Regarding Firefly’s cancellation

I was reading some of IMDb user’s comments on Firefly’s cancellation the past few days. They all, unanimously, blame FOX for not “getting” the show and therefore canceling it.

Personally, I like Firefly for the most part (its “western” style is the only part I dislike), but let’s be realistic here: the ratings were terrible. Firefly was barely managing 5 million viewers for each episode, which is below expectations for major TV network. To be on the safe side, a (networked) TV show requires at least 8-9 million viewers per week. Only CW, SciFi Channel, TNT and USA-Net are fine and daddy with 2-5 mil viewers per episode — big networks aren’t.

Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb

The only part where it sucked for Firefly is that FOX put it on Friday’s schedule, which is a pretty slow day TV-wise. Exactly the same thing is true for internet traffic: Mon-to-Thu are the big traffic days and that’s why we only publish “original” articles within these 4 days only (Friday is slower, and Sat/Sun are true molasses traffic-wise). Anyways, except the Friday thing, FOX is not to be blamed for the cancellation.

“The X-Files” was also originally broadcasted on Fridays and its first season ratings were a bit better than Firefly’s 10 years before it, plus it was much cheaper to produce. Overall, I would say that if Firefly had either 20% better ratings or it was cheaper to create, it might have made the cut (for a Friday’s timeslot). I can’t blame FOX for canceling it.

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Kitty wrote on November 30th, 2006 at 6:22 AM PST:

Was really Firefly more expensive to produce than X-files? I don’t have any numbers, but I remember in a DVD commentary of Buffy someone stated that Buffy had about 1/5th of the budget per episode X-files had. Firefly certainly _looks_ more expensive than Buffy ( more sets, more exteriors, more crowds and thus extras to pay) but many of those effects and sets are CG, that is probably pretty effective for its cost, or used over and over like the ship’s interior. X-files on the other hand seemed to set every episode in different places, with lots of extra characters… but my memory is a bit foggy about that.


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Eugenia wrote on November 30th, 2006 at 6:35 AM PST:

X-Files was cheap to produce in the first 2 seasons, yes (then, it took off, so it was not a problem anymore). In the first few seasons they were also shooting in Canada, not in LA, in order to bring down costs. Firefly on the other hand had 9 major characters to pay up (X-Files only had 2 in the beginning), plus the CG (which were pretty expensive at that time), plus the interior of the ship which was created completely and fully.


Billy wrote on November 30th, 2006 at 12:03 PM PST:

I think the big point is, when you have a quality product that doesn’t sell (although opinions certainly vary, I think a lot of people would agree that Firefly was of high quality), you have to ask why:

1. Was it a quality implementation of something that nobody wanted? Some serious, depressing movies are excellent, but do regular people want to spend their Saturday night and money watching them? Some do (like me!), but many people want to simply have a good time, which is a lot of the reason a fun, silly comedy will tend to make more money than many critically-acclaimed “serious” movies.

Similarly, when you look at things realistically, a science-fiction based show is probably going to have a harder time getting a large viewer base than something with more popular appeal. (Yes, there are exceptions.) As you mentioned, network TV shows need a huge number of viewers, and this probably explains why there aren’t a whole bunch of outer-space-themed shows during prime time TV.

2. Was the marketing poor? Without having read most comments, I think this is the area in which most people blame Fox. Fox has a pretty good history of canceling shows that people believe (how accurately, it’s tough to say) would have been popular with the right marketing / timeslot. Look at Family Guy — the DVD sales were so high that Fox actually brought it back from the dead.

Certainly, Firefly was an expensive show, and since it obviously wasn’t pulling a profit, it made sense for Fox to cancel it. I doubt most people are disputing that. Rather, I think they’re saying that with better marketing and a better timeslot, they believe that it would have been successful. Right or wrong, that’s a different question. (And the same idea also goes for the movie, of course.)


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Eugenia wrote on November 30th, 2006 at 12:15 PM PST:

>1. Was it a quality implementation of something that nobody wanted?

I think most people were put off by the “western” style, even Americans did. When I first watched Firefly, I hated it for that reason alone. Only when I literally pushed myself to watch more of it I liked the universe and its characters.

Another problem was that FOX aired “Serenity” 1 year after it was completed (the pilot of Firefly). The 90-minute pilot was by far the best episode of all 14 (quality-wise). By not airing it first, viewers didn’t know what to expect and what was really going on.

> 2. Was the marketing poor?

I think the marketing was fine. I didn’t use to watch much TV back in 2002, and yet I did learn about it and watched the first 3 episodes (which I disliked for the reasons I explain above).

Maybe FOX crucified the show by not giving it a better timeslot and air its pilot when it should have, but the ultimate decision to cancel the show in May 2002, was the right decision business-wise.

Firefly was a good show overall, but this was not enough. Anyways, DVD sales are still rocking. After 3.5 years, the complete series DVD is still in the top-100 of Amazon and it has sold over 1 million copies. This is possibly the most sold TV series on a DVD, ever. It has a ratio of buyers 1 in 5-8 viewers, which is extremely high. Yet, FOX didn’t bring that show back.


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