Category: Terra Nova

'Terra Nova' is latest bump in Steven Spielberg's rocky TV history

Terra Nova

Fox's cancellation of Steven Spielberg's pricey time-traveling dinosaur series "Terra Nova" is certainly disappointing to fans but can't be too surprising in view of the world-famous director's track record on the small screen.

Despite a résumé studded with instantly recognizable film hits that have collected both critical acclaim and box-office treasure, Spielberg's forays into television have often been problematic, especially when it comes to science fiction.

Putting aside his career start directing episodic television and movies of the week, Spielberg's first major crack at prime-time TV came with the 1985 anthology series "Amazing Stories." Though Spielberg was at the height of his producing powers at the time ("Back to the Future" and "The Goonies" were released in theaters the same year) and his name attracted top-drawer filmmaking talent (Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood both directed episodes in the first season), the show struggled mightily in the ratings. NBC bought two seasons' worth of episodes at $750,000 apiece without ever seeing the pilot and canceled the show as soon as they were aired.

Spielberg had more success with his animated endeavors, including "Tiny Toon Adventures" in 1990 and "Animaniacs" in 1993. But he went back to the sci-fi well in 1993, serving as executive producer of the underwater series "SeaQuest DSV."

The series, which also aired on NBC, was set in the near future and starred Spielberg's "Jaws" hero, Roy Scheider, as the captain of a hi-tech submersible ship named SeaQuest DSV. Fights between the show's producers and the network coincided with a steep decline in ratings. Though the series premiered as the second-most-watched show on its night (to an audience of 16.8 million), it soon dwindled in popularity, sliding to 78th place near the end of its first season.

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Fox cancels Steven Spielberg's sci-fi epic 'Terra Nova'

Fox has axed 'Terra Nova'

The dinosaurs will roam no more: Fox has axed "Terra Nova."

The time-travel epic executive produced by Steven Spielberg got the bad news Monday that it would not be returning next season, the network confirmed in a statement. There's talk of selling the show to another network, but no formal pitch has been put together yet, according to a source connected to the series. 

One of the most heavily publicized new shows of this season, "Terra Nova" was also one of the costliest TV shows ever, with a two-hour pilot that cost $20 million. Much of that expense went to creating special effects that included sophisticated renderings of dinosaurs that greet travelers who are zapped 85 million years into the past.

The show required six additional weeks of post-production per episode (the typical drama gets about four weeks total) just to process the effects. The Australian locations also added up on the cost side of the ledger. 

The premiere drew a respectable 9.2 million total viewers, according to Nielsen, but the show never grew or broke through in a way that justified its enormous outlay. The finale in December delivered just 7.4 million viewers.

What did you think of "Terra Nova"?


"Terra Nova" finale recap

"Terra Nova" has an expensive secret

"Terra Nova" brings out the dinosaurs

-- Scott Collins

Photo: Jason O'Mara, left, and Stephen Lang in "Terra Nova." Credit: Vince Valitutti / Fox

'Terra Nova' recap: Run, dinosaur

'Terra Nova' season finale recap: Run, dinosaur

“Terra Nova” has come to the end of its first, perhaps only, season — a season that had some pretty good ideas but never really clicked. There’s nothing wrong with that. Plenty of science fiction shows get better in their later seasons, and there were hints of a more promising direction in the season finale. Would I watch a second season of this show? There would have to be a pretty substantial overhaul of the production team, but … I suppose I could be tempted by the premise that’s laid out in the closing moments here, with the people of Terra Nova cut off from the future — perhaps for good — and forced to make it on their own with whatever they can find out in the great prehistoric nowhere.

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'Terra Nova' recap: A Skye story

Here’s something I just realized: Why on Earth do the future folks want everybody in Terra Nova to send resources back to the future, if it’s such a grim, dystopic hellhole? Why wouldn’t the rich and famous of the year 2149 just take a trip back to the ancient past, take over Terra Nova, force the colonists to work for them, and create an idyllic paradise no one else could escape to? If we’re going to believe that there are this many evil folks who want Terra Nova for their own purposes coming from the year 2149, why do they need the portal to go both ways? Why on Earth can’t they be content with the perfect world in the past that’s already waiting for them to move into?

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'Terra Nova' recap: Hiding the shark

Back in the mid-70s, when Steven Spielberg, one of the producers behind “Terra Nova” (though I highly doubt he’s all that hands-on), was making “Jaws,” he hit a bit of a snag. The production was already falling behind schedule and heading over-budget when everybody involved realized the mechanical shark they were intending to use for the, well, shark scenes didn’t work nearly as well as they had hoped it might. The director was left with an impossible scenario: He had to make a monster movie with no monster, a story where the boogey man that jumps out of the dark shadows would periodically keel over and just fizzle out. It’d be like if Dracula stopped pursuing the buxom young maiden because he was having heart problems.

Spielberg’s solution was ingenious—and has become rightly famous in the world of film buffs. He decided to shoot around the shark. Since the majority of the story took place in the middle of the ocean, he could suggest the shark’s presence via well-placed fins or barrels that floated along the surface of the water. These solutions would be much cheaper than just waiting for the mechanical shark to work, and it would save their shark time for the movie’s bloody finale, when they’d really need to see its toothy face. Spielberg’s solution had the added benefit of making the movie scarier. It’s an old trope in horror fiction that what you can’t see is always scarier than what you can, and the more the author or director can suggest the monsters just off to the side, the more the human imagination can run wild.

