"Firefly" cast members Gina Torres, Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin.

"Firefly" cast members Gina Torres, Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin. Credit: BPI Digital

TRIBUTE SPECIAL "Firefly: Browncoats Unite"

WHEN | WHERE Sunday at 10 p.m. on Science (preceded by 7 a.m.-10 p.m. series marathon)

REASON TO WATCH Bask in the love and the lore of a dead show with an enduring soul.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT How weird is it that Sunday night brings both the 200th episode of "Family Guy" and the 10th-anniversary cast reunion of "Firefly"? Fox canceled both shows, too soon, in 2002 -- "Family Guy" after three years of shuffled runs totaling 50 episodes; "Firefly" after a single half-season -- grossly underestimating their appeal, their creators and the fidelity of their fans.

After seeing Seth MacFarlane's animated "Family" lampoon soar in DVD and cable repeats, the network in 2005 revived the pop-culture fusillade that has since dominated Fox Sunday nights. "Firefly" creator Joss Whedon also managed to resurrect his space Western, in 2005's big-screen return "Serenity" -- and in a lasting afterlife for TV's scant pilot-and-13-episodes, now a mainstay of an initially obscure sci-tech channel.

You go where the audience is, when they just won't go away. This hour of warmth even puts those fervent fans on-screen, in a concluding segment from the show's jam-packed panel at this summer's Comic-Con. Better yet, "Browncoats Unite" leads up to that with a backstage roundtable reunion of recall and ribbing among star Nathan Fillion and supporting players Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Sean Maher and Alan Tudyk, plus producer Tim Minear and writer Jose Molina. That's intercut with separate comments from cast members Gina Torres, Morena Baccarin and Jewel Staite (only Ron Glass is MIA), and with key clips illustrating the show's appeal.

MY SAY Not familiar with "Firefly"? Watching Sunday night's "Browncoats Unite" tribute hour certainly delivers the gist of Whedon's space-Western concept -- a ragtag 26th century crew of outcasts and their itinerant search for sustenance, in body and spirit, engagingly punctuated by adventure, relationships and, this being Whedon, wit.

Problem is, this sharp salute will only whet your appetite to consume the episodes that, oops, aired beforehand. So you might want to DVR Sunday's "Firefly" marathon to flesh out the fun.

Hard-core Browncoats (as the show's most fervent fans are known) may complain the roundtable fails to include the sainted Whedon. But his presence tends to dominate whatever he takes part in, sometimes wandering off into verbal curlicues. "Browncoats Unite" keeps the focus on the work itself. And that's what keeps "Firefly" afloat.

BOTTOM LINE "A few idiots" triumph.


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