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'Firefly,' Fillion, Fans and the Future

by Jay Black, posted Feb 22nd 2011 4:00PM
Firefly Nathan FillionTaking a break from his responsibilities in the fantasies of women across the globe, former 'Firefly' and current 'Castle' star Nathan Fillion mentioned recently that if he won the lottery, the first thing he would do is buy the rights to 'Firefly' and then distribute it on the Internet.

Rather than just taking the statement as the same idle if-I-won-the-lottery speculation we all do (I'd build my own Muon Collider then lure my middle-school bullies into it), the Internet decided to leap into action. There's currently a movement underway to explore the possibility of actually raising the money and getting the franchise into the hands of its fans.

I'm not a fan of "save our show" stunts, but this goes beyond sending nuts to CBS ('Jericho') or Tabasco sauce to the WB ('Roswell'). I'm rooting for the 'Firefly' nerds because it could signal a massive shift in the way we consume entertainment.

Are you ready for a tortured metaphor that only kind of makes sense? OK, here we go: Anybody here raised Catholic knows about the intercession of the saints. Basically, you pick a saint who you think might be sympathetic to your cause and pray to him to pray to God on your behalf. Does that seem needlessly complicated? Good, that means the Vatican council on needlessly complicating things is doing its job.

Up to this point, nerds have been using this method to try to save their favorite shows. They take out ads in 'Variety', send letters and packages and organize rallies in the hope that someone at the network will hear their prayers and keep their show on the air.

Except, this is dumb. I've outlined why before, but networks don't care about passion (or quality, or morality, or ethics or ... you get the picture). They care about money. If a show has a small, but devoted fanbase, all the network sees is "small."

What Nathan Fillion just did, though, was nail 95 theses on the door of the network. This movement could obliterate the idea that shows are delivered to us from experts on high, who then sit in judgment of the ratings to determine if those shows get to live or die. Using the organizing power of the Internet, Fillion has unraveled the mystery of faith in the networks.

(I told you this was a tortured metaphor. This is why most people wait until the afternoon to start drinking Scotch. Let's move on, shall we?)

Here's what is truly exciting: If Fillion's moment of thinking out loud really does lead to the fans buying the rights to 'Firefly', it'll be the first time that fans decided to rise up and be self-governed.

This fascinates me. Since the Internet began (or at least since the rise of YouTube five years ago), I've been curious to see whether real talent might be able to self-organize outside of the established system. It hasn't quite happened yet. We have 'The Lonely Island' (of SNL's Digital Shorts) and Justin Bieber, but they've only used the Internet as a way in to the "real" Hollywood.

If this movement does get the rights to 'Firefly,' and he and fans decide to reboot the show on the Internet, one of two things will happen:

1. It'll be the real nail in the coffin of the studio system. Talent will realize that it can appeal directly to the consumers and no longer will shows live or die based on the whims of studio executives.


2. It'll be the most awkward and expensive piece of fan-fiction ever. And that includes the time I drained my IRA to finance a retelling of 'Community's' Dungeons and Dragons episode with Britta and Annie in Mithril bikinis.

Either way, I'm excited for the outcome.

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Is there any organized movement to have the show continued? Can we do anything that hasn't already been done? I am not even a TV fan, but this is the best show in my lifetime (54 years old). PLEASE! Bring it back! BTW - the movie has so little impact if you haven't watched all the episodes...

January 20 2012 at 12:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What an awesome idea! Firefly is one of the best sci fi shows ever made. It always puzzles me why some shows get cancelled. You have to promote the show, idiots! Word of mouth is great and all that, but in order to get it out it has to be on the'web or on commercials on different channels. Firefly never got the shout-out that it should have had.

March 02 2011 at 9:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


March 01 2011 at 9:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One of the best Sci-fy shows that has been made. Never will understand how shows as great as this stop being produced. Politics in the film industry also???

March 01 2011 at 8:16 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Michael Ricci


Your so correct about that letter writing by the Star Trek fans. Thanks for reminding us of that groundswell save. Even Martin Luther King was a Trek-E :-D Uhura was almost cut from the script, but MLK's letter was instrumental in saving Nichelle Nichols' character Uhra from getting the axe.

