I suppose one could go on about the appeal of a show which has snappy dialog and likable, multidimensional characters and intelligent, ambitious stories and so on in addition to spaceships and gunfights, but I think what I liked most about Firefly is that it's not... Hmm. This thought doesn't originate with me, but it's stuck in my mind. Unlike most televised science fiction, Firefly is not... stately. Not full of dorm-room-quality musings on the nature of human existence, and all the other juvenile nonsense that always embarrassed us as kids when our parents would wander into the room while Star Trek was on. This is not to say the creators didn't take their job seriously: they clearly did, and put their all into it. But the show didn't take itself seriously. And -- wow, yes, it just clicked for me. Something I've always wanted to see is slice-of-life science fiction: a story about some engaging people in a well-thought-out futuristic milieu, living their lives. And that's exactly what this show is, and I think that's why I liked it so much.
It's a real disappointment that Firefly was the very definition of Too Good To Last. But I wonder what the alternate universe where Firefly ran for nine seasons would have been like. Okay, okay, probably a better universe, but still -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer, also a Whedon production, ran for years and years and you can't stand there and tell me that in retrospect there wasn't a lot of flab in that show. Maybe a reason why this show works so well is exactly that all the creators' effort, all their love and good ideas, is concentrated into such a small space. Worth considering?
In any event, where Firefly is concerned this saying seems appropriate... don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened. There's an alternate universe where there wasn't any of this show, after all.
I guess in the end my only complaint is, aw, Wash :( He was my favorite character.