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Firefly Reconsidered: Why Firefly Isn't "Hall of Fame" Great

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I'm not talking about inspiration. I'm talking about opportunity. As in "are you allowed to write an ending at all."

Babylon 5 almost didn't get the chance, and then the networks yank them around so the final season was decidedly lower-caliber. Person of Interest got cancelled, but luckily were given a half-season to manage to wrap things up. Timeless only got a 2-hour TV movie to resolve a major plot point. Firefly just got cut off mid-season, not even airing all the episodes made. ST: Enterprise got cut off just as a guy who actually knew what to do with the show got the reins.

The list goes on for shows that were not allowed to attempt to find a satisfying end.
Penny Dreadful was interesting like this. The showrunner claimed he was allowed to end the series as he wanted, though seeing how things unfolded that seems very unlikely. I mean they introduced Dr. Jekyll, but we never saw Mr. Hyde even though it was building to it. They introduced a new character just 3 episodes before the end (a female Indiana jones who was kick ass) that served little purpose.

What seemed more likely is the showrunner expected at least one more season, but didn't get it. The show may have ended like the showrunner wanted, just not when the showrunner wanted it to.
 

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I haven't heard of Intergalactic; another one that everyone wanted to go on longer was Stargate Universe, which I liked, except I see why it failed, as it was not the Stargate everyone was used too, much darker in tone, and a serial, not episodic.
I truly loved SGU, and couldn't get through even a single episode of SG-1 (I don't think I even knew that Atlantis had existed). SGU felt like a real show, more like prestige TV in terms of complexity and emotional realism. The fact that it went down in flames so quickly, and that so many SG-1 fans lobbied and cheered for its cancellation was the first time I fully realized that there's a version of genre fandom that I'll never understand. Just a huge gulf there, in terms of what we want out of narratives. Kind of a sad moment for me, to be honest, like losing your tribe.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I truly loved SGU, and couldn't get through even a single episode of SG-1 (I don't think I even knew that Atlantis had existed). SGU felt like a real show, more like prestige TV in terms of complexity and emotional realism. The fact that it went down in flames so quickly, and that so many SG-1 fans lobbied and cheered for its cancellation was the first time I fully realized that there's a version of genre fandom that I'll never understand. Just a huge gulf there, in terms of what we want out of narratives. Kind of a sad moment for me, to be honest, like losing your tribe.
Im with you on that. I wasnt a regular SG-1 fan and didnt really get into Atlantis. Universe was so interesting because it was a crew lost at sea. There was so much potential to discover new territory and find new mysteries. Season 1 wasnt incredible but it laid the groundwork for something with so much potential. Season 2 just went off the tracks and the show was seemingly rudderless at its conclusion.

I also noticed the sheer amount of a-holes online demanding this show being taken off the air since its pilot episode. I hadn't experienced anything like it since ST DS9. Still got nothin on Star Wars fans tho :)
 

Ryujin

Legend
Im with you on that. I wasnt a regular SG-1 fan and didnt really get into Atlantis. Universe was so interesting because it was a crew lost at sea. There was so much potential to discover new territory and find new mysteries. Season 1 wasnt incredible but it laid the groundwork for something with so much potential. Season 2 just went off the tracks and the show was seemingly rudderless at its conclusion.

I also noticed the sheer amount of a-holes online demanding this show being taken off the air since its pilot episode. I hadn't experienced anything like it since ST DS9. Still got nothin on Star Wars fans tho :)
Yeah, I really don't get that. Don't like the show and want it off the air? Don't watch it. If enough people agree with you it'll be cancelled.
 

Im with you on that. I wasnt a regular SG-1 fan and didnt really get into Atlantis. Universe was so interesting because it was a crew lost at sea. There was so much potential to discover new territory and find new mysteries. Season 1 wasnt incredible but it laid the groundwork for something with so much potential. Season 2 just went off the tracks and the show was seemingly rudderless at its conclusion.

I also noticed the sheer amount of a-holes online demanding this show being taken off the air since its pilot episode. I hadn't experienced anything like it since ST DS9. Still got nothin on Star Wars fans tho :)

I was going to say something about how it sort of foreshadowed the Star Wars sequel wars nonsense, and all of the adjacent grossness, but got cold feet. But it really did feel a bit like an early warning sign--look, guys, we have the ability to wreck something. Behold, the power of FANDOMMM!!!!

