Skip to main content

FOX’s Terra Nova Gambles on Catapulting Network Numbers

If you watched the new TV spot for FOX’s forthcoming series Terra Nova about a week ago (check it out using the player at the bottom of this page), you were probably struck by one overriding element: “Man this show looks elaborate!” The dystopian future meets Jurassic past storyline blends many motifs we’ve seen before: Irwin Allen’s classic skiens The Time Tunnel and Lost in Space; Swiss Family Robinson; Jurassic Park; Avatar…[insert reference here]. To employ these antecedents is to say it looks BIG. Big not just for television, but cinematically big.
Terra Nova was reportedly spawned by a June 2009 lunch in which FOX execs told Steven Spielberg’s top TV lieutenants that the network was in the market for a family adventure story that evoked the feel of Spielberg’s classic films such as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and the aforementioned Jurassic Park.
Of course, these things don’t come cheap.
The series, about a family from the year 2149 who travel back 85 million years in an attempt to “restart” humanity, is being touted as possibly the most expensive broadcast television series ever made. It has also turned out to be one of the most challenging.
The first two hours of the show — lensing in Australia — cost about $16M. The crew consists of 300 individuals. To put that in some perspective, a typical core shooting crew for network television is 100 to 130 people (not counting construction).
The enormous sets include the Terra Nova “colony”—a massive piece the size of a football field inside 18-foot walls. The set comes complete with a market, hospital and residences.
Meanwhile, an eight foot animatronic velociraptor makes a cameo in the second hour of the pilot.
All of this is something of a television experiment. Networks are recognizing that dramatic television is under siege. Under siege from reality TV, the Internet, Web-based programs, new forms of mobile media…and it’s own tired legacy.
Go big or go home seems to be the new mantra. As cable networks like HBO continue to air epic dramas complete with fully-fleshed out characters (Deadwood, Rome, Game of Thrones), the traditional networks are realizing that to compete in this new world they need to crank out similar offerings so as not to get lost in the media echo chamber.
Still, it’s a gamble. Other major network genre shows in recent years have come and gone rapidly. ABC’s Flashforward and Invasion; CBS’ Threshold; NBC’s The Event and Surface—all failed to garner the viewership needed to succeed.

If Terra Nova is to succeed, it will need more than just Spielberg's visual pastiche, it will need the filmmaker's deft grasp of story and character.
Lost, on the other hand, worked. What it all boils down to at the end of the day is characters the viewer can care about. All the sets and visuals in the world are of little consequence if the characters don’t breathe; if they don’t resonate with an audience. Lost worked because it slowly built up the mystery of the island, while allowing us to get to know a fascinating group of characters in the meantime.
Terra Nova will need to adopt a similar approach if it is to succeed. If we care about this extended family, then their peril will seem far more real. So when those cool CG dinosaurs show up, the whole thing will work organically.
Spielberg’s films, like E.T. and Jurassic Park, only worked, after all, because the director had not only a long-standing eye for the fantastical, but a very acute sense of story, character…and, it should be noted, always picking exactly the right cast.
Meanwhile, the scuttlebutt is that the purportedly troubled Terra Nova production continues to have problems. According to the folks over at Vulture, they wouldn’t be surprised to see the project pushed back once again, this time to a mid-season debut.
Here’s hoping they’re wrong. We fervently hope that Terra Nova can deliver on its promise.

From the excellent


Popular posts from this blog

Star Wars VII Movie Poster - Every End Is A New Beginning

Just saw this Star Wars VII movie poster on Kyle Newman's Facebook feed.  The poster is by Lyndon Berresford and Paul Bateman. 
I am loving this.  Who do you think the two characters are?  Lando and Leia?  Han and Leia's children?

Have you seen other Star Wars VII movie posters?  Let me know.

Rob Wainfur

I need your Star Wars memories for a book

Did Paul Freeman Accidentally Eat A Fly In Raiders of the Lost Ark?

The Famous Indiana Jones Fly In Belloq's Mouth Scene.  Did It Really Happen? I've always wondered if Paul Freeman unintentionally consumed a fly in this scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark?  It's the scene where Indiana Jones shouts down to Bellosh...I mean Belloq and threatens to blow up the ark.  Did a fly go in his mouth?

I remember watching this scene back in the early eighties and my ten year old mind thought he definitely had a snack while filming.  I recall talking about 'flygate' in my school playground at the time and the general consensus with my friends was that Freeman definitely had a sneaky snack.

Paul Freeman talks about the famous 'fly' scene in an interview with and settled 'flygate:'

This is a bit of a dicey question so don’t get too upset. (Laughs) A movie’s always got bloopers in it, some have a lot, and some only have three or four. And the most remarkable blooper was right before the opening of the Ark scene.…

Pinewood Studios To Expand To The Usa

BBC News have reported that Pinewood Studios are to expand to the USA.  This is great news for the famous studio that is rich in movie history.

UK film studio Pinewood Shepperton has announced plans to build its first sound stages in the United States. The Pinewood Atlanta complex will be built on 288 acres of land south of Atlanta, Georgia, as a joint venture with a US investment company. Georgia has been among the US states drawing film-making away from Hollywood with tax incentives in recent years. The deal is the latest sign of expansion at Pinewood, the home of the James Bond franchise. Earlier this month it announced a joint venture with a Chinese media group, potentially giving it access to the fast-growing Chinese market.
Read the full article here.