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'Terra Nova' fights against extinction

December 6, 2011 | 11:34 am

Fox's "Terra Nova" is fighting to survive past its freshman season.
Are dinosaurs about to go extinct for a second time?

Fox's "Terra Nova," an expensive drama about a family that travels from the year 2149 to prehistoric times to try to save Earth, is fighting to survive past its freshman season. Because the show is costly and takes a long time to produce, Fox ordered only 13 episodes, the last of which will air on Dec. 19.

Now 20th Century Fox Television, the production studio that makes "Terra Nova" for the Fox network, is starting to lobby for a year two.

On the surface, the ratings for "Terra Nova" are not awful. It is averaging almost 10 million viewers in its Monday 8 p.m. time slot, and it is the No. 1 new drama among male viewers.

However, the pilot of "Terra Nova" alone cost about $15 million, and the show is one of the most expensive in history, so it may be hard Fox to justify a second year without higher ratings. The studio will likely try to make the argument that "Terra Nova" has done well in international sales, but that may not be enough to justify the financial risks of a second season.

Part of the challenge all along for "Terra Nova" was that it was trying to be a show that could appeal to families and kids in a time when the audience is very fragmented. A Monday night time slot probably didn't help it much. Sunday would have been a better fit for "Terra Nova," where it would have benefited from having NFL football as a lead-in and a better chance to grab families.

However, Fox has turned its Sunday night over to animation programming. "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" still deliver, but a case could be made that the other shows Fox has tried that night ("The Cleveland Show," "Bob's Burgers" and "Alan Gregory") are just riding the coattails of those two shows.

Going forward, Fox executives may have to decide whether they need to rethink their Sunday strategy if they want to try big-tent shows such as "Terra Nova."

-- Joe Flint

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"Terra Nova" to get aggressive launch from Fox

Photo: A scene from "Terra Nova." Credit: Fox

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