Back in 1995 (yes I know that was a long time ago), a very good sci-fi TV show aired on Fox -- Space Above and Beyond. It followed squadron of Marines in the year 2036 (or something like that), defending Earth from Alien invaders. On the surface, this seems like a very shallow, childish plot from a 60's sci-fi short story. But what you would miss is the compelling characters and background stories that made the show fun and interesting. Yes, it happened to take place in space against alien invaders, but everyone seems to pigeon-hole sci-fi films... they can't be dramas and character sketches as well as being a great adventure with some special effects you might not have seen before. My memory of pre-1995 television isn't very good, so I don't know if SAaB was the first or not, but it is an obvious trend of Fox discarding great shows on what seem like whims.
I had not heard of Firefly when it aired in 2002. It fell under my radar completely. But not quite unexpectedly, since Fox (yet again) decided to axe a great show after only 14 episodes which were carelessly shown out of order!.
When the first trailers for Serenity started appearing, Firefly started coming up on my radar. The movie looked intriguing, but it was the devotion of fans who kept proclaiming how great Firefly was and how excited they were for Serenity that really piqued my interest. So having not seen any of the TV episodes, Ann and I went out to see Serenity last weekend (along with Wallace & Grommit). From someone who didn't see the TV show first, I thought it was incredibly good and refreshing. There isn't much back story presented in the film (since it is presented in the TV episodes). In that way, it is a little like the first Star Wars film (I don't want you to think I'm comparing the films... there is no comparison...) in that they didn't explain anything... they just presented the audience with some notions about the universe the story was taking place in. However, for Serenity the backstory is there! After seeing the film, I wanted more...
I was hooked. I immediately went and ordered the 14 episodes on DVD from Amazon, but was too impatient, so I went on and found a torrent of the episodes so I could start watching it before it came... This series is so fucking incredible, but I'm so sad, because it looks like it already came and went without a chance!
The characters are incredibly well developed and the universe that Whedon creates is captivating. From the start each character has flaws and strengths that are immediately apparent, and you care about them!
It is really sad what the outcome will most likely be. Serenity's returns don't look spectacular (despite getting 81% on rottentomatoes. (How Flightplan is making so much at the box office, boggles the mind.)
Whedon has already said that even if it did well, that he wouldn't continue making episodes for Fox and that some other network would have to buy the rights from them. The film also probably won't do well enough to warrant a sequel... It is really a sad day to know to know that something you really like has already been shot down by network executives.