brother had apparently been killed.  The incident was thought by most to be an accident, but Susan had received a frantic and urgent call from her brother just before his death, which led her to believe there was more to this story.  She convinced her editor Bobby Richards (television veteran Ray Walston) to send her after clues left in an address book she found in her brother’s apartment… just before someone tried to kill her.

Susan and Jack

What ensues is a world-wide journey (on the Universal back-lot, of course) from Marrakesh to Nairobi to Washington, D.C. with threats to Susan’s life at every turn.  She meets up with Jack Schoengarth (Michael Swan), a scoundrel who happened to know her brother in the past, and is periphially involved in the events the brother was investigating (and Susan is now trying to stop).  They find various clues along the way, as Jack is busy saving Susan each week from exploding cars, deadly cobras, and even rampaging elephants about to stampede!

Basically, what’s being emulated here is the classic The Perils of Pauline from 1933, just updated to a present-day setting.  NBC thought that Susan Anton was “the next big thing”, so much so that she was not only featured on Cliffhangers, but she had her own weekly variety series airing elsewhere on the schedule at the same time.  Unfortunately, the network’s love affair with Susan wasn’t shared by television audiences, and both shows were gone before the next season.  But that’s giving away the ending, and we’re supposed to be wondering what’s going to happen next….

“Don’t touch that dial!  It’s time for chapter three of The Secret Empire,  portions of which are in beautiful black and white!”
–The voice-over narration on the FIRST installment of The Secret Empire

Sheriff Jim Donner

CHAPTER 2: The Secret Empire was a definite departure from Stop Susan Williams.  In the beginning a traditional western, it soon became something quite different.  Basically a remake of a relatively unknown 1935 Gene Autry movie serial called The Phantom Empire, it combined cowboys with science fiction (showing that Firefly wasn’t the first… just the best).

Marshall Jim Donner (Geoffrey Scott) is on the trail of the Phantom Riders, masked horsemen who’ve been stealing gold shipments in 1880 Wyoming.  What starts as a typical western, complete with love interest/frontier doctor Millie Thompson (Carlene Watkins), shortly turns into a science fiction epic.  Donner stumbles upon the Phantom Riders hideout, a hidden cave containing an elevator leading to a futuristic underground city.  As the serial progresses, Donner discovers the evil leader of the city, Thorval (Mark Lenard), whose cunning plan is to brainwash the citizens above and take over their world.

To do this, Thorval needs gold to power his “compliatron”, hence the gold robberies.  The brave lawman uncovers not only the evil plot, but finds a resistance movement trying to stop Thorval, who’s already used his machine on many of his citizens.  “Donner Jim” (as the resistance calls him) rallies the rebels in order to help save both the underground city and his own people… and he ends up captured and re-captured multiple times along the way.  Donner’s serial cliffhangers include traditional western endings like his horse jumping a cliff (into a previously unseen river), and sci-fi threats like being attacked by a monstrous green creature from the underground (he’s “rescued” when the creature turns out to be friendly), and being “shot” by a futuristic ray gun (which merely immobilizes him, instead of killing him).

As if those aren’t enough, in later episodes Donner’s old and new friends end up in the Cliffhangers endings (both above and below ground), with Donner rescuing them to become the rightful hero of the piece.  All this was designed to evoke the feelings of the traditional movie serials, and in this respect The Secret Empire really couldn’t lose, since it was also the one most closely based on an actual serial from that era.  There was a distinct lack of updating done on this segment of the show (other than eliminating Autry’s “singing cowboy” schtick), and it was probably the most traditional, even if the hybrid subject matter was also the most unusual.

The underground city

The really unique feature  of The Secret Empire was the deliberate decision to show all the “old western” above-ground adventure in “beautiful” black and white (with a slight sepia tinge), while the underground futuristic environment was shown in color.  The dichotomy actually worked rather well, and was an excellent nod to the early 30’s origins of the Cliffhangers genre.  Unfortunately, there was one other inadvertent nod to that type of storytelling:  the series only lasted long enough to almost get to the end of the story, with both Stop Susan Williams and The Secret Empire left as REAL cliffhangers, at least on the network run.  More about that later, because now, it’s time for our final exciting Cliffhangers tale….

