I just watched the (unaired) pilot for Joss Whedon’s 2002 television program, Firefly. Is it a terrific show, and I highly recommend it. This is certainly not my first time watching the series. It always serves to remind me of the disaster the entertainment industry has become in the last decade.
Fox canceled Firefly after airing only eleven of the fourteen produced episodes. I have no doubt the network pointed to poor ratings, but they have to take part of the blame because they preempted and moved the program around. I was immediately interested in the show but saw only about half the episodes despite making an effort to watch the series.
This marks a stark contrast to another program Fox aired a decade earlier called The X‑Files. It was an incredibly expensive television program to produce, and of the 118 shows in the Nielson ratings, it finished in position 102. Despite this, Fox renewed The X‑Files for a second season. The second season finished in position 64 of 141 and it was renewed again. Only in its third season did the ratings really pick up. Still, Fox gave it a chance, and their patience paid off. They fostered a monster-sized hit that was a mainstay of 1990s television.
But a mere decade later, they pulled the plug on a program that had gained more critical acclaim in just eleven episodes. The people making the decisions could have changed in the passing decade. The change could also be a matter of Fox having established itself. When The X‑Files premiered in 1993, Fox was just beginning to make good on it’s goal of challenging the big three U.S. networks on their own turf. By 2002, the big three had become the big four and Fox would be the ratings leader just two years later.
Perhaps Fox felt that since they were now one of the big-boys, they no longer needed to wait and build audiences. Too bad, because time builds the most loyal viewers. Hits that appear overnight can disappear just as quickly. Despite being canceled, Firefly had gathered enough fans that a theatrical film was released in 2005. To bad Fox didn’t clue in, or perhaps they felt that reviving the series would cause them to lose face.
No matter the reason, we all lost out.