It's on Netflix streaming so maybe I'll give it a whirl yet.
Thats what I did a few months ago. Just blew through the whole thing on Netflix over a week or so.
I had watched Serenity first. Rented that movie with low expectations (and no knowledge that the series even existed) and found it to be a pleasant surprise. Solid, if unspectacular, sci-fi western stuff. I think it works on an Indiana Jones-y kind of level. The higher production values helped elevate it above the series, which seemed to suffer badly from an insufficient budget.
The series itself I found to be a mixed bag. There are a couple really good episodes (I recall "Out of Gas" being particularly good). The series handles its "sci-fi" better than it incorporates its "western" elements, which are lifted a little too literally. Explanation is given for why some parts of space culture have devolved into a version of the wild west, but I'd have liked to have seen those elements touched up with details that showed how the west mixes with the futuristic aspects. Instead, sometimes the crew will land on a remote planet and things just go "western mode", where everything is a verbatim port of the wild west.
Cowboy Bebop handled the same subject matter, but developed it in a way that made it seem much more natural. Western elements were never so far removed from the futuristic aspects that they felt like they were in another show entirely, as is often the case in Firefly.
What drove me really crazy? Everyone uses western six-shooter revolvers, which inexplicably make laser noises. Sweet jesus I hated that. Edited, Jul 22nd 2011 11:46am by Eske