“How would you like to be alive 100 years from now?  As young and vital as you are, 200 years from now?  To behold the earth in 500 years and beyond? (…)  I am offering you something no one else can… immortality.  Like the eternal sea.  Think of it.  The ceaseless tide….  I know you are beginning to feel it. (…)  When you fully comprehend the gift only I can give… I will be waiting.”
–Dracula (Michael Nouri) seducing his potential victim Mary (Carol Baxter)

Michael Nouri as Count Dracula

CHAPTER 3:  The Curse of Dracula was the only truly original tale featured on Cliffhangers, even though the idea of Dracula, horror stories and gothic romance had been around for quite a while.  Using the traditional vampyre mythos, creator Kenneth Johnson crafted a modern-day story concerning Kurt Van Helsing (Stephen Johnson), the grandson of the famous vampyre-hunting Van Helsing, and Kurt’s girlfriend Mary Gibbons (Carol Baxter).  They were on the trail of Dracula (played with distinctive flair by Michael Nouri), who by now had lived over 500 years and was apparently teaching Eastern European History at a local college (night classes only, of course).

Yes, this all sounds rather campy, and yet this was the one story where camp took a back seat to atmosphere and style, and although there were occasional deliberate laughs (Dracula runs a light, and tells the belligerent officer “I know red when I see it.”), the series was never played as anything but honest and serious (which, if you think about it, is rather hard to do with a mythology rife with possibilities for being overplayed).  Nouri shines as a villain who seems tortured by his existence, yet still understanding of his legacy, no matter what it may have cost others.  And even though the traditional story is about Dracula and Van Helsing, it’s Mary who pays the emotional cost.

The Count and his intended, Mary

The Curse of Dracula was the most popular of the three serials on Cliffhangers, and it was probably the best acted and written.  Viewers loved the emotional struggle of Mary, who at one point is a vampire hunter and at another becomes romantically attracted to this denizen of the night.  Far in advance of today’s vampire versions found in Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, and Moonlight, Nouri’s portrayal of the ageless Count was one of the first on prime-time television to be a romantic lead, even if he was ostensibly the villain of the piece.  This was one of the highlights of The Curse of Dracula, as at times Dracula was the threat in the cliffhanger, and at times he was actually the one saving someone else from his jealous minions.

The Curse of Dracula actually got an ending on television.  Supposedly, we joined each serial “in progress” and Curse started with Chapter Six… in the premiere episode.  The Curse of Dracula also benefited from a “recap” special when Dracula ’79 aired part-way through the season, as the numbering caused some viewers to believe they’d missed installments (they hadn’t).  Dracula ’79 was simply a re-edited version of the story so far, airing halfway through the series run, in an attempt to allow viewers who had missed the beginning of the series to catch up.  This unfortunately didn’t attract enough people to the show to save it, and so, with a resolution to The Curse of Dracula and apparent cliffhanger endings for both Stop Susan Williams and The Secret Empire, Cliffhangers ended most appropriately.

Cliffhangers isn’t available on commercial DVD, although there are rough bootlegs out there.  Some of these include the missing “final” episode, which contains no Curse of Dracula, but the last episode of Stop Susan Williams book-ended by the final two installments of The Secret Empire.  In reality, all three stories had a conclusion, but NBC canceled the series and left one installment unaired, making certain that Cliffhangers really did live up to its name.  All of the stories were re-edited into movies for sale in syndication and abroad.  Stop Susan Williams became The Girl Who Saved the World, while The Curse of Dracula became The World of Dracula (since there was already a movie by the Curse title).  There’s a couple really great websites, one with lots of background on the show, and another with more specific installment-by-installment information, and both are filled with an amazing amount of knowledge on Cliffhangers.

“Well, I’ll tell you why nobody remembers it.  It’s because we were on opposite Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley when they were getting forty shares in reruns.  It was the absolute nightmare timeslot of all time and it’s funny because Cliffhangers was, at the time, the most expensive one-hour show ever made for television.”
–Kenneth Johnson

NBC in 1978 was a sinking ship, having canceled their entire new September lineup within three months of their premieres.  Spring series like Cliffhangers got a chance only because everything else had fared so poorly, but it took more than just a season for NBC to recover from their previous terrible Fall.  NBC was desperate to be rescued by almost any show, as the only hit they had at the time was Little House on the Prairie.  But with nothing to build upon, it would take a lot longer than Spring for their fortunes to change… it would take years.  And Cliffhangers apparently wasn’t the show (or “shows”, if you want to look at it that way) to come to NBC’s rescue.

Unfortunately, as many critics rightfully pointed out, Cliffhangers was based on the “filler” material that was shown between old-time movies, and perhaps more effort should have been focused on “feature” entertainment than “filler”.  But that belittles all those who loved (and still love) that kind of entertainment, and not everything is going to be Citizen Kane and Gone With the Wind.  There will always be a place for excitement, chases, and heroes (and heroines) facing dire peril and doom…

…until the next death-defying chapter, and the thrill of the rescue!  Bring on the Cliffhangers!

