Firefly is an awesome TV series, so much so that even after its cancellation it spawned a theatrical movie release. What was the ultimate cause of the cancellation of the TV series?

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    Blame the big wig Fox Executives. All of the answers are consistent with what I have heard about the show's struggles: Friday night time slot and the episodes aired out of order. What shocks me most is how much money these execs get paid to make boneheaded decisions like this. I doubt Firefly would have had an X-Files type run (moving from Friday to Sunday), but I think it would have lasted a few seasons IF Fox had given it a chance.
    – Waddler
    Mar 29, 2012 at 4:27
  • A travesty that this was axed. Sure it was an expensive series – but so is the new Dr Who from the UK. This just looks like politics and idiots leading to the demise of a fantastic series.
    – user4473
    Mar 29, 2013 at 11:19

3 Answers 3


Several factors led to the demise of Firefly, but ultimately it was a colossal mistake by Fox executives.

The series was played at an unfavorable time slot, and to compound this, Fox decided to play the episodes out of order, insisting that the 'better' episodes play first. Naturally, this meant there was some confusion on the audience's part.

Former Fox Entertainment president Gail Berman gives a little insight into the decision in this interview she gave to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

At the end of the day though, it was a short-sighted decision that should haunt the Fox executives to this day. It's not the first time they've done this though - look at Family Guy.

  • 1
    Or Arrested Development Jan 19, 2012 at 22:40
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    Seems like a rather opinionated, rather than factual, answer. Not that I don't agree. Jan 22, 2012 at 2:55
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    The answer is based on fact, Igby - but you're right, I did allow my indignation to color it.
    – Nobby
    Jan 22, 2012 at 3:10
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    Most important, and not noted in either answer here, is that the pilot was not aired until the final episodes (after it was canelled). Fox requested a new pilot as they did not want to air a 2 hour pilot (this new pilot was train job).
    – wax eagle
    Jun 4, 2012 at 17:16
  • Having accidentally followed the airing order when I first got the DVDs, I can say for certain that the Fox airing order was terrible. It was totally confusing and put the weakest episodes first. Anyone watching the first two episodes as aired and then giving up on the show wouldn't have to defend that decision to me very much, but I of course would have told them to give it another chance in the correct order. Apr 19, 2016 at 19:19

In short, low ratings. Factors that contributed to said low ratings:

  • It aired on Friday nights, a traditionally low-viewership time.
  • Episodes had some continuity, but were aired out of order, which confused viewers.
  • It was mis-marketed as an action-comedy, when it contains more dramatic elements.

From Nobby's link, the then-President of Fox says:

[W]hen it didn't perform [in the ratings], having to cancel it was very difficult.


It was a numbers things. It was a wonderful show and I loved it and I loved working with him on it but that was a big show, a very expensive show and it wasn't delivering the numbers.

  • Thanks for adding the details - I was just about to go in and elaborate on my answer.
    – Nobby
    Jan 19, 2012 at 22:07

even after it's cancellation it spawned a theatrical movie release

(emphasis yours)

That was due to strong DVD sales:

As an afterthought, Fox released the 14 episodes on DVD and something surprising happened: The expensive boxed set sold somewhere north of 200,000 copies. On the strength of the DVD sales, Universal green-lit a small-budget movie, to be written and directed by Whedon.


So the decision to cancel was not really in conflict with the decision to make a movie.

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    Which is also why the movie was called Serenity and not Firefly because Universal could not get the whole rights to the series. Still amazes me they got enough to make it and I'm glad for it regardless.
    – Tablemaker
    Jan 20, 2012 at 4:01

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