February 25 2011 at 10:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Michael Ricci

This is a great story and worthy of going viral so send, send, send this out. Voting with your wallet is the American way. This country's religion and political party has always been Capitalism, no matter what you and I believe. Its about time we learn how to use Capitalism to work for us. Especially against corporations! Art and Culture should ultimately be in the control of the people. I will gladly make a contribution for this out of principle alone. Firefly and Serenity were off my radar screen until my girlfriend Kelli turned me on to the series and the feature film. Being a fan of SciFi and The Wild, Wild West, I took to the characters and stories. Great writing and the film quality/visuals were top notch. Even the music and sound FX were stand out and unique. I fell for FireFly and Serenity. Kelli was also a Browncoat (die hard fan of Firefly) and took me the Browncoat Ball in San Francisco. BC's are way cool and a fun bunch...much more "everyday person" that most SciFi fans. Remember Fan = Fanatical. In closing, I found the Firefly series safe to watch with my 10 year old boy, who really enjoys it. We have worked HuLu for the series and own the Serenity DVD, which was given to me by a Browncoat. There is some focus group data for ya Warner Brothers, the Browncoats are coming :-D

February 25 2011 at 10:25 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Firefly is going to run on the Science channel if it has not already started. I just wish the Science Channel would make new episodes...I mean they have the cash and it would be a huge boost for them as well.

February 25 2011 at 6:56 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I think "Nathan Fillion" is an awesome SyFy actor; after seeing him in TV series shows like Buffy, Firefly and etc! Than I saw a different guy when he was in Desperate Housewives and I looked at Nathan in another light. I've seen Castle only a few times; I love the cast, but didn't like the plots , points and etc it was always trying to put across! But to me the TV right now is flooded with so many things to watch on different chanels and all diifferent times. It's hard to give Castle another chance but I would give Nathan another one!

February 25 2011 at 7:47 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

"Star Trek" was saved by a massive letter-writing campaign in the '60s; it's prequel "Enterprise" was saved for two seasons using similar tactics. "Jericho" was saved by burying CBS in peanuts, coupled with a similar letter-writing campaign. Saving "Star Trek" was effectively a revolution where viewers successfully pushed back on a network (NBC) and got them to reverse a choice that they had made. Saving "Enterprise" was effectively an evolution of that process, using new media in addition to traditional media to repeat what was successful in the '60s, and saving "Jericho" was effectively an evolution of part of the process used to save "Enterprise."

What "Fillion" is proposing for "Firefly" is effectively an evolution of the other part of the process behind saving "Enterprise." In addition to the more traditional fan campaign, both Scott Bakula and Jolene Blalok also threw their support behind fan campaigns, and even discussed trying to revive the show, but neither could figure out how to make such a revival work, and when some fans went to Viacom offering to pay for additional production, Viacom (Paramount's parent company) simply turned them away.

If Fillion is successful, he'll have overcome the two things that "Enterprise" fans couldn't: the first is paying for the production, and the second is finding a suitable distribution platform. (YouTube was in its infancy when "Enterprise" was canceled, and the idea of a fan-funded production with an established franchise is still revolutionary.) A suitable distribution platform will be relatively easy to find between streaming video and potential DVD releases, while the real challenge will continue to be convincing a studio to let fans either purchase or control a portion of one of their assets. If Fillion and "Firefly" fans such as myself can pull this off, the significance of this campaign will be that it gives fans some level of actual control over a piece of commercial media, and allows said fans to bypass the traditional TV system.

Now in the interest of fair disclosure, I do have a background in TV production, but I can see the writing on the wall for traditional network-based programming. I fully support Nathan Fillion and my fellow Firefly fans, in what I hope will be another positive change in the way that people consume media. A successful "Firefly" web series would effectively prove that Internet video is ready to move beyond amateur hour, and that it's a viable distribution alternative to TV or movie theaters for actual media franchises.

February 25 2011 at 1:01 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Go Browncoats! Politics at the network kept Firefly, probably one of the most interesting and entertaining sci-fi shows since Star Trek and Dr. Who, from ever having a chance. Firefly fans are no ordinary fans... they have accomplished massive achievements, from raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity to a full-length fan fiction film released direct to DVD. If anyone can do it, the Firefly Fans can. I for one would love to see the rights to Firefly in the hands of people who truly love it and will keep it flying. Where can I make my donation?

February 24 2011 at 2:16 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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