Vital Stats

10 aired episodes — one unaired episode
NBC Network
First aired episode:  February 27, 1979
Final aired episode:  May 1, 1979
Aired at Friday 8/7 Central?  No, but probably anything NBC aired at any time would have ended just like Cliffhangers.  Something had to go Tuesdays at 8/7 Central against Happy Days, and this was it.

Comments and suggestions appreciated, as always.

–Tim R.

A really strange format featured this week:  only one series, but it had three different “shows”.   Menace!  Surprises!  Romance!  Death-defying action!  Astonishing adventures into the unknown!  (And all that was just in the opening credits!)  SIX quotes, a pair for each featured “show”:

…clues left in an address book she found in her brother’s apartment… just before someone tried to kill her.

What ensues is a world-wide journey (on the Universal back-lot, of course)…

“…portions of which are in beautiful black and white!”

There was a distinct lack of updating done on this segment of the show…

“When you fully comprehend the gift only I can give… I will be waiting.”

…this all sounds rather campy, and yet this was the one story where camp took a back seat…

A photojournalist, a U.S. Marshall, and a vampire… how’s that for a set?  Find them all this week on Friday @ 8/7 Central!

–Tim R.

“Create a world that floats on a layer of metaphor, drench it in big ideas about the world, fill it with real people, and then absolutely demand intelligence of your viewers.  Welcome to Serenity.”
–Jane Espenson, writer for Firefly (among many other shows)

The cast of Firefly

In Firefly, Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) fought (and unfortunately lost) the battle of Serenity Valley.  He was part of an underdog rebel force fighting against the Alliance military for control of his world, his universe, and for the freedom of how to live his life.  His rebels were known as Browncoats, a name that fans of Firefly took as their own, to show their unity and devotion to the cause.  For some, the cause was simply support of the show.  For others, it became much more. And much like Mal, who continued to fight for what he believed throughout the course of the series, they still fight today, for the good of all.

The Browncoats portrayed on Firefly were rebels to the core, fighting against the status quo.  So too are the self-styled followers of the series, independents all.  These Browncoats fight not only to keep the memory of the series alive, but have been out there now going on six years to raise money for charity and spread the word.  They continue to tell to the world about both good causes and their beloved passion, Firefly.

Mal: “Appears we got here just in the nick of time. What does that make us?”
Zoe: “Big damn heroes, sir.”
–from the episode Safe

This year's promotional logo

While there are many loosely organized groups (as is befitting a bunch of independents, many of whom discovered Firefly individually and came together later), there is an umbrella charity group called Can’t Stop the Serenity that deserves special notice.  Can’t Stop the Serenity co-ordinates charity showings of the 2005 Serenity feature film in various locations around the world (usually theatres, on a big screen as the film should be seen).  They also act as a clearing house for some of the license issues, and to help support the charity Equality Now, a favorite of Firefly creator Joss Whedon.  Other events also raise money to donate to a wide variety of charities in addition to Equality Now, and the shindigs have been known to feature auctions of Firefly-related merchandise, items signed by stars of the show, and related memorabilia (such as screenings of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which featured Firefly star Nathan Fillion and was written/produced/directed by Whedon).

The group has been going strong for the last five years, and as they enter their sixth, they’ve helped sponsor yearly gatherings everywhere from Lawrence, Kansas to Melbourne, Australia; from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Hamburg, Germany.  While events are held at various times during the year, most are organized around the last weekend in June (honoring Whedon’s birthday of June 26).  In 2010 alone, the group raised over $100,000 for Equality Now and a significant percentage more for other worthy organizations.  Fifty different sanctioned events were held around the world in 2010, and that’s just counting the events and donations affiliated with this particular Browncoats group.

“I write for fanboy moments.  I write to give myself strength.  I write to be the characters that I am not.  I write to explore all the things I’m afraid of.  I write to do all the things the viewers want too.  So the intensity of the fan response is enormously gratifying.  It means I hit a nerve.”
— Joss Whedon

Other events were held in cities large and small, featuring more than just screenings of the show.  For example, an event called Firefly Forever was held last year for fans of the show in a venue that often features touring Broadway productions.  It had not only a screening of the Serenity movie and Dr. Horrible, but also trivia contests, costumed attendees, and a tribute band led by Megan Gogerty.  In addition to being an award-winning playwright and performer, Megan loves both Firefly and Buffy, the Vampire Slayer so much (both Whedon projects) she has created tribute albums for each.  Her music is fun, occasionally poignant, and shows how Firefly has stimulated her already creative energy in terrific ways.

