Firefly's glow is gone.
Fox's struggling sci-fi series, masterminded by Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon, just got sucked into the TV equivalent of a black hole.
The official word from a Fox spokesperson is that the series in on hiatus, which is usually network-speak for virtual death but keeps open the possiblity for a return to the schedule. However, sources close the production say the show has indeed been canceled.
Firefly, which chronicled the adventures of a band of space pirates aboard the ship Serenity, never took off. Set 500 years in the future, the series was part sci-fi fantasy, part old-fashioned Western and all dud--it averaged a measly 4.7 million viewers and ranked 98th in the Nielsen season-to-date ratings.
The original two-hour pilot, which never aired, will play December 20. All told, the network has aired 10 hours of the series. Three hour-long episodes remain unaired.
In the meantime, over-the-top undercover series Fastlane will take over Firefly's Friday night spot at 8 p.m.
"Obviously we're very disapointed because we love the show and think it's one of the best TV shows on the air," says Chris Buchanan, president of Mutant Enemy, which produced the series. "We will be exploring every possible way to keep the show on the air, whether it's on Fox or another network."Series creator Whedon could not be reached for comment.
Fox had been expecting huge things from Firefly, considering Whedon's hit-filled track record. The prolific writer, producer and director had previously scored with Buffy and its spinoff, Angel. The 38-year-old Whedon also created the big-screen version of Buffy and wrote screenplays for Toy Story and Alien Resurrection.
Perhaps sensing the axe was ready to fall, a group of Whedon die-hards calling themselves Firefly: Immediate Assistance purchased an ad in Variety last Monday in support of the now defunct series.
Buchanan said the good will was mutual. "We love our fans. The fans are so important to Joss, and he just wants them to know that we're fighting the good fight to keep the show on the air."
Even though Fox has bailed on Firefly, there's a remote chance it could surface on another network, perhaps the WB (where Angel resides) or UPN (the place Buffy calls home).
Meanwhile, another show on the post-sweeps casualty list is ABC's MDs. The medical drama starring William Fichtner and John Hannah had been hammered by NBC stalwart Law & Order and CBS' doctor drama Presidio Med, averaging 6.8 million viewers and ranking at 79 for the season. Celebrity Mole will plug the ABC Wednesday night time slot.
Earlier this week, CBS confirmed it was putting the Friday night cop drama Robbery Homicide Division on hiatus.