Firefly River Tam

There’s not a TV show cancellation in the whole ‘verse that causes more online howling than Fox’s Firefly. So for Entertainment Weekly‘s package on TV shows that deserve a second life in this week’s issue (buy), we just had to explore the idea of rebooting the sci-fi cult favorite that was axed after just half a season aired in 2002. To be clear: There’s no revival currently planned and there are many obstacles to this happening (perhaps first and foremost is that star Nathan Fillion is exclusive to Fox’s rival network ABC for his role on Castle, which is currently in its most-watched season). And last year, the show’s ultra-busy creator Joss Whedon told EW he preferred to focus on building new worlds rather than revisiting old ones. So to get a fresh take, we went to the show’s former writer-producer Tim Minear, who is under contract with Firefly rights owner 20th Century Fox TV. Minear is working on FX’s American Horror Story, but gamely agreed to explore the odds of bringing the show back.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So what are the chances of this ever happening?

Minear: I would never foreclose the possibility. The fact that it was even a feature film after it spectacularly failed on Fox was a miracle. And of course it lives on in other forms. In terms of getting the band back together to make a new adventure, who knows? I would love it. It would be great. But first everybody has their respective projects that limits them from crossing over into other things. It’s just trying to coordinate everybody’s obligations so they could somehow participate.

If it were to happen, what is the most likely form that it would take?

Minear: I’m completely talking off the top of my head, but there’s a show that’s been on for the last couple years that’s reinvented the form in terms of the limited series. I’m trying to think of the name of that show — Oh yes! American Horror Story! It doesn’t have to be 13 episodes. Look how Sherlock does it.

Oh, that is a good idea. They’re all the rage now that networks are into doing event TV.

Minear: I think a limited series of some kind would work best. Something like that could also work if, say, 20th could partner with Netflix, or another distributor. It would have its home on Fox, of course [then a second window on streaming]. A limited series would do very well, I bet.

Yes, the show has reportedly done really well in ancillary markets.

Minear: The reason Firefly had any afterlife at all is because of that. Those ancillary markets only really started blooming in the decade after we went off the air. Five years after we went off the air is when people discovered us. If we made it five years earlier it might not have happened that way.

I must ask if there has ever been any actual talk of bringing it back in recent years?

Minear: No one has talked to me about it. Joss and I had discussed at some point some kind of spinoff, but that was maybe eight years ago.

Why has the show had such a passionate afterlife of fans wanting it to return?

Minear: That’s the kind of thing you really can’t answer. Sci-fi fans are a breed of their own, but it’s not just that fandom doesn’t want to see something go away. I think there was something about the material and those characters and the type of people who gravitate toward a show like Firefly.

I think there was also a sense that the story was just getting started and had so much potential. Usually with high-concept shows you wonder soon after the pilot, “Is this really a series or just a long movie?” But Firefly felt like it really had a universe of stories to explore.

Minear: I think that’s right. But to categorize it as a high concept show is very misleading. It’s a Western. It could not be more low concept. It’s really a post-war Western, it’s completely grounded … I would also say if you had one DVD to take with you to the deserted island, it should be Firefly.

To find out whether more of your favorite cult TV shows — including Chuck, Party Down, and The Comeback — will be revived, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday, Feb. 14.