Serenity now: Across the Whedonverse with the Arizona Browncoats

The TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran for seven seasons and totaled 144 episodes. I double-sourced and tripled-checked, ’cause we’re dealing with the Buffyverse, a subset of the Whedonverse, hallowed home to Joss Whedon fanatics, who have lives outside of their obsession, but not really. I know a Buffy freak who can rattle off the names of the episodes and their numbers. I said, “Yeah, right. Season five, episode 21.” “The Weight of the World. The one where Buffy’s in a coma.” Gak. Okay, they’re zealots, but they’re pretty benign as zealots go. Just don’t try to argue doctrine or semantics with ’em. They’ll get in your grill. It can get ugly. And that’s just the Buffy crowd. The real space cases reside in the region of the Whedonverse where Firefly burns bright six years after it was canceled. Firefly is a type of fictional space freighter and the title of the TV show on which it’s based. Joss Whedon’s galactic oater managed just 14 episodes, of which only 11 aired. It was Whedon’s third TV series (the Buffy spinoff Angel was second), and by far his least successful. After it was butchered by Fox (the network ran the episodes out of sequence) and unceremoniously axed, it looked like the end of the line for the folksy quasi-outlaws of Serenity, the crew’s Firefly-class ship (and thus the name of the show). Holy crap, you could’ve heard the ruckus from here to Alderaan. (Sorry, mixing metaphors and obsessions.) Within the context of the sci-fi community, it was like somebody was whacking a bag full of cats with a bat. In fact, it was Star Trek Classic redux. Gangs of angry young geeks roamed the Earth, all sporting brown Independent Faction dusters in the style of their hero, Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds (marvelously portrayed by Nathan Fillion). The geeks brayed and they bawled, to no avail. What turned the tide was when they bought – the DVD, that is, in large numbers. There’s nothing like bringing bigwigs to their knees with their own weapon: moolah. After much wooing and wheedling by Whedon, the bigwigs at Universal Pictures agreed to bankroll a big-league retooling of Joss’ modest cult show. The result was 2005’s Serenity, whose worldwide haul of $38.8 mil represented a modest hit for banker men and a giant leap for geek kind. Even better for the Browncoats – as Firefly/Serenity groupies are known -- the Hollywood treatment didn’t overpower Firefly’s quirky, character-centric charm. Hey, I’m no hardcore, but that’s my take. Judge for yourself when our own Arizona Browncoats host two big-screen showings of Serenity. The event’s optimistically titled Can’t Stop the Serenity – go Team Whedon! – and it’s the local manifestation of a national phenomenon that happens every year in more than 40 cities. Here in our dusty corner of the Whedonverse, there’ll be a Firefly/Serenity costume contest and a Buffy Shadow Cast performance in addition to the screenings. All proceeds go to the nonprofit organization Equality Now.
Sat., June 28, 3 & 7:30 p.m., 2008
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Clay McNear
Contact: Clay McNear