If you're not a science fiction fan, you may be looking at the endless string of rapturous reviews for "Firefly" and rolling your eyes. While "Firefly" certainly doesn't lack in geek appeal, its sharp writing, excellent cast and often-striking visual style elevate it into the ranks of Just Plain Great Television. After a somewhat bumpy start, this series found its groove with remarkable speed, and began cranking out hour after hour of compelling drama as if it had been on the air for years. The Fox network employed a novel strategy to introduce Firefly to audiences in the fall of 2002-- sidelining its brilliant two-hour premiere in favor of a dumbed-down and hastily-written successor, airing the series out of order (with all its least compelling episodes up front), and frequently pre-empting the show in favor of the world series. Fox then proceeded to throw up its hands in feigned amazement when the series tanked in the ratings. While fans of writer/producer/creator Joss Whedon do tend toward fanaticism, in this case it's more a testament to the quality and intelligence of "Firefly" that the series has enjoyed eye-popping pre-orders on DVD and new life as a feature film. Standout episodes include "Serenity," the series' haunting, dryly funny pilot; "Our Mrs. Reynolds," a sly mix of screwball comedy and crime caper; and "Objects In Space," a nail-biting, beautifully shot game of cat and mouse between the series' most mysterious heroine and one of the more memorably whacked-out villains in recent TV memory.
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