Sci-fi show was doing some things right, but failure could make a lasting impact on network television decisions.
Terra Nova is extinct – at least as far as Fox is concerned.
The network announced it was canceling the pre-historic show on Tuesday, after months of delaying the decision.
So what went wrong?
The show promised big things. A show for “everyone,” producer Alex Graves told reporters in January 2011, the show didn’t seem to know what it was about. Was it a sci-fi show? A family drama? An action-adventure series that could mimic Jurassic Park? It was so confused that viewers had no idea what they were supposed to be watching. The ratings were just not living up to the hype. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the season finale matched the season low in ratings. Ouch.
TheWrap says the ‘wooly mammoth’ in the room was certainly the cost. The pilot is projected to have cost between $10 and $20 million alone, with tons of CGI dinosaurs and massive sets.
“It’s a debacle. The cost of the show is kind of a moving target,” one individual close to the project told TheWrap. “They’re down in Australia building sets like it’s going to be the next Jurassic Park.”
Besides the cost, they had producer Steven Spielberg behind the wheel, driving the show. While not necessarily a deciding factor, maybe not the best choice either. The Los Angeles Times says Spielberg hasn’t been as successful on the small screen as he has been with blockbuster films. In the 1990s he had a string of television shows that only aired for one or two seasons like 1993’s SeaQuest, 1994’s Earth 2 and 1996’s High Incident. He’s had much better luck with miniseries like Taken, Band of Brothers, and The Pacific. Sadly, Terra Nova will be another disappointing project.
20th Century Television is shopping the show around, hoping it might be picked up by an international network. We just hope they throw in all those sets in Australia as a sweetener.
Despite its shortcomings, Terra Nova was doing some good things. Time argues that the show was doing two things right: trying to make room for more sci-fi shows on network television and (gasp!) actually making family TV. While certainly not The Brady Bunch, Terra Nova did try to make something the whole family could enjoy.
Its disappearance also means two bad things for other shows this year: Fox’s wallet is going to get a lot tighter after wasting money building prehistoric Earth, and taking creative risks is going to get a bit harder. No one wants to see their show fail, but Terra Nova‘s fall is just another reason to play it safe.
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