Blog Post

Sorry, Firefly Fans, But Nathan Fillion Can’t Bring It Back

Nathan Fillion, an actor who first rose to nerdy popularity as the star of dearly departed series Firefly and now stars on the ABC (s DIS) series Castle, has become the poster boy (literally — there are posters) for yet another attempt to bring back Firefly from cancelation.

The cause, in this case, is an interview with EW last week where Fillion said:

If I got $300 million from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to Firefly, make it on my own, and distribute it on the Internet.

This quote, after making the rounds, was seized upon as a call to action by the industrious group now behind Help Nathan Buy Firefly, a fan campaign soliciting pledges from other Firefly aficionados to make the series without the involvement of Fox (s NWS).

But leaving aside Fillion’s ongoing commitment to the ABC series Castle, and the fact that series creator Joss Whedon is busy directing The Avengers, and the fact that the California lottery is fickle with its winnings — it’s not going to happen.

Help Nathan Buy Firefly links to a post by Henry Jenkins doing math on what it would cost to create a new Firefly series using a direct-to-viewer subscription model based on the show’s original budget. If a million fans agreed to spend $40 for a 16-episode season, that would give Whedon $40 million to work with.

But the question isn’t whether Whedon fans would get behind a web-oriented project (ahem, Dr. Horrible), the question is whether or not the rights to Firefly will ever be for sale. As Entertainment Weekly points out, the rights to Terminator were available for $30 million, not $300 million — but rights holder Halcyon was in bankruptcy and in need of cash. Fox is currently doing just fine; even if Fillion really had $300 million to hand over, there’s no strong incentive to sell on the part of Fox.

TV and social media consultant Annie Stamell, who daily works with studios and individuals, offered her analysis in a phone interview: “It seems so outside of the realm of possibility. With the financing, paperwork and red tape necessary to get a deal like that to close, there are so many logistics to prevent forward momentum from happening.”

Ask CBS (s CBS) right now what it would have thought about an offer to buy the rights to Hawaii 5-O. Sure, ten years ago it was a dead franchise, but today, the reboot is one of television’s most popular shows. As long as success stories like that still exist, studios will always be reluctant to sell off intellectual property.

In fact, the story that got this all started — Firefly has been picked up for syndication on the Science Channel — is proof that there is yet more money Fox can make on Firefly, thus disincentivizing them to consider an offer from another company or individual.

That isn’t to say that things are completely impossible; fans of the show, through the purchase of DVDs, got one movie made, and have also engaged in projects like an unauthorized feature-length sequel to Serenity, Browncoats: Redemption. As Stamell pointed out, “Look at the history of Firefly. If there were any fandom that could make this happen, it would be this one.”

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24 Responses to “Sorry, Firefly Fans, But Nathan Fillion Can’t Bring It Back”

  1. RunItsAPirate

    While you make sense, I feel like you’re missing the point. I’m sure that most Firefly fans are aware that matters aren’t really as simple as “Give Nathan Fillion a ton of money.” The point is sending a message that they are willing to do that, and that there are alot of us. Considering the coverage this initiative has gotten, I would say progress is being made.

  2. The reality is, and deep down I think we all know this, that Fox won’t sell Firefly. There is still money to be made here.

    What this movement CAN do is show Fox that there is more money to be made here than just selling DVD box sets or licensing the original 14 episodes to barely there cable networks. They can get behind a new series. Maybe syndication. Maybe an animated show. Maybe a direct to DVD mini-series. Who knows…the possibilities are as endless as the ‘verse.

    We just need to stay strong and not get discouraged when this movement fails. It’s just one more battle in the war for more Firefly. Keep fighting, fellow Browncoats, for together we are mighty.

  3. @The One True … There are lots of plans for movies percolating out there but only a few make it. Had there not been a strong showing of support from the DVD sales, it’s unlikely that a movie would have been made.

  4. All we can do is spread the word and hope things will continue in the ‘verse. Even if Nathan can’t buy “Firefly” and FOX never understands what it means to be a Browncoat, at least we know. We will never stop fighting to do the impossible. We will never stop trying to make our corner of the ‘verse a better place. That’s how things such as Mike Dougherty’s “Browncoats: Redemption” (which I saw this past weekend at RadCon) and other good works happen. We at Seattle Browncoats Charities ( are doing our part to help those who need it. Being a big damn hero is something Joss Whedon inspires in all of us. Can’t Stop the Serenity and other events, such as our Lighting the Shadows to stop domestic violence, let us continue to enjoy the ‘verse. We appreciate what is going on with Browncoat groups around the world and hope we can contribute.

