Tuesday, November 27, 2012

FIREFLY

Well, thanks to my friend, Anthony, we were able to watch FIREFLY and these are my thoughts on the series.

Of course, ten years on I am sure they are very different than they would have been at the time. These ten years have provided us with some of the best TV there has ever been: THE WIRE, DEADWOOD, THE SOPRANOS, MAD MEN, BREAKING BAD, JUSTIFIED, THE GOOD WIFE to name but a few. Of course, these are almost all cable shows and that allows them more freedom, more time, and more money to produce fewer episodes. The best comparison might be to Whedon's earlier series, BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. And I think it has many commonalities with that although I only saw the first two seasons. Also I have found seeing a show daily rather than weekly diminishes it for me. Anticipation heightens enjoyment.

The strengths in the show are big:  the cast, the humor, the concept of a western and a space opera yoked together, the inventiveness of the language, the heart Whedon imbues his characters with, and the initial concept of each show. There is always an interesting idea presented early on. Perhaps too often that idea is not developed fully and the show ends with the typical fist fights, space fights--a flaw we also found in Buffy. Our heroes often save the day through fairly conventional means and not always very convincingly. The characters are rarely clever if that is an important trait.

A few episodes particularly stand out and my favorite was"Jaynestown," which was fun and brilliantly conceived. The strongest episodes were ones with a comic intentions for us. "Our Mrs. Reynolds" was also a winner, the great Christina Hendricks made it so.

I found the character of River tedious. Shepherd was similarly underdeveloped. Would either have been less so after time? I don't know. Although I liked the unpredictability of Jayne I found it hard to believe he would have been kept onboard after his betrayal in Ariel.

All in all, we enjoyed this series and I would have liked to follow it another year or two. Too bad.

14 comments:

Thomas Pluck said...

I'm with you on your observations. I was attacked online for saying I thought River was a terribly hackneyed anime character. Jayne was great, the whore with a heart of gold was a bit much. I think Joss Whedon is a very good writer, but not a great one- he has his own tropes, but at least he spackles over the plot holes, unlike a lot of screenwriters who leave them gaping.
The Serenity movie is worth seeing, but he doesn't expand much on Shepherd Book, and the story is boring when it's all about River.

Chad Eagleton said...

There are few things Whedon does well and I should probably give Firefly another watch, but I've always thought that's probably the single most overrated show in all of Geekdom.

I always felt like there was very little in the show that I hadn't already seen somewhere else, and done much better. Whedon's dialogue gets old--much like with Kevin Smith or Tarantino when he really phones it in. And I get very tired of seeing his weird issues with women played out on the screen while fans tell me, "No, but he's a feminist."

And River is absolutely a hackneyed anime character -- *cough*Outlaw Star*cough*.

Serenity is okay. Though, I will give him props for the film's opening. It was a great way to recap the world and plot of the show for first timers without boring the fans.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My biggest issue was he would introduce an interesting idea and then drop it and go to the big shootout. I saw Serenity without having watched the show. One guy and we two were the only people in the theater. So he turned to us and said, "Guess we're the only FIREFLY fans." When I told him we had never seen the tv show, he looked at his watch and said, "I only have about five minutes to get you up to speed so pay attention."

Gerald So said...

I was a FIREFLY fan from the beginning. It was the kind of show that needed time to unfurl, and FOX didn't give it a chance. Execs thought the original, two-hour pilot wouldn't play well, so they asked Joss and Tim Minear to write a second, one-hour pilot, "The Train Job", over a weekend.

I didn't find River tedious, but her personality was easily the most complicated of the crew, given the Alliance had brainwashed her. I think her story would have been the heart of a longer-running series, but I like how Serenity fleshed it out in two hours.

I'd like to think FIREFLY could've had run four seasons on SyFy, but if its short, shiny life led FOX and other networks to give shows like FRINGE more time, that's something.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And that's one I need to watch too.

Anonymous said...

Patti, we're like you in that we saw SERENITY and then went back and watched FIRELY afterwards. I also pretty much agree with your assessment. Fillion does humor well, which is why we like him in CASTLE and yes, River got tiresome very quickly.

Now FRINGE we've watched from Day 1, which is the only way if you're going to watch it. Walter is a great character. I'm not too happy with the way they are ending it however.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

We saw the odd episode the first year or two but never really dived into it. Now perhaps....or at least me.

F.T. Bradley said...

I liked it, but like you, found weak spots.

Agree with you on FRINGE, Jeff. I'm almost ready to give up on it...

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, I've not watched a single one of these series. I've seen parts of an episode or two of Firefly. Watched a couple of Mad Men, and a bit of one of the Sopranos. Several of these I bet I would like but I just never seem to have time to catch them.

George said...

I'm with Thomas: SERENITY is well worth seeing.

Kieran Shea said...

Another well-written show that got the shitcan. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnhrXZ4aKro

Todd Mason said...

Yes, WONDERFALLS was killed by the same trigger-happy folks at Fox as did for FIREFLY. The former was rather better than such similar series as DEAD LIKE ME and PUSHING DAISIES, and now makes for a quick view (a partial season). As does my consistent rec, JOURNEYMAN, which was better in its way than FIREFLY, though FIREFLY was good (I was a bit disappointed with SERENITY, which had some unspackled plotholes in it that I've since forgotten, along with the kind of fake sophistication about political matters that made the much worse WAG THE DOG so tedious). (THE MIDDLEMAN also a quick view for similar reasons, and nearly as good as FIREFLY...both JOURNEYMAN and THE MIDDLEMAN brought down by low ratings across from CSI: MIAMI, of all dull things.)

BUFFY provided some of the best television of the last decade, even if it had only managed "The Body," the best pastiche of Ingmar Bergman US television has offered. FIREFLY didn't quite reach that height, but it was fine. And all the fine series you cite did trail that remarkable knot of brilliant series in the latter '90s into 2001-02, not least ONCE AND AGAIN and HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS, which FIREFLY can also be fruitfully compared with.

Todd Mason said...

BABYLON 5 and, to a lesser extent, FARSCAPE were also fine space opera, if less self-consciously recapitulating the the "horse opera/space opera" tropes that, for example, GALAXY magazine like to make fun of in its 1950s house ads ("You'll never read it in GALAXY!") and which, of course, STAR WARS was a rather close and dull approximation of. Read the Leigh Brackett fiction for the pure quill.

pattinase (abbott) said...

All series my library didn't buy. I did see some of JOURNEYMAN.