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October 07 2006

Wil Wheaton blogs about Firefly/Serenity.

We already know Wil's a fan. And here he takes a minute to reflect on the possibilities the show might have had besides an expensive movie in response to a quote by George Lucas.

I think he's right, but I don't think FOX would have allowed another TV show or miniseries, and Universal seemed interested only in a one-shot gamble. We know all of us would buy a straight to DVD Serenity series, but could we have said that before Serenity was made? Most of us tried to convert anyone we could to Firefly fandom, but I don't know if we could have gotten as many new fans without the movie and it's possible success as a "goal."
I always felt that Firefly was just a few years shy of the kind of technology that would enable a show to bypass the traditional entertainment delivery systems. Finding a way to the audience without the great god Nielsen holding ultimate sway, and jumpy network execs ready to hit the "cancel" button all too quickly. The ideas proposed in Wil Wheaton's blog echo the rumblings that have been building for a while. Making a way, other than the risky extremely expensive traditional movie/show systems now in place, to get productions made.

There's so much of an investment of money and time on a studio's part to get just one theatrical movie made, that great ideas don't get greenlit because so much money is on the line. This approach hinders creativity, jobs, variety, etc. It would be so much better to return to something like, though not exactly like, the old studio system where movies were made much more frequently and directors, actors, writers, crew, etc. were kept busy, working and honing their skills. The system needs to change, get lighter on its feet, have less risk and thus (hopefully) be more open to non-mainstream productions.

The part about how many episodes of Firefly that could have been paid for, for the price of making (and advertising) Serenity does still tug at the heart. But as Nebula pointed out, Serenity did, and still is generating many new fans. Fans which then sought out Firefly DVDs too. So the fandom for the 'Verse is much bigger now than it was only a year ago.
The problem with this thing is the business world.

And it's really boring.

Ultimately, say Firefly had gone direct to DVD. It got 4 million viewers at pilot on FOX. The show had taken nearly $10m to reach that point (Serenity+ Train Job).

On DVD, you couldn't "open" to an audience like that.

So, for new shows, it just doesn't add up.

With something with a built in audience - Spikeverse, Firefly and all that raz - you obviously have a better chance. A few studios have tried DVD premieres and D2DVD stuff recently, but with no great success I can recall yet.

That said, if anybody can do it with success, it's Joss. He makes his bed in strange situations.
Well said, gossi. In light of the amazing discussions and Joss postage we've had lately, these possibilities are all out there, to be reviewed after, say, WW. The technology, the demand and Joss' time might all be there at that future time to come together for the benefit of our beloved freighter and her crew. To fill in for QuoterGal for a moment -- "the ripeness is all"! ;-)

Big props to Mr. Wheaton, BTW, for always flying the Browncoat flag high and proud (and I think he's a great writer)! :-)
Oh man. Babylon 5 is going Direct to DVD! With JMS back writing and directing! Probably with some cheese!

That'll be a great test of the market. B5 did millions on DVD - at one point JMS posted the rough figures online, which is really naughty of him - so it'll be good to see if it splashes on D2DVD well.
Babylon 5 is going Direct to DVD!


Not a hope. I will be amazed if this actually happens.
Simon, they start shooting next month. They already have the sets being built. Of course, it won't quite be like the original show, consider 2 of the cast members are dead now.

[ edited by gossi on 2006-10-07 02:03 ]
One of the alternate technology delivery systems I had in mind wasn't necessarily direct to DVD. I'm projecting to the next leap which would be a kind of pay-per-view, or subscription type deal, directly through the TV. The content could still be offered direct to DVD, but also able to be purchased via download... similar to iTunes, but high image quality, and on your TV.

Technology needs to catch up though, plus these systems would have to be present in enough "regular" homes to make it a truly accessible and profitable way to deliver entertainment. At some point, viewers will have so much more individual choice and power to vote with their purchases. Ratings won't even matter any more.

On a side note, I haven't really read Mr. Wheaton's writings before... but anyone who includes both Firefly/Serenity AND Joel Hodgson in the same blog, just moved several levels up on the Coolness Chart.

[ edited by 11thHour on 2006-10-07 02:10 ]
According to AICN, JMS has said that the Babylon 5 DVDs have generated over $500 million in revenue. This has made Warner Bros keen to do something more with the franchise, although thanks to studio accounting B5 is not yet officially in profit.
11th hour, Wil Wheaton is an excellent writer and his blogs are funny and honest. Plus, he is an unabashed geek, which is always fun!
Studio accounting.... hmmm someone told me that Forrest Gump is still considered a loss according to "studio accounting", is that true?

[ edited by kurya on 2006-10-07 06:13 ]
He makes his bed in strange situations.

I, for one, would like to discredit this horrendous rumour. His bed is perfectly made up. It's the weird shit that happens afterwards that leads to, you know, smurfs and disgruntled bedsheets.

Keepin' it real
Simon, they start shooting next month.


Well it's that JMS' projects seem to have a habit of not happening. Sound and fury signifying nothing and all that jazz. Or all talk and no trousers.
Simon: Fair enough, but with Ron Howard buying one of his scripts a few months back for a major Hollywood release, "overnight" JMS has become a hot property, giving him greater financial and organizational backing to see his pet projects through to the end.
Moreover, the "Lost Tales" project seems to be on a pretty modest scale and Warner Bros greenlit it fairly quickly, suggesting that the executives don't regard it as very risky.
giles, you made me laugh out loud....that was funny.
Not to spark any kind of discussion and get away from the topic (I heart Wil by the way) but it's kind of curious that JMS seems to hate SFX Mag (or was he being funny in his e-mail, I couldn't tell) and Joss said recently he likes it. Sorry, I notice things like that.
I was wondering about that myself Tonya J and this post shed a bit of light. Basically, it seems JMS had some issue with a persistant copyright infringer and some con organisers and SFX wrote a very harsh article about his actions.

Personally, I used to read it. Many of the articles were great and often pretty funny but I stopped after reading one too many huge spoilers in the news section. Given that they actually have (or had) a special sealed section for spoilers, putting them in the main magazine seemed careless to the point of disrespect for their readers. Also, the rise of the net means that news wise any print magazine will be weeks behind the curve so I just stopped getting it.

Not sure I agree with Wil about making 20 episodes rather than Serenity but his opinion's always worth reading (and the B5 news is pretty exciting if it actually happens). Who knew i'd end up having so much respect for Wesley Crusher ? (it only took 15-20 years and hell didn't even have to freeze over ;)
Thanks Saje - actually pretty sad to read that.
(it only took 15-20 years and hell didn't even have to freeze over ;)

Damn, I just got those new skates!

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