My gut says it shouldn’t be so hard, but every time there's a new science fiction show, among the most irritating characters are the teenagers or the kids. ("Lost" sort of avoided this by making little boy Walt deeply mysterious and potentially powerful; it also ditched the character for the most part at the end of its first season.) "Terra Nova," with its stories of families starting anew in the past, definitely seems as though it should be able to tell fun stories about families that merge gracefully with fun stories about dinosaurs. Instead, the family stuff continues to be irritating. Why?
There are a lot of things you can call the two-hour premiere of “Terra Nova,” but one of them isn’t “dull.” It has its problems, sure, but it moves like a rocket, and there’s always something happening or someone about to be munched upon by a dinosaur. There’s lots of fun stuff going on, and the dinosaur effects are good, so it’s easy to give a pass to some of the clumsier elements, even if they rankle just a bit. But before we dive too far into what the series is, let’s take a look at its characters, as established in the pilot.
What they may not know is that it's probably the most expensive series in TV history.
The pilot for Steven Spielberg's time-travel epic reportedly cost a record of nearly $20 million. The big question, though, is whether the show can overcome viewers' longtime skepticism toward science-fiction series.
"We're striving to have the most impressive special effects that have been seen on television," said Fox studio chief Gary Newman, who also admitted that some of the early going -- including painful personnel changes among the top writer-producers -- was "rocky."
You can read more about "Terra Nova" here.
Show Trackers, do you plan to watch?
-- Scott Collins
Photo: Jason O'Mara, Landon Liboiron, Naomi Scott, Alana Mansour and Shelley Conn in "Terra Nova." Credit: Brook Rushton / Fox
Yes, it's chockablock with dinosaurs and other nasty beasts. But the producers of Fox's new sci-fi epic "Terra Nova" describe the show more as a western.
Speaking to reporters Friday at the Television Critics Assn. media tour in Beverly Hills, executive producer Brannon Braga repeatedly dubbed the series as a "frontier" story -- it's just that in this case, the family is time-traveling to a prehistoric frontier, where instead of native tribes they encounter some rather large reptiles.
It may take awhile to get that message across, though. "It's going to be impossible to keep your kids away from the dinosaur show," said executive producer Rene Echevarria, with the tone of a man who knows exactly what his project's big selling point is.
Dinosaurs are a big part of what has made the show so difficult to shoot and edit. "Terra Nova" was announced well over a year ago but visual-effects artists had to create new motion-capture technology and software to make the show work.
"All of the visual effects houses we initially approached said, 'Nah, can't be done. Not on time,'" Echevarria said.
It helped that they just happened to have someone with some dinosaur expertise: "Jurassic Park" director Steven Spielberg, who also serves as an executive producer on the series, although his day-to-day involvement has been limited. "He has a lot of input on the dinosaurs," Braga said.
Producers have continued noodling with the pilot, most recently adding scenes at the beginning to give more back story on Jim Shannon (Jason O'Mara), the tough cop whose family is at the center of the drama.
The hope is that though audiences may come for the dinosaurs, they'll stay for the Shannons, who face their own internal battles as they struggle to adjust to their new environment.
As O'Mara joked to reporters: "We're also cheaper than the dinosaurs."
-- Scott Collins
Photo: Jason O'Mara, from left, Landon Liboiron, Naomi Scott, Alana Mansour and Shelley Conn in Fox's fall drama "Terra Nova." Credit: Brook Rushton / Fox.
It's the most wonderful time of the year — that is, if you're a fanboy or girl in San Diego this week. That's right: Comic-Con has officially started. And this year's confab isn't too shabby, with Steven Spielberg making his first appearance to discuss his motion-capture movie "The Adventures of Tintin." And, of course, there's the unveiling of Andrew Garfield as the new Spider-man.
But TV is also proving to be a big draw at this year's sold-out event. Ballroom 20, Comic-Con's room dedicated to television, will feature panel presentations from HBO's "Game of Thrones" and "True Blood" and AMC's "The Walking Dead."
And several studios are planning to screen pilots, including J.J. Abrams' "Alcatraz" and "Person of Interest," and Kevin Williamson's "The Secret Circle." There's also "Terra Nova," "Once Upon a Time" and "Grimm."
If you weren't lucky enough to score a ticket to the annual geek pilgrimage, rest easy. Our sister blog Hero Complex has reporters on the floor to cover as much of the madness as possible.
-- Yvonne Villarreal
Photos: Top: Sarah Michelle Gellar in "Ringer." Credit: The CW. Bottom: Sorana Caldwell (left) and Gilia Melendez walk Comic-con in costume. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times.
Be still our "Lost" hearts.
Even though the producers of the new, expensive, awesome-looking "Terra Nova" don't want us to compare the new Fox drama with the dearly departed ABC show, we can't help ourselves.
Fox showed a three-minute clip of the two-hour pilot at press tour Tuesday, and what we saw was beautiful: Australian landscapes, jungles, a rain forest and good-looking, talented actors.
No smoke monsters in this tale, but there are dinosaurs. So it also reminded us of "Jurassic Park." Sue us.
Seriously, we're not trying to say the show is a knock-off. It really does look spectacular. We're just using references, you know, for the regular folks out there, outside the freezing Pasadena ballroom, where we have been living for seven days.
Production on the pilot wrapped recently, so the only footage Fox has offered critics is the clip shown Tuesday. The Steven Spielberg-produced epic (no, he did not appear on the panel) is the story of how humans from 2149 travel to prehistoric Earth in an experiment to save the human race. In that year, the planet is overdeveloped and overcrowded, and the world is dying. Scientists discover a fracture in time that makes it possible to construct a portal into primeval history and the idea of rebuilding civilization emerges.
The show centers on the Shannon family as they arrive in Terra Nova, the first colony established in the new land. Jason O'Mara plays the father, Shelley Conn plays his wife, Landon Liboiron is their 17-year-old son, Naomi Scott is their 15-year-old daughter, and Alana Mansour is their 5-year-old daughter.
Although rain did not factor into the scenes in the clips, Fox executives told the press Tuesday morning that it rained every day during the six-week production. In fact, there were flash floods that put a security guard at risk.
"It was challenging, but it always fantastic," executive producer Alex Graves said. "Every time we'd say 'action,' something incredible was happening."
One of those incredible things is Stephen Lang (who knows you all hate him from "Avatar" and is fine with it) as Commander Nathaniel Taylor and welcoming the "immigrants."
"Together, we are at the dawn of a new civilization. Welcome to Terra Nova, folks. Welcome home!"
Not exactly "Live together, die alone," but we'll go with it.
"Terra Nova" will get a special introduction May 23 and 24 after "American Idol" and then join the Fox lineup in the fall.
— Maria Elena Fernandez
Photo: Jason O'Mara, left, Landon Liboiron, Naomi Scott, Alana Mansour and Shelley Conn as the Shannon family in "Terra Nova." Credit: Brook Rushton / Fox.