Why is Joss Whedon’s Firefly So Popular?


The cast of Joss Whedon's Firefly

The cast of Firefly pose for a group photoshoot on set

Written by: Katie Garren

Quick! Try and think of a television show for 2002 that only lasted one season.  If you answered “Joss Whedon’s Firefly, of course!” you would be among the many throngs of fans that particular show has maintained since its debut.  The fact that a geeky television show from nine years ago still maintains an almost religious following, despite only having produced 14 episodes and a companion movie, boggles the mind.  Why is this show so popular, even after cancellation?  What makes it different from the legions of other television shows that have come and gone before it?

Firefly maintains a high margin of popularity due largely to it’s wonderful interweaving of science-fiction elements and character-driven story lines.  Because of these elements, the show speaks to many different subsets of society, not just those who are drawn to science-fiction, but also fans of traditional dramas and comedies.

The show’s star, Nathan Fillion, has many times commented on the continued love the show experiences from fans.  Speaking to Entertainment Weekly on a fan-lead campaign to bring the show back to the air, he said, “I appreciate so much people who still have such love for it. And I think that that’s love.” Fillion later continued, “I think it touches people in their hearts. It makes them feel, and it makes them feel something good. I feel it, too.” This love is not specific only to actual people, but also referenced in current television shows.  In a recent episode of the hugely popular The Big Bang Theory, a character named Sheldon is laying out an agreement for a new roommate.  He says, “Roommates agree that Friday nights shall be reserved for watching Joss Whedon’s brilliant new series Firefly.” His roommate, Leonard counters, “Does that really need to be in the agreement?” Sheldon’s rebutal is, “We might as well settle it now; it’s gonna be on for years.”  This is designed to both create humor from the fact the show lasted only one season, and create a relationship between the characters and the viewer based on a mutal understanding of Firefly.  Another popular current show called Community has also made reference to Firefly.  While the characters on the show are discussing death, A character names Troy states that he and his best friend Abed have a pact that, if one of them dies, they will stage it to look like a suicide caused by the unjust cancelling of Firefly.  He then looks at his friend and says, “We’re gonna get that show back on the air, buddy.”  Both these references speak to a continued love for Firefly.  As far as nine years later, people are still dedicated to the show and incensed by its cancellation.

Part of the appeal of the show is also based on the quality of the scripts.  “So it was always great,” said Fillion in the same interview quoted above. “There was never a day I went to work on Firefly where I looked at the script and went, ‘Eh, today will be alright.’ Everyday I was doing something so great. So great.” Viewers and fans can relate to the characters and story lines on the show, because the scripts were always related to the human experience.  The situations were always truthful and the performances never seemed as though they were forced from the actors.  In essence, the show was honest with its viewers.

Joss Whedon’s Firefly remains massively popular for many reasons.  For a show that only produced 14 episodes and a movie, it has touched many lives.  The basis of the show’s popularity lies in the easily relatable storylines paired with science-fiction elements and the high quality of both of those elements.

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