Perhaps that doesn't get the point across. The last television series I followed regularly was Babylon 5, which ended in the last century. Cable news programs persisted until 2 years ago, but they also reached the end of my patience. So, in order for me to see a television series, it needs to be available on DVD, and it needs to have generated enough interest for me to have noticed... and then it needs to be good enough to deserve a permanent copy.
Firefly begin to show up on my radar screen by way of Claire Wolfe. Yes, that Claire -- the "Is it time to shoot them yet?" one. We're talking here about a television series, produced from the infamously-liberal mainsteam media, by a director who had just spent the past decade or so turning a blonde cheerleader into a vampire-slaying national obsession. And his next project is winning praise from Claire Wolfe?
So I looked into it. And it turns out the Firefly is not typical Hollywood fare at all. The series followed the adventures of Malcomb Reynolds, a veteran of the Civil War between the Alliance and the Independent Worlds, who "retired" to a tiny cargo ship with an eccentric crew and a list of business opportunities that starts at mildly illegal and only gets worse from there. Smuggling, theft, bank robbery, kidnapping... it's all in a day's work for Serenity and her crew.
If you're wondering how this series managed to survive... it didn't. Firefly was canceled before the first season ended. (If I had to guess, I'd say that the episode where the Serenity undertakes to defend the local house of ill repute from the local sheriff was the straw that broke the media executives' back). But for the 11 episodes they made and broadcast, Firefly was something unique: a well-written, well-produced show with reasonably talented actors that celebrated independence, freedom, and liberty, characters who neither needed or wanted government. There was nothing else like it.
But then the media released the series on DVDs. Unlike broadcast, DVD sales are not dependent on scheduling, obscure timeslots, or competing shows on other networks. Firefly sold like gangbusters. And the result was enough to convince the right people that maybe the show was hitting a chord somewhere. And of course, the cancellation had left a gaping plot hole in the series just when fans were starting to figure out what was really going on with some of the more mysterious characters.
The result was Serenity: a full-length movie to pick up where the series left off and deliver some badly needed answers.
Those answers pack one hell of a punch.
If you're a fan of the TV series, you need to see the movie. Unlike most movie adaptations, it doesn't waste time telling the "introduction" story; it picks up where the series left off and finishes the established arc. The feel is a very close match for the series, making up in polish and intensity what it looses in casual humor and witty reparte. You'll be on familiar ground.
For those who haven't seen the TV series, you'll be happier watching it first. Borrow it from a friend and watch a few episodes. If you like what you see enough to finish out the series, you'll like the movie. If not, you won't. If you can't manage that, though, by all means see the movie anyway. It stands alone quite well, and the additional background from the series is a bonus rather than a requirement.