Whedon Bites Off Another New Series

SOURCE: E! Online

by Mark Armstrong
Dec 19, 2001, 10:15 AM PT

And this year’s David E. Kelley Award for TV multitasking goes to…Joss Whedon!

Yes, the mastermind behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its myriad incarnations is once again at the drawing board, this time developing a new sci-fi adventure series for Fox to debut next fall.

Fox has ordered 13 episodes of the ensemble series, tentatively titled Firefly, which will take place 500 years in the future and revolve around the rogue crew of a “small, incredibly mobile spaceship whose aft end lights up,” Whedon tells Daily Variety (hence the Firefly title).

The series will be produced by Whedon’s Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television, which inked a whopping $20 million deal with Whedon in January so he could develop new shows like Firefly. And with The X-Files currently losing steam in the ratings, Fox is no doubt hoping to have another sci-fi spectacle waiting in the wings if Scully and company don’t return next fall.

Fox Entertainment honcho Gail Berman is hyped about the project, calling it, um, “wicked Joss-like.”

Whedon, meanwhile, says the Firefly idea had been bouncing around his head “for a couple years,” but he finally worked out a concept after reading (oddly enough) about the Battle of Gettysburg and the Reconstruction Era.

“I wanted to make something that’s about a guy who fought for the South, lost and doesn’t like anybody anymore,” Whedon said. “This show isn’t about the people who made history; it’s about the people history stepped on. It’s about their lives and their struggles to keep their ship alive–as well as the search for meaning in a very dark place.”

But, he adds, it will be nothing like Star Trek, and there will be no aliens or monsters. “There’ll be scary-ass humans,” he told Variety. “I can make people that are scarier than anything you can put in latex.”

Just what Whedon needs–something else to work on. The writer/producer, who shared a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination for Toy Story, is already juggling a handful of projects, including Buffy’s WB spinoff Angel, a forthcoming Buffy Saturday-morning cartoon for Fox, the release of Buffy DVDs in January and another new spinoff for Britain’s BBC starring Giles alter ego Anthony Stewart Head.

Of course, such workaholism has caused some Buffy fans to worry, with some cynics even suggesting that the series has suffered because of Whedon’s decision to focus on other projects and hand executive producer duties to Marti Noxon.

Others, however, insist the new producer and new network (UPN) haven’t changed their favorite bloodsucker-battling heroine. And Buffy is still thriving for UPN on Tuesday nights, averaging 5.7 million viewers and giving the network huge gains in the timeslot among total viewers and young adults.