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'Terra Nova' recap: The Taylor files

“Terra Nova,” along with everything else, is about the wrong people.

The most consistently interesting character on the show has always been Commander Nathaniel Taylor, and now, with this episode, Taylor turns into the kind of character that could be the center of an interesting sci-fi show. There’s no guarantee that show would be good, mind, but he’s at least driven by motivations that are clear and well-handled, and there are hints that he could become a power-mad tyrant or what have you. I’m not trying to suggest Taylor is the best character on TV or anything, but he’s by far the best character on this show, and he’s throwing the failings of the boring, lackluster Shannons into sharper relief, pretty much just by existing.

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'Terra Nova' recap: Dinosaur rasslin'

aylor fights a dinosaur, and Josh makes some bad decisions in the latest "Terra Nova"
Monday night on "Terra Nova," Taylor fought a giant komodo dragon and more or less kicked its big, scaly butt. And lo, it was awesome. Taylor's stories about his time wandering the jungle alone are one of the more compelling things about this show, and this was a good way to hint that if this show were all about Taylor -– borderline crazy, sort of unstable, possibly dictatorial Taylor -– it might be a much better show. Heck, Taylor's son is a better developed character than Jim's son, that mopey kid we have to hang out with all of the time, and Taylor's kid has appeared, what, maybe three times for five minutes total?

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'Terra Nova' recap: Finally, some action

"Terra Nova" has a halfway decent episode, and all it takes is a dinosaur siege to get there
When I said, “Why, yes, Los Angeles Times Show Tracker blog, I would enjoy covering ‘Terra Nova’ for you,” I thought I’d be getting more episodes like "Nightfall." This is not to say that "Nightfall" was a tremendous episode of television, but at least it was largely enjoyable, and it finally took advantage of the fact that the show is set in prehistoric times, rather than seeming like it could be set in just about any small town anywhere.

Let's back this up a little bit, though, and start with just why I thought this show might be a fun one to cover. See, even though I'm one of those fancy-schmancy critic types, I have my weaknesses, things that will get me to pay money or set a DVR pass every time. One of those things is human beings coming into awe-inspiring contact with dinosaurs. I can't help it; I've always had an affection for this sort of story line, and that could be because "Jurassic Park" hit me at just the right age (12) or because my best friend is a paleontologist or any number of other reasons. The point is: For me, the whole premise of this show is a plus.

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'Terra Nova' recap: Outward bound

If "Terra Nova" were a better show, then a moment near the end of this, its fifth episode, might have played out like the great “Pine Barrens” episode of "The Sopranos," in which one character you'd expect to be dead instead mysteriously disappears. Now, the character is almost certainly dead, but there's always that chance that he or she could come back to wreck Tony Soprano's life at the least-opportune moment.

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Why isn't the the new fall season more family-friendly?

"Terra Nova" is one of the few shows airing now that's family-friendly

Much of the buzz about the new fall season has been about the wisecracking women ("2 Broke Girls," "New Girl") and reboots of familiar fanchises ("Prime Suspect," the canceled "Charlie's Angels"). But largely missing are scripted shows about, and for, families.

The only new show that is targeted to a family audience is Fox's "Terra Nova." The lack of shows that families can enjoy together is a reflection of societal and pop culture changes during the last few decades. Still, the trend has sparked concern among critics who decry the absence of shows such as "The Cosby Show" or "Little House on the Prairie" that brought families together in the living room.

For more about why this season is not so "all in the family," read this feature.


"Homeland" mirrors the Gilad Shahit news

Jonathan Ames is too busy to be bored

— Greg Braxton

Photo: Jason O'Hara, left, Landon Liborion, Naomi Scott, Alana Mansour and Shelly Conn in "Terra Nova." Photo credit: Brook Rushton/Fox.


'Terra Nova' recap: Slow war

In "Terra Nova," a young Sixer girl (Emelia Burns) infiltrates Terra Nova and moves in with Jim's (Jason O'Mara) family
I won't say I really liked Monday night's episode of "Terra Nova," but I didn't hate it either. The story more or less made sense. We got some background information on the war between Terra Nova and the Sixers (a war that is happening extreeeeeeeeeeemely … sloooooooooowly, from the looks of things). The dinosaur attack of the week was creatively staged. The new character introduced had just a touch of mystery to her (not bad for a little kid). And the annoying teenager story lines were kept to an absolute minimum. Really, all we had were the scene in which Maddy's new boyfriend declared himself her suitor and the grimace Josh made when he realized he'd have to hang out with those yucky girls. All in all, not the worst episode this show has ever done.

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'Terra Nova' recap: Safety is boring

Let’s continue our symposium on why “Terra Nova” isn’t quite working as well as it might, shall we?

This week, I want to focus on even though these people have been flung back into the middle of the Mesozoic, there’s no real danger to them when they’re in Terra Nova. We got the thing last week about the pterosaurs, which was dangerous enough, I guess, but once you’ve played the flying dinosaurs card, you don’t really have a lot of other cards left to play. This means that the real danger always lurks outside the compound, and while it was cool to see the scientist get gobbled up by a giant Tyrannosaurus-looking thing in the teaser, it’s not immediately clear the show has the effects budget to do that from week to week.

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