Is Firefly Extremely Overrated?

Anytime I start to question how great the show Firefly really is, I meet immediate opposition.  I’ve told five people about this post and been offered rebuttals twice.  I want to start by saying that while I do like some sci-fi shows, I don’t know exactly how much of a fan I really am.  I’m talking about hardcore space sci-fi shows.  You’re Star Treks, Battlestars, Babylons, and Stargates.  They all live in the same strange neighborhood that I avoid driving through when possible.  I grew up watching Star Trek in the 90’s because I shared a room and TV with my brother.  But I can’t say I was ever a fan.  This is my long-winded way of saying that while spacey-type sci-fi shows are okay and I understand them, I can’t say that I really go out of my way to see them.  That brings us to Firefly.  This show has a huge cult following and its own nerd messiah in Joss Whedon.

Where's your God now Moses?

Ask almost any sci-fi fan if they like Firefly.  Go ahead and go ask.  I’ll wait.  You back?  I bet you got a 10 minute lecture on how Nielsen ratings systems are flawed and that there are rumors that Nathan Fillion says the words “fire” and “fly” in the same episode of Castle next week.  That obviously means the show’s coming back.  I usually say to Firefly fans exactly what I say to Cubs fans. That shit just ain’t goin’ happen.

I heard this helped get Firefly cancelled. Also, no one watched.

My first experience with Firefly was seeing the movie Serenity in a movie theater.  I thought it was an okay action flick then and I feel the same way now.  I hadn’t seen the series at the time and had no idea there was such a maniacal following for the show.  I finally forced myself to finish up the series with the magic of Netflix a couple of months ago. Then I thought to myself, “Josh, does this show really deserve the fanatical devotion that it seems to have in the sci-fi world?” We are gathered here today to find that out.

First, I want to take a look at the current reigning Nerd God Joss Whedon and the universe he created.  He took the title of Nerd God after he smote Leonard Nemoy in 1v1 combat.  Or so the legend goes.  He’s so hot right now.  Joss certainly seems to be the voice of his nerd people.

Whedon enjoyed a brief but successful acting career

In Firefly, Whedon created a kind of Post-Civil War Reconstruction type of universe that turned the show into a space western.  Nice.  We’re steering clear of Babylon road.  You can tell he lovingly crafted a believable, if inaccurate (watch Idiocracy), future for mankind.  The idea of a space western has shown up in anime, but I’ve never seen it done live action.  I applaud Joss Whedon’s attempt at breathing new life into TV with original programming.  However, like most original programming, it failed miserably in the ratings department and was cancelled.

Verdict: Joss Whedon is not overrated.  He just likes making things that won’t necessarily have mass appeal.  Unless it’s about teenage vampire hunters cause people love that shit.

Now we come to the acting.  This is the part where I make my Ron
Swanson “meh” face, as demonstrated by the cat below.  It’s not the greatest.  I’m looking in your direction anyone not named Nathan Fillion or Alan Tudyk.  It’s not that the acting is terrible, it’s just meh.


I know that I’m super spoiled by the acting on shows like The Wire or Breaking Bad.  But if this show is supposed to make me join the Church of Whedon, I want legendary acting to be the reason I abandoned the Lord.  Plus I wish someone would give Tudyk a major role that isn’t the goofy sidekick.

He'll die for our sins. And meth.

Much of the other cast just seemed wooden and I couldn’t find a way to care about them.  That probably stemmed from not knowing a thing about any of them beyond a basic outline.  This guy is the dumb brute.  This guy is the priest with a past.  This is the hooker with a heart of gold.  Maybe they were waiting for episode 15 to get to character exploration.  And yes, I know each character was supposed to represent a part of Mal’s personality.  Still not the best part of the show.  It’s easy to gloss over the acting part because of Whedon’s attention to detail and fanfuckingtastic production value.  Firefly won an Emmy, but it certainly wasn’t for Best Actor.

Verdict:  Because of just okay acting from most of the cast, I gotta nudge this thing back to the overrated side.