  5. IF Firefly is resurrected (and I am one who dearly hopes it will be), you can bet your sweet bippy (dating myself) that it won’t be as a TV series. Whedon has gone on record as saying that he only wants to make it as a feature. So…if AVENGERS is a monster hit, he could always do what Chris Nolan did between Bat-films and make a different movie. And I suppose it’s possible that it could be FIREFLY/SERENITY (“From the director of THE AVENGERS!”) But that is years away, so let’s hope the Mayans were wrong. Personally, I’d prefer it returned as a mini-series. The SERENITY film got too bogged down in action and had less of the character interplay that we loved about the show. But that’s probably a pipe-dream. And Fox desperately needs a franchise!

  6. The HNBF Facebook page had just under 29,000 likes at midnight. Now the site is approaching 41,000!! Even if you think this is impossible, shouldn’t this make some studio execs take notice?

  7. Even if Nathan doesn’t buy the rights hopefully Fox will realise it might be profitable to revive it themselves. Admittedly by showing support we’re making selling the rights even less appealing, but surely it’ll prove to them that a revival will make them some money?

  8. tallyunlikely

    “Look at the history of Firefly. If there were any fandom that could make this happen, it would be this one.”

    Well this and Star Trek…

    Great article. I think the campaign is a nice dream even if it never happens, I like what it says about the power of fans and the power of the internet and the changing role of the studio.

  9. It surely would be impossible if we didn’t try…

    So Mr Fillon probably won’t be able to go it alone but one of the remarkable things about Firefly is the passion for the show keeps on increasing, as does the fan base. Think of the two truly enduring franchises of Sci-fi, Star Trek and Dr Who, both resurrected because the fans refused to let them die… and in my opinion the ‘Browncoats’ campaign is both better organised and, if anything, more passionate than both of those campaigns (especially when you consider that this is on the basis of 14 episodes and 1 film).

    The stumbling block is, unfortunately, Fox. TV execs don’t understand Sci-fi because it can’t be pidgeon holed into a set demographic – it makes them nervous… Hopefully Fox will see the light (or, more realistically the dollar signs) and recomission.

    Ideally I’d love to see the project taken over by a different set-up – BBC Wales has shown a fine talent for Sci-fi in recent years (along with Canadian and Australian broadcasters). Quality Science-Fiction does sell – it just needs backers who are willing to leave the creators to do what they do best…

  10. I don’t care whether we get it away from fox or if the new series lands on Fox itself. What matters is that we get a full series of Firefly. What matters is that we keep fighting until we get it. One of the things that likely turned people away from the fight in the first place was the time that had lapsed between Firefly airing and the fight going on. People have to take other jobs, so the chances of them returning are very slim. But when Nathan Fillion, currently the star of one of the biggest shows in America turns round and says that he would do Firefly again in a heartbeat? All of that falls away, and the browncoats come back in full force. Of course, now we have the fact that Jericho managed to come back after cancellation and the fact that we got the Serenity movie made to spur us on. So if you do enjoy firefly, I welcome your constructive criticism, but not you dismissal that “Nathan Fillion Can’t Bring It Back”. It paints the whole cause with a defeatist attitude, one which I can only condemn.

    • Agreed. Too many folks try to be critics nowadays, whatever happened to expressing an opinion as an opinion rather than blanket fact, as though you’ve got some mystical insight into future events?

      I think Browncoats, Fillion, Whedon, everyone attached would move heaven and hell to see this come back.

  11. Even if we Browncoats could never actually cause Fox to sell the franchise to Nathan, Fox WOULD notice the fact that a million people want to spend their money on the show. That would be enough to get Fox to reboot the show. And that’s really all we want. More Firefly!

  12. NeoOF13th

    As unlikely as it might be… this fan base has done it before and in the words of a true brown coat “we will rise again”

    –“We’ve Done the impossible, and that makes us mighty”–

  13. Would this be a good place for me to announce my plans to start a campaign to bring back “Manimal”? Werewolf popularity is at an all time high. Imagine the frenzy stirred in tween girl’s hearts over a hero who can turn into a bunch of different animals?

    I am telling you, the time is right. “Manimal” in 2012 we can make it a reality!

  14. I welcome the debunking here. But one comment: there’s a great dispute as to the “Firefly DVD sales got Serenity made” mythology. Movie plans were starting to percolate earlier than that.

    One of the reasons fan efforts such a HNBF keep cropping up is because there’s a Browncoat mythology about being mighty and doing the impossible. While we Browncoats have done many awesome things, the mythology is sexier than the reality, and that’s part of why things like HNBF catch on so quickly: many especially newer fans feel like they got left out of being mighty.

    But a lot of what supposedly makes Browncoats so mighty in fact is at least slightly misunderstood.

      • Thank you so very much for mention Browncoats: Redemption. Browncoats: Redemption is the first time that an “unauthorized feature-length” has ever been used to raise money for charities created/supported by the original cast of a show.

        I believe if the Firefly community rallied behind a project like this and showed FOX we’re willing to give money to charity, rather than them, for more ‘Verse content that is something that the studio will notice.