Mac got me the DVDs a while ago, and we’d planned to watch them together but either forgot or got distracted by “NewsRadio” and World of Warcraft. I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying the series. I’d seen the show before, of course — I’m realizing that of the seven I’ve seen on the DVDs so far, there’s only one that I hadn’t seen when it was originally aired. They just didn’t stick with me, for various reasons.
One is that it’s full-to-bursting with Whedonisms, and a little of that goes a long way. When high-school-to-college-aged characters use little catch-phrases and wry self-aware commentary, it’s endearing because that’s how nerdy outcast high-school-to-college-aged people talk. When gruff-but-lovable outlaws do it, it just comes across as fey. That tone of “look at me! look at how clever I am!” was just a little overwhelming when I first saw it.
And that carried over into everything, which was reason two. Having no sound in space bugged me because it was accurate, but too self-aware accurate. It’s a very minor thing, but it just came across as “yes we’re making an adventure sci-fi show but we’re defying convention because we know that there’s no sound in space because we’re so smart.” Yes, the silence seemed smug. That’s probably more a sign that I was burned out on “Buffy” and “Angel,” but there it is. What was more troubling was how they kept doing the shaky-zoom-cam thing with digital shots, which was a gimmicky effect that was the equivalent of lens flare for the late-90’s-early-00’s. (Attack of the Clones used it too, and I hated it.)
And the last is Fox’s fault, apparently, because of the way they presented it. The first episode aired is definitely not the strongest and doesn’t give as good a first impression. And it’s only by seeing the episodes in the order in which they were intended to be seen that the whole thing comes together. The characters really become characters, and their conversations seem less like overly self-conscious attempts to be clever and more like the way these people would actually talk to each other. The attempts at intrigue were deftly inserted, and weren’t as ham-handed as they’d seemed watching bits and pieces out of order with commercial breaks. The characters do stop being one-note, and the relationships do develop realistically.
And there’s continuity! They pick up a herd of cattle at the end of one episode, and they drop them off at the beginning of the next!
So the fans can wail and gnash that the show got cancelled, but I’m looking forward to two more discs and the episodes that I haven’t seen yet because they were never aired. Maybe things will change dramatically once I see it develop more, but at the moment I’m not all that upset that it got cancelled. It just feels more like a story arc than an ongoing series; I don’t particularly care how this world develops, I just want to know what happens to the characters. I want a story with a beginning, middle, and end — the kind of story you’d find not in a series, but, say, a movie.
And I don’t care what Joss Whedon says; the show is such a rip-off of “Cowboy Bebop.” Even if they didn’t intend it to be. Seeing as how “Cowboy Bebop” is one of my favorite television series of all time, that’s high praise, not a criticism.