This past July at San Diego Comic-Con the panel generating the most buzz before and after was the 10th Anniversary of the cult sci-fi TV series Firefly, featuring the first reunion of most of the main cast since they created the 2005 movie Serenity. The panel opened to thousands of fans that camped out overnight (re-live all the fun we had there again here) and featured creator Joss Whedon, and writer/producers Tim Minnear and Jose Molina, and cast members Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, and Sean Maher. The panel was hosted by the Science Channel, which was producing a one-hour TV special that aired Sunday night. The TV special celebrating the anniversary of the series, titled Firefly: Browncoats Unite, was filmed right before the Comic-Con panel, and included excerpts of the panel, as well as scenes from the series and interviews with show stars who did not attend the panel: Gina Torres, Morena Baccarin, and Jewel Staite.
Science Channel’s one-hour production of Firefly: Browncoats Unite proved yet again the incredible popularity of the short-lived series, which continues to garner new fans each year in a sort of grassroots fan movement driven by the idea that maybe Joss Whedon can one day “put the gang back together again.” Firefly: Browncoats Unite was watched by 1.2 million distinct viewers–the night was the single most watched Sunday ever for the Science Channel, and the second highest-rated telecast of the year among 25-54 year-olds. Chatter about the series also tallied 25,000 tweets on Twitter, generating 26 million impressions.
Considering that current TV series major episodes like the Breaking Bad season finale and Mad Men season finale fetched viewership of 2.8 million viewers and 2.7 million viewers, respectively, and the last episode of Amy and Rory on Doctor Who this season earned 5.9 million viewers (with the seventh season premiere netting 1.55 million viewers), 1.2 million TV watchers for a long-cancelled series is a pretty incredible number.
Sunday’s Firefly programming began with a day-long Firefly marathon, including Sci-Fi Science host Dr. Michio Kaku offering commentary on the various scientific themes of the series, culminating with the Firefly Special Edition–the final two episodes of the series expanded with features led by executive story editor Jose Molina.
Coming off of his success on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Joss Whedon, who would go on to direct the second biggest blockbuster ever with this year’s The Avengers, created Firefly as a human drama/space western, attempting to do something different with the sci-fi genre. But low viewership and a Fox network that slated Firefly for Friday night airings cancelled before the end of the first season, airing only 11 of the 14 episodes. But the fan base wouldn’t let the show die, and an Internet and convention campaign prompted Whedon to bring the cast back together for the 2005 big-budget film Serenity.
Series stars have gone on to many successes since Firefly. Nathan Fillion currently stars in the ABC series Castle and does voice over work for several animated series and was a regular on Desperate Housewives. Summer Glau starred in both Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, as well as The Cape, and was a regular on Dollhouse and Alphas. Morena Baccarin starred in the reboot of the TV series V, and currently stars in the Showtime successful series Homeland. Gina Torres is a regular on the USA Network series Suits. Adam Baldwin went on to be co-star on Chuck, and guest starred on series from Angel to Bones to Castle and Leverage. Alan Tudyk is currently co-star of Suburgatory and could be found in series from Dollhouse to V to the voice of Green Arrow in the animated Young Justice series, and he played Stephen A. Douglas in this year’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Sean Maher had appearances on Warehouse 13 and The Mentalist. Jewel Staite went on to be a regular on Wonderfalls and Stargate: Atlantis, and is a regular on The L.A. Complex. Series regular Ron Glass, well-known for his role on Barney Miller continues to make TV appearances and was notably absent from the Firefly interviews.