You didn't see me screaming online about how SG-1 was just the same people winking and cracking wise on yet another planet that just happens to look like Canadian woodlands. It just didn't watch it. The idea of pressuring entertainment execs to keep stuff on the air or get a movie made is genuinely inspirational. Trying to nuke stuff, review-bombing, etc? Insane. Also, iirc it's not like SyFy took the money they saved by cancelling SGU and pumped it into something great. Wasn't that SyFy's super fallow period, when it was suddenly all WWE and reality competitions?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Which takes us right back to the OPs premise.... that shows that aren't finished shouldn't make the hall of fame. And personally I have to agree with that....because as there is a large lists of shows that did end very badly (even when given the proper chance to do so).... it seems doing a good ending is pretty difficult.

I mostly agree, but with caveats. I have an issue with refusing to call a thing awesome because some suit was a nincompoop.

And I reject the assertion that if a show didn't finish, judgement of it is necessarily about what it could have been. It may tend to be that way, but mindful review can avoid that pitfall.
 

I mostly agree, but with caveats. I have an issue with refusing to call a thing awesome because some suit was a nincompoop.

And I reject the assertion that if a show didn't finish, judgement of it is necessarily about what it could have been. It may tend to be that way, but mindful review can avoid that pitfall.

This is an unreasonably fiddly proposal, but I've always thought that we should judge a lot of shows on a per-season basis.

I know, I know, who has the time for that. But serialized shows, in particular, are almost always sketched out as a season, a little like an extended/segmented movie. So just as people might love Empire Strikes Back but sort of shrug at Return of the Jedi, separating a movie series into its component parts, why not do the same with TV. It's obviously harder to keep track of individual seasons, especially for long-running shows. But whether you consider a show "uneven" from season to season, or because it didn't get to choose its ending (so much rarer than a lot of people seem to realize), I think it's fair to look at each season as a mostly compartmentalized work. Sure, that season might plant seeds for the future, and the best ones pull from past seasons, but imagine working on season four a show and thinking, Ah, none of this really matters unless we get to seven seasons, and also that last season somehow pleases everyone enough to not retroactively dump on the entire series.

Also, this business about needing a proper end to a show to assess it veers into some sketchy territory, equating artistic quality with commercial success. Good luck making that case with countless classic novels, or even movies like Blade Runner.
 

TwoSix

"Diegetics", by L. Ron Gygax
It really shows the opposite. It shows that since the vast majority of shows are not allowed to finish, are forced to finish quickly and badly, or have their finishes interfered with by studio execs, the lack of or bad finish should not be held against the show. If you exclude them, you don't end up with a list of the best. You end up with a list of the lucky.
It's not exactly analogous, but baseball analytical types use a score called JAWS to help sort candidates for the baseball Hall of Fame; JAWS averages out a player's overall WAR score (which measures how much a player contributed to winning) with his peak WAR score for his best seven seasons. It's a way to factor in both production due to longevity and superstar peak production.

To extrapolate that to TV shows, you'd want to give acknowledgement to long-running shows that also nail their ending, but you want to recognize shows that had pantheon-level seasons or arcs as well.
 

Ryujin

Legend
The "hurry up ending" thing has me thinking about an otherwise great series, "Sense8", which got cancelled and then was given the chance to run an abbreviated season to wrap things up due to public outcry. By necessity it wasn't as good as the series had otherwise been, but it at least wrapped things up fairly well. It was a SciFi show with a rather novel premise and had one of the hottest scenes I can remember in TV/streaming, that involved the entire main cast. And by "hot" I mean exactly that, not exploititively sexual for the purpose of showing skin (I'm looking at YOU, GoT).
 
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billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
The "hurry up ending" thing has me thinking about an otherwise great series, "Sense8", which got cancelled and then was given the chance to run an abbreviated season to wrap things up due to public outcry. By necessity it wasn't as good as the series had otherwise been, but it at least wrapped things up fairly well. It was a show with a SciFi show with a rather novel premise and had one of the hottest scenes I can remember in TV/streaming, that involved the entire main cast. And by "hot" I mean exactly that, not exploititively sexual for the purpose of showing skin (I'm looking at YOU, GoT).
Sense8 was fantastic and illustrates the problem with only considering shows that come to a conclusion. Had the producers not negotiated a final capstone episode to close the story, Sense8 would have been out of luck for consideration for HoF status if HoF criteria required the story to have a conclusion. It consistently got high reviews, it had a passionate fanbase, but it was deemed too small a fanbase to warrant the very high expense of the show (shot on multiple locations across the globe) by Netflix. And that would be a terrible reason to disqualify a series from HoF consideration.
 

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