Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Never forget, never forgive: Castle reminds us fleetingly of what we could be watching

An episode in the second season of the US TV show Castle, which stars Nathan Fillion who formerly stared as Captain Malcom Reynolds on Joss Whedon’s Firefly, has made an in-joke reference to the late Whedon series cancelled by Fox before it completed its first season.

This is a cruel move that brings back painful memories.

The 21st century has already seen some truly great crimes against humanity: the invasion and occupation of Iraq at the cost of a million dead; Sri Lanka’s ongoing genocide of the Tamil people; and Shannon Noll’s recording career are three that come to mind.

But what the Fox Network did to Joss Whedon's brilliant, groundbreaking “space western” TV series Firefly is surely a contender for top spot.

They cancelled it after only 14 episodes of the first season had been produced, with only 11 screened.

This was after badly undermining the show, screening episodes out of order and forcing a new first episode to be written after disliking the pilot.

The feature-length pilot was of course one of the truly great episodes ever produced for television. It was beautifully shot, capturing the colour, feel and breadth of its highly original setting — the outer-rim of civilised space done Wild-West-style.

It packed a remarkable amount of information, introduced a wide cast of characters with their drama and tension driving the plot, told a multifaceted story the product of a remarkable imagination, and did so at a cracking pace littered with brilliant one-liners.

Fox executives hated it.

The fuckers sabotaged the show then dumped it.

Poor ratings were blamed for the series cancellation. Yet DVD sales of the aborted series were through the roof and the show, despite its forcibly short run, is regularly voted the best sci-fi show ever.

But Fox saw little value in it and had no interest in giving it the appropriate treatment for TV success. It was much cheaper and easier for them to churn out another reality TV show.

That was bad enough.

But it was not the first time Fox had killed.

In an act of presumably unintended irony, Fox announced it was dropping Whedon’s show Angel just as season five was investigating the question of whether it was possible to work within an evil corporation and still do good.

As a result, the final episode of the season and series understandably ended on the somewhat bleak note — concluding “No, not really” in a somewhat bloody, if heroic, conclusion.

Of course, season five was easily the best Angel season. If there is one thing a Fox executive cannot stand it is quality. It makes them uneasy.

And now, Fox seems determined to kill again. Like a serial killer, Fox has in its sights another potential victim that fits its profile: Joss Whedon's latest show Dollhouse.

Dollhouse has at least fared better than Firely. Not only did it make it through season one, it was even reluctantly granted a second run.

Now, the news is it is very likely to be its last, with Fox pulling the show for the entire of November.

The result of this killing spree is the actors are forced to turn their tricks in shows of far less quality.

Fillion is a class act and, in some ways, it is good to see him as Richard Castle in yet another inevitable variation of the police/detective murder drama.

Yet, while his charisma raises the show above the 100,000 other slight variations on the same theme, it exists as a permanent reminder of what could, and should, have been.

In Australia, Channel Seven seem determined to torment Whedon fans by showing Castle as well as Bones — the yet another variation on the murder drama featuring the former star of Angel, David Boreanaz.

In a particular act of cruelty that should prompt an amendment to the Geneva Conventions, it has been known to run them straight after each other.

If Dollhouse, which has never even screened on free-to-air TV in Australia, is finally cancelled, we can confidently expect Channel Seven to bombard us with prime-time repeats of Dollhouse star Eliza Dushku’s Tru Calling — a less memorable venture for someone so talented, to be polite about it.

In the episode of Castle with the Firefly in-joke, Richard Castle dresses up for Halloween in his ol’ captain Mal outfit.

There is a half-minute scene in which he tries to explain and defend the outfit to his teenage daughter.

Castle's annoying brat of a kid, supposed to ingratiating in that horrific stomach-churning way US TV shows imagine to be cute, asks: “Don’t you think it is time you moved on?”

Fillon/Castle/Reynolds speaks for us all with is to-the point reply: “But I like it!”

“Didn’t you wear that, like, five years ago?”

Fillion is amusing in the scene, but is it too soon? At what point does it become acceptable to joke about such an atrocity?

For my part, the actions of Fox executives raises series questions about the sort of society we live in.

The social-economic structures are, to my mind, utterly condemned by the treatment of Joss Whedon. No further proof is needed of late monopoly capitalism’s terminal decline.

These are the things by which a society is judged, and one with any decency would throw as much cash at Joss Whedon as it could possibly spare and shout: “Go away an entertain us!”

Unfortunately, in this society, “entertainment” is left in the hands of the likes of Fox executives. In other words, the lowest form of human life — an even greater symbol of moral bankruptcy of the capitalist “entertainment industry” than Kyle Sandliands.

There are some things that can never be forgiven.

Go about your daily lives of continuing to cancel Joss Whedon shows, Fox network executives, but Carlo Sands is watching you.

And one day, justice will be served.

“What did y’all order a dead guy for?” A quote from a Fox executive in a meeting in the not-to-distant future.

“I'm right there with you.” A quote from said Fox executives’ meeting about unlimited funding for any project Joss Whedon decides is appropriate after a persuasive presentation by Carlo Sands.


  1. Good article, although this:

    "despite its forcibly short run, is regularly voted the best sci-fi show ever."

    is highly questionable. Who did they survey - US nerd conventions? The Joss Whedon Fan Club? (these two things may be synonymous...)

    Sorry, but the greatest sci-fi show of all time is clearly Doctor Who.

    Otherwise, perfect (except for the attroshus speellling).

  2. Sir

    Your comment: "Who did they survey - US nerd conventions? The Joss Whedon Fan Club? (these two things may be synonymous...)

    "Sorry, but the greatest sci-fi show of all time is clearly Doctor Who."

    is most witty!

    Very amusing. I am a big fan of irony.

    That said, you have a point. The statement, that the claim in my post that Firefly is "regularly" voted best sci fi show of all time is questionable, is a reasonable one.

    Questionable is one way of putting it. An outright lie would be another, possibly more accurate, way.

    It is much fairer to say that Firefly *has been* voted the best sci fi show ever. Not by the US nerd convention, but by an online poll of New Scientist (close to the same thing, but not) in which the film based on the series, Serenity, came second: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn8211

    Also, it was for a period the most popular sci fi show at TV.com. However, it is now ranked 27th.

    It was however, never my intention to claim it *was* the best sci fi show of all time. I do not know enough about the others.

    I will simply note that I hate being corrected and that you are now on my list of people to kill.

    Luckily for you, that list is already very long indeed.

    As for my “attroshus speellling”: no one tells Carlo Sands how to fucking spell.

    I don't obey your rules.

    Carlo Sands (deceased)

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