Browncoats: Redemption cast, fans and filmmakers all

Fans weren’t happy with the fact that Firefly ended so quickly, even with the feature film Serenity to help tie up a few of the loose ends.  One group created their own feature-length production called Browncoats:  Redemption, and it is now being shown at various SF conventions and gatherings, including some Can’t Stop the Serenity events mentioned above.  Obviously a labor of love, what it lacks slightly in Hollywood budget it more than makes up for in enthusiasm and passion for a series gone but not forgotten… much like Mal and the original rebels shared their passion for a battle lost and still remembered, or Joss and his own passionate fight for Firefly against the television powers-that-be.  The makers of this fan film also support a number of charities, and their website notes not only Equality Now, but also Kids Need to Read, a charity Firefly star Nathan Fillion helped found a number of years ago to advocate assorted opportunities for youngsters and literacy.

“I’d rather make a show 100 people need to see, than a show that 1000 people want to see.”
— Joss Whedon

If the original Firefly was all about character, then the response of the fans was all about passion.  Passion in action is creativity, and Firefly fans are overwhelmingly both passionate and creative.  Welcome to the Blue Sun Room at FireflyFans.net.  Here there are a simply amazing amount of original fan fiction, filk songs (Megan’s not the only one singing the praises of Firefly!), various compilation videos, banners and wallpapers for computers and websites, and original artwork based on the series.  Some have even created jewelry, model weapons, and costumes based on character accessories seen on the show.  Firefly was inspirational to many, causing them to create based on their love for these characters and their dramatic situations.

“I’m very much of the ‘make it dark, make it grim, make it tough.’  But then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”
–Joss Whedon

Mal, perhaps the Captain of an animated Serenity?

Of course, dramatic situations don’t stop fans from having fun with their adopted creation.  There are many comical songs available, not to mention stories written which run the gamut from hauntingly beautiful and sad to downright hilarious.  Fans have done so many wonderful things it’s hard to describe the wide variations available.  One fan even went so far as to draw some of the characters as cartoons, perhaps in the hope of someday reviving the show as an animated series, but more likely as just another way to share his love of the show through his particular talents.  And maybe that’s when you can tell that a show has become much more than just a show to people… they take what they love and somehow are moved to make it part of themselves, part of their own identity.  That’s what passion really is, an expression of self.

“I refuse to give up.  I can’t.”
–Creator Joss Whedon, on bringing back Firefly

Even the cast and crew were caught up in the specialness of Firefly, so much so that it has been a part of their professional lives long after the cancellation of the original series.  Yes, the Serenity movie was a gift, a reunion experience that most short-lived television shows and their fans never get.  But even now, the ‘verse of Firefly remains a part of them all, and rather than resent being identified with a canceled show, they embrace the experience.

Space Cowboy, five years later

Nathan Fillion was seen in a Halloween episode of his current series Castle in his old Mal Reynolds costume, with a fun bit interacting with his onscreen “daughter” played by Molly Quinn.  Her line?  “That was like five years ago.”  Another Firefly joke landed in Castle this past season when his mother (talking about something else entirely) said “You have heard of Serenity, haven’t you?”  Fillion loves his association with the show, so much so that he recently sparked notions of a revival.  When asked about his experience on Firefly and he current feelings on the series, he responded that if he won the lottery, he’d take the $300 million, buy the rights to Firefly, and start making it again.  There was a Facebook page and a website dedicated to “Help Nathan buy Firefly” created by fans within days, and two former writers for the series, Jane Espenson and Jose Molina, immediately added their support to the idea….  Passion, my friends, passion.

Summer Glau in The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Other actors in the show have continued their careers in geek- and SF-related shows, likely sparked by their fanbase from Firefly.  Morena Baccarin (Irina) recently finished her second season as the lead in ABC’s revival of V, while Jewel Staite (Kaylee) was a featured regular on Stargate:  Atlantis.  Adam Baldwin (Jayne) has been a regular on NBC’s Chuck for a number of seasons, and Summer Glau (River) has been a fan favorite on a many genre shows, including The 4400, Terminator:  The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and The Cape.  Glau has also been a guest on The Big Bang Theory, a show which has featured some terrific references to the original Firefly.  (One character on Big Bang Theory is STILL angry at the cancellation, years later, so much so that it’s a running gag.  He’s not typical in his expressed anger, but he’s not the only one who is not happy with Fox, even now, for what happened.)

