Exclusive: 'Terra Nova,' Steven Spielberg's upcoming Fox sci-fi TV series, lays off most of its writing staff
20th Century Fox Television last week canned most of the writing staff, including former "X-Files" scribe Chris Brancato. Brannon Braga, late of "Star Trek: Enterprise," remains in charge as showrunner.
However, insiders insist that the move doesn't mean "Terra Nova" -- whose producers include not just Spielberg but former News Corp. chief Peter Chernin -- is in trouble. The network recently decided to unveil the series with a two-hour special in May and then continue the series in the regular fall 2011 lineup, a roll-out tactic similar to that used successfully with "Glee."
But because that pushed the bulk of episode production back until next summer, 20th Century Fox Television was faced with the prospect of paying a lot of writers to do not very much over the next few months. Instead, it decided to hand out a pink slip to any writer it did not have an overall deal with. Earlier this fall, writer-producer David Fury left after butting heads with other creative leaders on the show.
"These are expensive writers," one insider said.
The studio will either rehire the writers next year -- if they are available -- or scout new talent. But it's clear that Fox needed to find economies where it could. "Terra Nova," a time-travel epic that toggles between the 22nd century and prehistoric times, is already a budgetary Goliath, with some reports pegging the pilot's cost at nearly $20 million. The cast is mostly unknowns but includes such veterans as Stephen Lang ("Avatar").
Fox is thus staring at one of its riskiest bets in years. "This thing is going to be huge and take an enormous production commitment," Fox entertainment president Kevin Reilly told advertisers back in May.
-- Scott Collins
Photo: Steven Spielberg. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Associated Press