Firefly and the Shared Experience

fireflyThe way we consume media has changed radically over the past ten years and we’re only halfway to where we’re going. Where are we headed with television, movies and music, and how will that affect all of us? Sit back, relax, enjoy, and let the Beefboy do, what the Beefboy does best, and that’s break it right on down for you!

Last weekend I finished watching the complete Firefly series on DVD. As you probably know, Firefly got cancelled early in the run, so the complete series is only about half a season. I found myself wanting to talk to someone about how good Firefly was and what a tragedy that it was cut so short, but let’s face the facts, Firefly was axed in 2002 and I’m very late to that party.

When I was growing up, movies, music and television content was delivered at a specific time. If you wanted to see a movie or watch an episode on TV, then you lined up and viewed that feed right along with everyone else in the nation. We had a Shared Experience that could be analyzed obsessively near the coffee pot, or the flag pole, the next morning.

Now, with the explosion of cable television, the internet, satellite radio, On Demand movies, Netflix, the DVR, video games and the iPhone, there is more selection than ever and content is increasingly delivered at the whim of the consumer. The Shared Experience has nearly died due to the fragmentation of media and the method of delivery. While I was watching Firefly on DVD, others were listening to classic Led Zeppelin songs on their iPod, or playing Halo online, or streaming Tom Baker’s Dr. Who episodes on Netflix, or a myriad of other available options. What we have now is what Wired Magazine Editor in Chief calls “The Long Tail,” which is offering the most obscure content, right next to the most popular. Amazon.com is the poster boy for The Long Tail.

I want to point out that I love the new options, in fact, I want much more! Some movies have already opened concurrently in the theaters, online and on DVD, and there will continue to be a push in that direction. Big network television is in a freefall and will do anything to hold on to precious viewers, including offering their episodes online, on demand, and quickly through DVDs and Blueray. The music war has already been waged and Apple iTunes is the winner. I’m not sure if the consumer won the music war however. I don’t like any one entity in charge of large tracts of the media landscape.

Recently while the world stopped and everyone mourned the passing of Michael Jackson, the world also mourned the death of the Shared Experience. In the early 80’s Jackson’s rise was largely due to an upstart cable channel called Music Television and the Shared Experience of watching Thriller every hour on the hour along with everyone else in the world. Michael Jackson doing the Moonwalk on the Motown 25th Anniversary Special was seen at the same time by the vast majority of the television audience. That experience could not be duplicated today. Take your biggest young star right now, say Kanye West, and recognize that Michael Jackson sold 35 times more copies of Thriller than Kanye West’s last release. That’s the difference between the Shared Experience and the fractured media we have today.

The end result of all of these changes is that we’re going to have the entire world’s media content, in the format we choose, and at any moment we wish. That’s a great thing, and something well worth fighting for. However, we have to realize that as we achieve individual media nirvana, we sacrifice the opportunity to feel the connection with our fellow man through Shared Experiences, and the last thing we need right now is another reason to feel alone in this world.

Anyone want to talk about Firefly?

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- The Beefboy

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8 Responses to Firefly and the Shared Experience

  1. Shawn says:

    Dude I’ve been trying to get you to watch that for quite some time. Feel free to tug on my ear brother. In my opinion the best sci-fi show produced this decade.

    • TheBeefboy says:

      I’m trying to remember what I was watching at that time. I’m certain that I was catching whatever Sci-Fi was serving up at the time (I’m fairly sure it was Farscape and Stargate, plus something else).

      Where Firefly lost me was in the first episode they aired (which was FOX’s fault not the creators). The episode they aired did not explain who these people were and what the world was. I was lost!

      Once again, TV executives display their startling lack of knowledge. They felt that we needed to get “right to the action”, but what it did is alienate me and probably the rest of their potential viewers because we didn’t get the two hour introduction to the characters and the world. FOX fucked Firefly from the first appearance.

      By the time I checked back in, I liked what I saw, but I felt totally lost (again) and figured that I’d pick it up on re-runs… oh well… seven years later I watched the whole damn series in a couple of weeks!

      • Shawn says:

        Yes, FOX exec did a few things to end the series like airing on early Friday evening. Also preempting the show for baseball or other occasion without notice of a re broadcast. I don’t think they wanted it to succeed but wanted to be viewed as giving Weden the oppertunity. I’m still baffled as to why SciFi (excuse me, SyFy) wasn’t willing to pick it up. I understand they felt it would cost too much per episode but I just can’t rationalize that when looking at the rest of their current programming.

        Luckily I’ve read on the grapevine that a sequal to “Serenity” is currently being fleshed out. How true this is I’m unsure but I like having something to look forward to.

        • Brett says:

          I bought the DVD series on a whim and love it..all in all, I’m just suprised that a show like Lost will finish its run on a BROADCAST network, much less basic cable. Did you know that the director of Lost’s pilot was fired immediately because of the cost? Any wonder why the truly great TV is on Premium Cable (The Sopranos, The Wire Weeds, et al) while CBS has..Two And a Half Men. The automakers aren’t the only Big Three dinosaurs in this country! Oh, postscript..The Sara Connor Chronicles..RIP

        • Danger says:

          Thanks for mentioning the change from SciFi to SyFy. Does anyone else think this is quite possibly the stupidest name change ever? Is there any real reason behind it?

          • TheBeefboy says:

            From what I’ve heard, the change from Sci-Fi to SyFy is because they wanted to trademark the name and Sci-Fi is a description of a genre, so that can not be trademarked. Unfortunately, I also believe that the executives at SyFy think that will give them more latitude in programming, so they can put shit on there that has nothing to do with Sci-Fi or Fantasy, and more to do with reality programming or whatever other horseshit they come up with.

  2. Gene says:

    I cant get enough of this show. Wish anybody had the sense to continue it back then. Look at how great the movie, Serenity is. How awesome would it have been to let the series play out from beginning to end.

    • TheBeefboy says:

      Yeah, I think the real tragedy is how much they could have achieved if they were just allowed to let the series develop. It’s a shame that something so good has to die, while crap like Dancing with the Stars lives on for 8 seasons!

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