“…you’re going to burn in a very special level of hell.  A level they reserve for child molesters… and people who talk at the theater.”
–Shepherd Book, who unfortunately was NOT talking about the Fox executive who canceled Firefly

Obviously, there were a number of people who were very unhappy at the cancellation of Firefly… but the problem with that idea is, there really weren’t enough people watching it when it was originally on in the first place.  For some of the reasons (and for some of the blame on Fox), you can see last week’s article.  But partially because of the haphazard treatment of the network, Firefly never really gained a wide audience until AFTER its original airing, and the passion grew as more and more fans were turned on to the amazing characters and setting by OTHER fans along the way.

The feature film Serenity (released in 2005) came about because of Fox’s short-sightedness as well, and the obvious enthusiasm of the Browncoats.  Shortly after the cancellation, episodes were shown to the head of Universal (a Fox rival), who immediately snapped up the movie rights to the franchise.  Bigger, better sets were built, a script written by Joss Whedon (who also directed), and the entire cast and much of the crew were reunited, joyously, to once again play in their favorite ‘verse.  While the stakes were raised (and favorites lost), Serenity was still a way for the fans to get answers to some lingering questions about the characters, and for at least some form of resolution to be achieved.

But fans… Browncoats… wouldn’t settle for just that, either.  That’s why they’ve made Firefly their own.  That’s why they’ll never let it end.  It’s personal now.

There’s a reason the DVD sets were such big sellers, and that’s because very few people actually saw the original airing of the series… but thanks both to the Serenity film and the Browncoats spreading the word from person to person, Firefly has exploded in the viewing consciousness since.  If you wish to see something of what I’m talking about, episodes are available on Hulu, with different hours rotating in and out each week.

Firefly is unique, not just because of the characters or the setting, the ideas or the writing… it is unique because it’s a television show that became much more than what most television shows ever become:  it changed the lives and behavior of numerous viewers for the better.  Whether in their own creative endeavors, or their actions in supporting valuable charitable organizations, or even in just taking the ideals of the characters to heart, Firefly has become real.  Not in the fact of flying between planets and space cowboys, but in motivating people into cherishing their own natures, and becoming more than what they were before.

“Take my love, take my land.
Take me where I cannot stand.
I don’t care, I’m still free.
You can’t take the sky from me….”
–The opening theme song from Firefly

In these modern times, situations we face along the way can take so much from us, just in the everyday struggle to survive.  Be it work, family, home, health… we all have battles we’ve fought, and sometimes lost.  Compromises sometimes have to be made, and like I said about Mal in the previous article, so many individuals try to be good people… where good isn’t always an option.  But Firefly touched a nerve for many, and while it showed characters battling foes larger than themselves, it also showed how each of them could prosper individually, even with just small victories along the way.

The rebels and Browncoats identified with the crew of Serenity as their own, with likely someone on the crew being a personal draw to almost anyone who watched.  And the ultimate theme of the series was like a shining beacon to many:  No matter what happens, no matter what battles are won or lost, there are certain things that are intrinsically part of each of us, and those things can never be taken away, no matter how hard some may try.

You can’t take the sky from me….

I’ve been doing this for a year now.  Thanks for the journey so far.  Let’s keep flying.  –Tim R.

Comments and suggestions appreciated, as always.

Headed back to the ‘verse this week.  While Part One was all about the characters on board Serenity, this week’s article looks as all those who joined them along the way… and beyond.  Five quotes:

“…fill it with real people, and then absolutely demand intelligence of your viewers.”

…everywhere from Lawrence, Kansas to Melbourne, Australia; from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Hamburg, Germany.

“So the intensity of the fan response is enormously gratifying.  It means I hit a nerve.”

…what it lacks slightly in Hollywood budget it more than makes up for in enthusiasm and passion.

“I refuse to give up.  I can’t.”

There’s a lot of great fans out there, many of whom have been moved by Firefly.  See just a hint of what they’ve done, and what they can do, coming up Friday @ 8/7 Central.

–Tim R.

“Live like real people.  Small crew, them’s that feel the need to be free.  Take jobs as they come.  Ain’t never have to be under the heel of nobody ever again.  No matter how long the arm of the Alliance might get… we just get ourselves a little further.”
–Captain Mal Reynolds, his first time on board the Firefly-class ship Serenity

Unless you’ve been living in one of the more distant settlements on the farther reaches of colonized space, you’ve likely heard of Firefly.  It’s the poster child for short-lived TV series canceled far too soon, quite possibly the best, most remembered television show that never got the chance it deserved to succeed.  It has inspired incredible devotion in fans, amazing passion in actors and creative personnel, and maybe it’s done the one rare thing that television can sometimes achieve:  it’s made lives better.  And as the characters in Firefly said about cool, special, great things in their corner of the ‘verse:  it was “shiny”.

