I say that Fox television executives “are” idiots, instead of “were,” because they are still doing this trick despite the fact that they killed one of the most promising series of all time with their incompetence.
The recent series Almost Human was aired out of order too, which resulted in wildly changing character arcs and interpersonal relationships. One week they hated each other, the next week they were working together, then they hated each other again.
I thought to myself, are these writers complete idiots? No, the writers of Almost Human were fine, it was the Fox Television executives that are imbeciles because they chose to air the episodes out of order.
The Firefly botch
I remember tuning in to see a new Fox TV series in 2002 when Firefly debuted the one-hour episode “The Train Job” and wondering why the universe, and the reason these people were together, were not explained at all. It was confusing and terrible. I incorrectly assumed that the series was inane.
Back then, I thought to myself, are these writers complete idiots? No, the writers were brilliant, it was the Fox Television executives that actively worked against their creative team to scuttle the show.
That first episode of Firefly was so disappointing to me that I never returned to see the series while it aired. They lost me on that first episode. I didn’t see the rest of the series until years later on DVD!
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Firefly was a hidden gem.
The original first two episodes titled “Serenity” were exactly what I expected to see but was denied by stupid Fox Television executives. If they had aired the series in order I would have stuck around, and I’m sure many more fans would have too.
Why, oh why?
So why did these executives decide to sabotage their own show?
They made the same mistake that most executives who don’t understand science fiction and fantasy make, which is to underestimate the intelligence of their audience. They wrongly surmised that the audience of the show just wanted to see action and comedy and not sit through two hours of explaining what the world was about and why all these characters were together.
Meanwhile, those same executives were simultaneously demonstrating their own ignorance of the show that they had produced.
No marriage in space!
The series almost didn’t get off the ground in the first place because they didn’t like the marriage between Zoe and Wash, they didn’t like having a high-end escort in the crew, and they were squeamish about the sometimes dark tone of the series.
Firefly creator Joss Whedon said,
“The last thing that Fox said was, ‘We will pick up the show, but they can’t be married.’ And I said, ‘Then don’t pick up the show, because in my show, these people are married. And it’s important to the show.’”
Friday night mistake
They placed the show on Friday night. That was a terrible decision for two reasons. The first reason is that Friday night is typically a terrible night for television ratings.
Secondly, it put their new science fiction show directly up against the SCI-Fi Friday lineup which was already established with science fiction fans.
Additionally, they created a series of silly ads that incorrectly branded the show.
Producer Chris Buchanan recalled,
“We knew we were in real trouble before the show debuted. Fox sent them a promo reel of the spots they’d cut for the show, and the first opened with Smashmouth’s hit song “Walkin’ on the Sun.” They first thought that the promo was for Fastlane, Fox’s highly stylized police action drama. “Then all of a sudden it was like ‘Firefly, the cosmic hooker and a whacked out space cowboy.’ “ Buchanan recalls, horrified. “My mouth just dropped open. When the marketing guy called back to ask what they thought, I said, ‘Well, it’s really great, but that’s not what our show is.’”
Fox also pre-empted the show regularly for sporting events which further hobbled the series.
We’ll never know how the series would have done if they had aired the series in the correct order, fully introducing the characters and the world they lived in, marketed the show correctly, aired it on a better night, and let the series play out without interruptions.
The Fox Television executives expected Joss Whedon to give them another series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but what they got was something new and better.
They just didn’t know it.
Fox Television executives got the marketing right and stuck with The Orville long enough to let it gain some traction. Have they learned their lesson? Or maybe fired the idiots who did the damage? Only time will tell.
It’s a shame that their meddling scuttled Almost Human, and contributed to the demise one of the most promising science fiction series ever, Firefly.
Hello, my name is Dirk Hooper. I have a deep passion for writing that has led me to win a few awards. I’ve had work published at Huffington Post, Slate Magazine, Business Insider, Quartz, The Sporting News, and much more.
In addition to writing, I’m a professional photographer and artist, a consultant for adult marketing and branding, and an audio talent.
My love for words extends to reading as well. Let’s connect!
You’ll see stories on writing, motivation, entertainment, life, business, marketing, art, kink, and poetry on my Medium profile.