Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #686: Can Firefly Fly Again?

Welcome to the show folks...

I have to say something, and that I'm a fan of the sci-fi show Firefly. I watched it when it first aired, I railed against Fox for its terrible treatment of the show, I raged at its unfair cancellation, and later made it the first TV box set I ever bought.

Now for those who are unfamiliar with the show, and if you are, shame on you, I can sum it up like this:
Firefly was the anti-Star Trek.

Star Trek presented a futuristic utopia where everyone was content to work for the omnipresent government of the United Federation of Planets Firefly went in the opposite direction. Firefly was about people who didn't want anything to do with an omnipresent, omnipotent government. This is because that same government has made making a living for anyone outside of a politically connected elite a grueling ordeal. The characters lived and worked on a "Firefly" class spaceship called Serenity, and did whatever it took to keep fuel in the tanks and food on the table. That meant occasionally committing crimes, a very easy proposition in a society where the state has made doing most kinds of business illegal.

The show developed a strong cult following, and word of mouth led to strong sales of the DVD box-set. Universal made a movie version, called
Serenity, hoping it would be the next big franchise, but the film was released when the fan community was still fairly embryonic and it underperformed at the box office.

Since then the fandom has grown, and with it has interest in the revival of the series. Even former lead Nathan Fillion, now starring on ABC's Castle, and some of the writers have expressed interest in reviving the show, sparking a short lived fund-raising movement to buy the rights for the show from its current owners.

Well, I've been doing some thinking, and I think that there is a way to bring back Firefly, in a way, that is in the realm of possibility, that could just might open further possibilities for the franchise.

Forget movies, forget television, the cost of the show would be too prohibitive in the minds of executives who are too busy spending that money on Kardashians.

I'm talking about radio.

Okay, not radio exactly, but internet audio.

Think about it for a second while you look at these simple facts behind an audio version of Firefly:

1. COST: Doing Firefly as a radio-style drama is exponentially cheaper than doing it for the big or small screen. You don't need sets, costumes, or visual effects, just some microphones, a bank of sound effects, and the sort of sound editing program you get standard on some computers. It's also easier for the cast, who are all busy working on other projects, and can do a season's worth of episodes in a matter of days because they have to do fewer rehearsals, don't have to do stunts, or make-up and costume fittings.

You can even amortize cost by selling advertising. Most fans wouldn't object to a "This Show Is Brought To You By Message" at the beginning of each episode, because they know that the bills have to be paid somehow.

2. MARKETING & SALES: What do all Firefly fans have in common? A love of the show, natch, a desire to have new stories in the continuing adventures of the crew of the Serenity, and an internet connection. This means that the seller doesn't have to manufacture anything and can just beam it over the internet, using a truckload less bandwidth than transmitting video. Properly market this new version, and offer it at a reasonable price, with the caveat that sales will dictate the availability of future episodes, and you could make a profit very quickly.

3. PRECEDENT: The BBC regularly does radio or audio adaptations of their popular shows. When Doctor Who was canceled in the late 1980s the show lived on in radio plays, and audio productions, which are still being made and sold, even though the show is back on the air.

It can be done, because it has been done, and it can be commercially viable, if you do it right. It's also a good way to test the waters and see if future TV and film versions are in the realm of possibility.

That's what I think. Tell me what you think in the comments.


  1. Blast Hardcheese1/3/11 4:41 pm

    I think the main thing you'd have to make sure of is getting the right writer. Joss Whedon has, to my knowledge, never done a radio drama, and it's a kind of specialized area of writing. It's easy to do it really badly. If you get a good BBC writers on board, I think it could work fine.

  2. It's an interesting idea, but honestly, I wouldn't listen. And it's not because I don't have a give-up-a-toe-for-one-more-season love of the show and the characters.

    It's because as great as the writing and acting was, the visuals were integral to my enjoyment. The looks on Mal, Jayne, or Wash's faces was consistently priceless. The costumes, the decorations, the lighting. The way, over the years, the set of Serenity has the tang of home to me. The reason Kaylee called Mal Cap'n Tight Pants, or the way she looked in that iconic moment on Serenity's loading ramp, twirling her parasol or standing at the Shindig in her layer-cake dress.

    Without the visual lushness of the world, nothing else matters.

    Still, anything's better than nothing.