Not bad for a little show about a little spaceship that could….

Firefly debuted on Fox on September 20, 2002.  It was an odd combination of science fiction and western, portraying a universe that was almost wholly human, spread amongst the stars with frontier worlds more similar to cattle ranches and border towns instead of alien spaceports and advanced technology.  What this really meant was stories focused more on the characters instead of “high-concept” tech ideas, and it was through the characters that Firefly truly did shine.

Mal, Captain of Serenity

“I like a hard world, but I like a hard world that molds good people and people with a sense of humor about the world they’re in.”
–Joss Whedon, creator of Firefly

Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) is the Captain of that “little spaceship that could” known as Serenity, a Firefly-class ship carrying a variety of crew and passengers (plus what cargo they could hold, legal or illegal).  Reynolds is a man of dubious and selective honor, who thought nothing of taking jobs involving smuggling and outright theft.  He is a good man (despite his claims to the contrary at times), involved in situations where good isn’t always an available option.  Mal’s trying to eke out a living on the frontier of space, keep his precious ship flying, and (mostly) stay under the radar of those in charge.

“Those in charge” were the Alliance, who had defeated the rebels (and Reynolds, collectively known as the “Browncoats”) a few years earlier in a war to unite the various planets under their heavy-handed authority.  That authority may perhaps work for the more central planets, but those on the farther reaches have a much looser law.  Mal sought his freedom and livelihood there, and found whatever work (legal or otherwise) would keep his ship in the air.  Passengers, contraband, legitimate cargo runs, as long as the job paid, it was a job worth taking… most of the time, anyway.  And hey, if Mal could happen to tweak the nose of the Alliance a bit in the process, then that was well worth doing along the way.

“When I pitched the show, I said it was about nine people living in the blackness of space and seeing nine different things.   That’s what I’m fascinated by, how they all react.  They must make decisions that are horrific to people who aren’t fighting for their lives every day.  It’s about a group of people who are living hand-to-mouth, and are heroes, day-to-day.”
–Joss Whedon

Zoe, devoted to Mal and Wash

Mal’s second-in-command is Zoe (Gina Torres), who’d fought with him against the Alliance years earlier.  She’s devoted to Mal, although she’s also not afraid to question his actions or motives when necessary.  Zoe is a more-than-capable fighter and a crack shot with a gun, abilities that come in very handy out on the Rim worlds where technology takes a back seat to brute force and hard work.  Zoe is afraid of neither, but she also has a softer side, best shown with her beloved husband Wash (Alan Tyduk).

Wash, ready to fly

Wash is the pilot of Serenity, a man with a smile and ready quick wit, although not always the first to grasp exactly what is going on.  He’s deeply in love with his wife, and although he’s occasionally jealous of the devotion Zoe gives to her commander, he realizes there’s a difference between allegiance of the mind and allegiance of the heart, and Zoe’s heart is his alone.  A clever pilot and inventive tactician, Wash tries to be an optimist but isn’t always successful, as the situations the crew of the Serenity comes up against aren’t always the most conducive to optimism.  But that doesn’t stop Kaylee.

Eternally optimistic engineer Kaylee

Kaylee (Jewel Staite) is the always positive heart of the ship, both in character and job.  She’s eternally sweet, gentle, and almost always has a smile on her face.  Kaylee is most comfortable when she’s with her engines, as they give her a feeling of belonging and importance, more than anything else in the world.  She’s had no formal training as a mechanic, but engines seem to “speak” to her (she says), and there are few in the ‘verse who know their way around a propulsion unit like she does.  After living a quiet, uncultured life on a backwater planet, signing up for the crew of Serenity was the first time she’d ever been off her homeworld.  She sees the adventure of Serenity’s voyages with the wonder of new eyes and the joy of new experience, a welcome difference from some of the jaded views of her comrades.

“I don’t believe there’s a power in the ‘verse stop Kaylee from being cheerful.  Sometimes you just want to duct tape her mouth and dump her in the hold for a month.”
–a slightly sarcastic Mal, about Serenity’s Kaylee

"The Hero of Canton", the man they call Jayne

Jaded is where Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin) comes in.  He’s the muscle of the group, motivated by one thing only:  cash.  While he’s not the brightest person, he’s handy when heads need knocked together.  He joined up only because Mal made him a better offer than he was getting when his former team tried robbing Serenity, so he switched sides.  His allegiance is tested (and found wanting) in the series, but after he’s threatened with being dumped from the upper atmosphere, his loyalty to the rest of the crew now falls under “enlightened self-interest”.  Jayne has a tendency to end up in opposition to whatever situation is at hand, antagonizing the rest of the crew.  But while he can make the best situation turn into the worst with his mouth or his fists, he can also fall into shit and come up smelling like a rose.  He even became such a hero a song was written about him… too bad the people who wrote it didn’t know he was only trying to save his own skin, not become their champion… but he became that anyway.