Not for Best Television Show

Finally, the thing that most makes Firefly fall in the overrated category was its early cancellation.  Anything seems better when it’s suddenly taken away from you.  You can’t tell me that Firefly isn’t overrated because of the internet outrage that popped up when it was cancelled and because some petitions got signed.  I could go spend an hour and round up 100 signatures to get McRib brought back.  Nostalgia has a way of playing hell with our memories.  I dare you to go back and watch old Saturday morning cartoons.  Actually, don’t do that.  It wrecks your childhood.

Didn't hold up over the years. Dammit

I don’t think Firefly could have continued on as a series had it been given more of a chance.  It just didn’t seem to have too much staying power.  Had it gone over three seasons, people would have Simpson’d all over it and demanded it be cancelled because its legacy was being ruined.  If Courtney Love hadn’t shot Kurt Cobain in the face, we would be slamming his last Christmas album because nobody wants to hear Smells Like Holiday Spirit and we wish he was still in Nirvana and hadn’t gone solo after Courtney Yoko’d the band.

Verdict:  Since almost anything seems great when it hasn’t had time to suck, Firefly moves firmly into the overrated category.

"Here's one from Kurt sings Sinatra's classics."

Does Firelfly deserve the kind of manic worship fans reserve for the greatest shows of all time?  Of course not.  Was Firefly a fun show that got cancelled before it’s time?  Of course.  But the same holds true Undeclared, Keen Eddie, Terriers, Freaks and Geeks, Arrested Development, and Better Off Ted.  At least Firefly fans got a hugely successful movie that gave hope for the future of the series.  Wait…that flopped too?  Never mind, it’s dead…and overrated.  Besides, I’m still holding out hope for the return of the greatest sci-fi western of all time.  The Adventure of Brisco County Jr.

The one true God

– Josh


5 thoughts on “Is Firefly Extremely Overrated?

  1. Wow- this is great. I am a sci-fi geek, to be sure, but I have to say I was very suspicious
    of Firefly simply because of the starry-eyed, and almost mantra-like praises to what was apparently the end-all to sci fi shows: Firefly. And of course it was unjustly cancelled which apparently was among several greater tragedies of our time.
    I was left with that apparently somehow the networks were so stupid as to have passed up what was obviously an unflawed jewel- because of course that’s how they roll when faced with what clearly was to be the new direction of a huge genre.
    I watched it. Beautiful shots, fun stories, good effects, and yet quite possibly one if the most outrageously overrated series of all time. I refused to drink the kook-aid. No. It was NOT epic, not even really groundbreaking, but apparently people wanted sooo bad for it to be great that they left objectivity behind. It was a good show, the end. Nice concepts, not all that original, but well directed and produced. It was not a standard, nor a mold from which to recast all sci fi-Dom. Thanks for your objective and really daring post, and know that at least this nerd was scratching his balding head underneath his indiana jones fedora and just not seeing it.

    • Im a long time game and sci-fi fan and im a big fan of the traveller rpg universe and while I like films like Outland because they definitely make me think of that universe, I didnt care at all for firefly (mainly because I just found the insanely huge single solar system with so many inhabited planets/moons implausible). Ive watched 3-4 episodes and the final episode and while it was ok, it didnt pull me in like other shows have. I also didnt care for the civil war inspired back story. I also thought the “mad drug crazed human” reavers were stupid and didnt make any sense. How could feral beings so utterly insane pilot and maintain ships? The acting was fine though and I did like most of the characters save for the fed bad guys who were too one-dimensional. Firefly has a following though – I wont deny it. But its not for me. p.s. I also found river frequently annoying and not entertaining. Id have kicked her and her milquetoast brother off the ship. Its sad because I wanted to like the show as it is reminescent in basic setup to a traveller rpg game.

  2. I couldn’t get past the first 12 minutes of the first episode. Now I know why libertarians and anarchists love this crap — it’s because libertarians and anarchists are morons.

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