I've been trying to find out the reason for it being cancelled, but I can't find an "official" line. So far I've seen the following reasons in a variety of different places:

  • Not enough viewers.
  • Too expensive to produce.
  • Poor critical reception.
  • Bad advertising decisions leading to marketing problems.
  • Erratic airing due to schedule conflicts.
  • Friction between Joss Whedon and FOX.

Even Wikipedia dances around the reason without saying anything definitive.

So, there have been many theories and unreferenced statements about why Firefly was cancelled, but is there an official "from the horse's mouth" word?

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    Like any other show cancellations - because it wasn't making enough money compared to programming competing for the same time slot. Everything else is likely true, to an extent, but all of them are merely factors contributing to this main reason. Dec 30, 2012 at 2:12
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    Keep in mind FOX only aired the pilot episode much later.
    – shachna
    Dec 30, 2012 at 2:42
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    All those reasons are interrelated (erratic airing & wrong episode order leads to not enough viewers (because the plot is hard to follow), which in turn leads to it being too expensive.. and so on). The earliest instance of any one of those I know of is Fox's insistence that Serenity (the pilot) was a bad pilot, and The Train Job being aired as the pilot. Which took away our introduction to the characters, so there weren't as many viewers, which...
    – Izkata
    Dec 30, 2012 at 3:14
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    Actually it was asked there already: What led to Firefly's cancellation? on movies.SE Dec 30, 2012 at 18:24
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    I don't actually see why this would be considered off-topic by current standards in 2015. It was closed in 2012. Oct 13, 2015 at 21:21

2 Answers 2


Fox has never come out and "officially explained" why it got cancelled. But, in general, networks don't do that because they don't need to.

With extremely rare exceptions, shows get cancelled for exactly one reason: bad ratings. That means either:

  • The show's ratings don't justify high enough ad revenue to cover costs of production, or
  • The show's ratings are worse than most of the other shows on the same network.

In this case, probably because she got asked about it all the time, Gail Berman has briefly discussed the issue. It wasn't an official statement, but as Fox Entertainment President at the time, it would have been her call. She says:

"Canceling 'Firefly' was as difficult as anything I'd ever been involved in because Joss and I had been creative partners at one time [...] I worked with him very closely on this particular show and when it didn't perform [in the ratings], having to cancel it was very difficult." src

As far as why it got bad ratings, as you mention, fans have plenty of theories, mostly ones that make Fox sound bad. There's likely some truth to some of those, but it's also important to note that, at least back when Firefly was airing, "genre" shows did not do well compared to "safer" ones. That's a trend that has started to change recently, but Firefly is in some good company.


The way I understand things, Firefly was actually a well received show. I never heard anyone being happy for the cancellation, but I heard many people being sad about it.

My honest opinion is that the show was cancelled more for political reasons. I will present my "findings", although I do not have any confirmed proofs for them.


"Firefly" was absorbed into "Stargate Atlantis" and "Stargate SG-1".


  • Morena Baccarin is shared actress (With SG-1);
  • Jewel Staite is shared actress (with Atlantis);
  • there was a priest-character called "Sheppard" in "Firefly", there was a character called "John Sheppard" in "Stargate Atlanis";
  • a lot of the action happens in starships (as opposed to deserts, laboratories);
  • the main characters made frequent contact with different civilizations from different planets (instead of being e.g. post-apocaliptic SF, like "Mad Max").

I had the first spark of intuition about this when I recognized Morena Baccarin playing Adria / the Orici. When I recognized Jewel Staite playing dr. Jennifer Keller, I started doing "better research", to easily find the "Sheppard" character in both movies (in the meanwhile I forgot about the "Sheppard" from "Firefly").

All these, many years ago, of course.

If I will remember more, I will add here.

I am aware that they might look just like coincidences taken separately, but taken together, they build up the bigger part of what "Firefly" ever was.

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    Canceled due to "Shared actors" ? This seems more like an opinion-based response. No one would cancel their show (which, for a fact was so famous and well received) just because your actors were also a part of another show. -1
    – Shreedhar
    Oct 9, 2020 at 11:48
  • "This seems more like an opinion-based response." - Why it "seems"? I stated it clearly, in plain words: "My honest opinion [...]" . I am curious how things work: the other answer "shows get cancelled for exactly one reason: bad ratings" conflicts with most opinions (that we are aware of), including yours "(which, for a fact was so famous and well received" and yet it gets highly upvoted. Why? This is not an angry rant, just trying to understand.
    – virolino
    Oct 9, 2020 at 12:31
  • Also, not "shared actors", but "shared main actors". As I said, each detail in itself is inconclusive. All together weigh more, the way I see it.
    – virolino
    Oct 9, 2020 at 12:32
  • I don't really understand the supposed cause and effect here. Are you saying that they cancelled Firefly in order to free up actors for Stargate? Was there a shortage of actors at the time or something? How does the similarity of themes fit into the theory? Or are you just saying the shows were too similar, and they didn't want both - in which case, why did they cancel Firefly rather than Stargate, other than because it was less popular? The fact that nobody is "happy the show was cancelled" is unsurprising - few shows are actively disliked, they're just not noticed, so don't make ad money.
    – IMSoP
    Oct 10, 2020 at 13:51
  • That is an original idea, about freeing the actors to make them available in the other show. However, I never saw it in that way, and even now I tend to disagree. My point of view is that Firefly and the Stargate's were competing for the same "market". Since Stargate was already well received, and Firefly was not so much (as you nicely noted), they found a way to make things less hurting. One detail against my theory might be that they were created by different companies - but the said companies could easily cooperate "behind the scenes".
    – virolino
    Oct 12, 2020 at 5:48

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