Companion Inara

Adding a veneer of respectability to Serenity is Inara Serra (Morena Baccarin), a “Companion” who leases one of Serenity’s two shuttles.  In the world of Firefly, the business of “Companion” is a well thought of and regulated vocation, and Inara is not some common whore or prostitute.  She’s had significant training in both the physical and emotional aspects of her trade, and her profession is licensed and respected.  While used to the finer things in life, she sees her time on Serenity as helpful both as a symbol of manners to the crew, and to give her a base of operations to service the many worlds they visit.  Although she tolerates the crew’s slightly less-than-legal efforts during her transport to those worlds, she also has an unrequited romance with Mal, even if she’d likely never admit it to him.  She provides balance and a calming influence, as is proper for one in her profession.

“Preacher, don’t the bible have some pretty specific things to say about killing?”
“Quite specific.  It is, however, somewhat fuzzier on the subject of… kneecaps.”

–Zoe and Shepherd Book, as the crew takes up arms to rescue Mal

Shepherd Book, a (mostly) peaceful man

During the 2-hour Firefly pilot episode Serenity, the crew takes on passengers.  These include a wandering Preacher (or Shepherd, in Firefly parlance) known as Book (Ron Glass).  A bit of a mystery, Shepherd Book is in search of something, although he is never quite cornered into admitting just what that quest might entail, spiritual or otherwise.  For a man of peace, he definitely knows his way around a weapon and a fight, and has a pragmatic way of looking at the universe without losing his principles.  He too knows the wayward methods of Mal and the crew aren’t always the most legal, but his calling is to a higher power.  His feelings about the Alliance don’t necessarily put the lawmakers on the side of right, and more often puts Serenity (and himself) there instead.

Doctor Simon Tam

Also boarding during the pilot episode (and not really having a destination in mind) is Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher).  Simon grew up in a privileged family on the more civilized (and decadent) central colonies, and was in the top 3% of his class at medical school.  He’s brilliant, if a bit unsure of himself socially and less than knowledgeable about the wilder side of life.  His abilities as a doctor make him invaluable on board Serenity, even though he really doesn’t fit in with the rest of the crew all that well.  He and Kaylee develop a mutual attraction, but his insistence on propriety clashes with Kaylee’s more earthy approach.  His main objective in joining Serenity is to get as far away from the Alliance as possible, because it turns out he’s not just bringing medical supplies with his belongings… he’s actually bringing his fugitive sister.

“I’m very smart.  ‘Gifted’ is the term.  So, when I tell you my little sister makes me look like an idiot child, I want you to understand my full meaning.”
–Simon, about his sister River

fragile, enigmatic River Tam

River Tam (Summer Glau) is a child prodigy even by prodigy standards.  She was sent to an Alliance facility a few years ago, but in her late teens Simon received odd messages from her which he finally determined were in code.  River was asking for help, to escape whatever it was the Alliance was doing to her and the others there.  Simon helped her escape, but she’s not really whole anymore… she is only occasionally lucid, living in her own world and experiencing emotions and thoughts very differently from the rest of the crew.  She’s still brilliant (which is why the Alliance wants her for some nefarious purpose), but her apparent randomness occasionally scares the rest of the crew.  Simon is trying to find out what exactly the blue-gloved minions of the Alliance authority have done to her, and barters his professional services with Mal in return for passage and access to the medical facilities on board to treat River.  The enigmatic River occasionally shows moments of amazing ability she really shouldn’t possess… but also has nightmares of the experimentation that took place at Alliance hands.

“It never goes smooth.  How come it never goes smooth?”
–Mal, just before a sudden but inevitable betrayal

Since most of the characters have some kind of conflict with the central powers of the Alliance (whether obvious or concealed), many of the storylines in Firefly concern not only that tension, but the efforts of Serenity to stay very far away from their notice.  Therefore, a number of the episode plotlines were situated on those backwater frontier worlds where “outer space” took on the look of more traditional westerns.  After all, there are certain technologies (like bullets and horses) that are much easier to use and maintain on the frontier than lasers and anti-gravity cars.  This gave Firefly an unusual hybrid feel, emphasized by common mixing of American and Chinese idioms (and after all, profanity in Chinese is easier to slip by the censors on an American television show).  This same blending occurred in all phases of production, be it casting, props, costumes, or the look of various sets.  Firefly was a unique show with a unique setting, and there’s been none like it before or since.

