I disagree. I think a lot of the reason Firefly works is because we still get the cultural significance of the wild west imagery. As soon as you grok that it’s the wild west in space, you suddenly understand that Mal can do things that’d be downright evil in the midst of society, but are simply pragmatic on the fringe. I suppose it could have been set in any other way and they could have expounded on this ad nauseum, but really, all they had to do was set it as a western and 95% of the people watching will innately understand the whole “frontier = rough times” underlying theme. We just don’t have any other cultural reference as strong for implying “The far frontier” as “western”.
I may just go buy the DVDs just to throw some more cash at the franchise, even though its too late anyway.
IMO, buy the DVDs to watch them again. They’re good multiple times, really. Whedon writes some compelling characters. (Though I think he got mired in Buffy about college time, when he lost the main vampire=supernatural threat -> teen angst made real link.)