And television is poorer for the fact that it didn’t last.

Fox did the show no favors, in any way.  First, they insisted upon a “new” pilot, determining that the 2-hour pilot originally shot was “too slow” and not “action” oriented enough.  (Yes, well try introducing a new ‘verse, nine regular characters, the ship, and a couple of antagonists along the way for good measure, and see how much action can be shoehorned into an hour, let alone two!)  Once the series started, Fox also never ran Firefly more than two weeks in a row without a pre-emption, meaning large audiences never developed the “habit” of watching the show regularly.  Finally, the episodes were all shown “out-of-order”, meaning that certain references made along the way made no sense, as they were written and filmed to be seen in sequence, and then shown with effect before cause, so to speak.

So, in the fall of 2002, out of the thirteen hour episodes and the two-hour original pilot, Fox showed twelve jumbled hours (with the two-hour introductory pilot aired LAST).  Exactly three months to the day Firefly premiered, the network aired its final episode, just before the new year began.

Fox later found out how big that mistake was.  Although the show was originally produced by the network’s sister studio 20th Century Fox, the movie rights were snapped up by Universal, who still saw potential in the franchise.  The cast, along with creator/writer Joss Whedon, was reunited and the feature film Serenity was released in 2005.  Although critically well-received, the movie didn’t do all that well at the box office, which isn’t that surprising since it had to not only tell a “movie” story, but it also had to re-introduce all the characters and setting to any who didn’t catch it the first time around.

Mal: “Appears we got here just in the nick of time.  What does that make us?”
Zoe: “Big damn heroes, sir.”
–From the episode Safe

In the mid-2000’s, the market for DVD sets was starting to boom.  Figuring they’d make some money off of something they’d already paid for, Firefly was released approximately a year later… and became the biggest selling TV DVD set of all time.  (Amazingly, it’s still a best-seller today, even though the show has been gone now for almost a decade.)  The surprising popularity of the release (well, surprising to Fox anyway…) and the devoted following of the “Browncoats” (more about these active fans later) has led to not only a decent payday for Fox home video, but to numerous charity showings of the film at theatres around the world.  Firefly is remembered fondly enough that the Science Channel has brought the reruns back to cable television, currently airing the episodes in order (finally!) in the Spring of 2011 to the delight of Browncoats everywhere.

The Browncoats have become a fandom that is well-organized and fervent, and as such next week they get their own article (yes, it’s a two-parter… what else would you expect for a show this special?)  In the meantime, it’s best to appreciate those “big damn heroes” of Firefly, and to remember their experiences oh so fondly.

“Love.  You can know all the math in the ‘verse… if you take a boat in the air you don’t love, she’ll shake you up just as sure as a turn in the whirls.  Love keeps her in the air when she ought to fall down.  Tells you she’s hurtin’ before she keens.  Makes her a home.”
–Mal Reynolds’ First Rule of Flying, from the movie Serenity

Firefly was, first and foremost, about character.  Its crew each had their own point of view, separate from the others, giving any fan a point of identity.  Jayne was the strength, Simon the intelligence.  Zoe was the sense of purpose, Wash the humor.  River was the intuition, Shepherd Book the conscience.  Inara was grace, Kaylee was heart, and Mal was all about freedom and personal honor.  Together, they didn’t just fly in a ship called Serenity… they were serenity, or at the very least, they were on their journey towards that destination.  And they were going to get there together, in their own way.

At the end of the pilot, Simon is talking to Mal about they’ve been through, and even if Fox got it wrong by airing that particular two hours dead last in the series, maybe their conversation offers an unintended poignant ending for “the little ship that could”.  As we leave the crew of the Firefly-class ship, Simon asks Mal about just why he’s willing to put up with all the trouble that seems to come his way….

“You had the Alliance on you.  Criminals and savages… half the people on the ship have been shot or wounded, including yourself.  And you’re harboring known fugitives…”

“We’re still flying….”

“That’s not much.”

“It’s enough.”

Yes, Serenity is still flying… and it’s enough.

Vital Stats

12 aired episodes (10 hours and 1 two-hour pilot) — 3 unaired episodes (available on DVD)
Fox Network
First aired episode:  September 20, 2002
Last aired episode:  December 20, 2002
Aired at Friday 8/7 Central?  Of course it was.  One of the shows for which the “Friday Night Death Slot” is best known.  There’s a reason this is the poster child for the type of show featured on this site.

Comments and suggestions appreciated, as always.

–Tim R.

Come back next week for Part II….

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