Fall TV Preview

Is Steven Spielberg's Terra Nova a Blast, From the Past? Our Fall TV First Impression

The broadcast networks have more than 30 shows debuting this fall, including Charlie’s reborn Angels, homecomings for Sarah Michelle Gellar and Rachel Bilson, and no less than two series set in the ’60s. To help you prep for fall, TVLine is offering First Impressions based on the not-for-review pilots. Next up….

THE SHOW | Fox’s Terra Nova (Mondays at 8/7c, premiering Sept. 26)

THE COMPETITION | Dancing with the Stars (ABC), How I Met Your Mother/2 Broke Girls (CBS),  Gossip Girl (The CW) and The Sing-Off (NBC)

THE CAST | Jason O’Mara (Life on Mars), Shelley Conn (BBC’s Mistresses), Stephen Lang (Avatar), Christine Adams (The Whole Truth), and others

More TVLine First Impressions: Fox’s New Girl, ABC’s Once Upon a Time, The CW’s The Secret Circle and Ringer, CBS’ 2 Broke Girls and Person of Interest, NBC’s The Playboy Club

THE SET-UP | It’s the year 2149, and Earth is in a bad way, due to pollution, depleted natural resources and humanity’s excesses. You can’t breathe the air, overpopulation is being fended off by limits on children, and I’m pretty sure Mad Men is no longer on the air. To offer the world some sort of future, scientists use a cosmic wormhole to send folks 85 million years into the past, to partake in the biggest do-over ever. The Shannons are among the latest pilgrimage of “colonists” to take the ultimate family vacation. But what waits for them on the other side is two parts idyllic, one part mysterious, and one part deadly. Lang plays Commander Taylor, the man in charge of the Terra Nova camp, while Adams plays someone who apparently would like to be in charge.

THE GOOD | Many have been quick to snark about Terra Nova‘s delayed arrival (announced well over a year ago, it was first set to bow in May), but when it hits your screen you’ll see why. There is so much there there, probably due to the mindful eye of EP Steven Spielberg (here flip-floppin the premise of Jurassic Park). The bleak future reads palpably toxic, while Terra Nova itself (played by Australia’s South-east Queensland) is as lush as it is massive in scale. Storylinewise, I came into this knowing pretty much only what I shared above, so I was pleasantly surprised to see well-concealed subplots and character agendas get sprinkled in. (Watching the trailer below, there are at least three moments that play very differently once you have the actual context.) The script has a nice attention to details, such as how colonists need time to adapt to the clear air and vitamin-rich produce of clean prehistoric living. Among the cast, Lang is commanding as the enigmatic Taylor, while O’Mara (again sans his Irish accent) does well as a father/husband trying to do right by his brood.

THE… COULD-BE-BETTER | I’m not coming up with much; as I said, the script does a swell job of dotting the I’s and crossing its T’s. Appreciating that this is a TV series working with a(n albeit sizeable) TV budget, I’m A-OK with the special effects; those looking for the 100-percent convincing CGI of a $200 million summer movie simply aren’t being realistic. Also: There’s talk that Season 1 might only run 13 episodes, because of the post-production needs and dino-mighty price tag. Boo.

Fall 2011 TV Grid: Where Did Your Favorite Shows Land?

THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | The smartest thing Fox did, outside of taking its time with this epic effort, is scheduling it for the family-friendly hour of 8 pm. Given that the network will surely pile on the promotional muscle come summer’s end — and considering Terra Nova is unlike anything on TV, let alone in its time slot — it will be quite interesting to see how big a footprint its premiere makes.

Watch a video preview for Terra Nova, then vote in our poll below.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Dreamrose says:

    To be honest, I’d rather have a short season with high production values than a longer one that looks like a pile of dung because they didn’t have enough money to go around.

    • J. Norman says:

      You are correct.
      I get the impression that this show is going to attempt to have a “Jurassic Park” like movie every week. That won’t happen. They will have 2 options.
      1) They can reduce the number of shows to maybe 10ish and go for quality or
      2) They can cut way back on the CGI effects and limit the dinosaur scenes

      but they are not going to be able to make 22 full hour long moview filled with special effects . They would need American Idol type ratings – at a minimum – to justify that.

    • CF says:

      Does anyone else think this logic fails?

      If your show has x amount of money per episode for the season and you produce half the episodes (giving you 2x per episode), you’ll have more money on the screen, but the possible profits from those episodes don’t double. In fact they’ll they’re more likely to be half (half the episodes to make money on, and lighter/cheaper DVD box sets, and a longer time before reaching 100 eps. for syndication).

      On top of that, shows get more expensive from season to season.

      I think this is one where Fox dug a big money hole, will air a shortened first season to get something out of what they’ve spent and then quickly cancel.

      • brandy says:

        On DVDs, at least, this may not be an issue – Battlestar Galactica has set a precedent for effects-heavy sci fi selling half seasons at full price.

    • Cathy says:

      I agree. That’s why I’m okay with the cable network short seasons. I’d rather have 13 GREAT episodes than 22 OKAY episodes!

  2. Rose says:

    I can’t wait for this show

  3. Nicole says:

    Mondays look awesome…Terra Nova…..DWTS….CASTLE !!!!

    • For me says:

      For me it’s HIMYM (DVR0, Tera Nova and Castle. I’m starting to think I’m the odd ball out who doesn’t like these talent shows (A.Idol, A. Got Talent, DTWtS, Sing Off, SYT You Can Dance etc.)

      • For me says:

        (DVR0, = (DVR), sorry

      • irishrose4583 says:

        I don’t like the “talent” shows much either. give me a good scripted story with good characters anytime!

      • Poppy says:

        @me – you’re not alone, I guess – the two of us oddballs must stick together!

      • Lauren says:

        I don’t like the vast majority of reality shows but I do love SYTYCD and Project Runway. Which 2 out of like 20. The appeal for those shows for me is that it’s based on talent and results. Not a “look” or marketability. Every year the talent on those shows gets better. I’ve been looking for a new good scripted show though and it looks like this one is gunning hard for those LOST fans who feel out in the snow after the finale.

  4. Sam says:

    It’s too bad this isn’t on a cable channel. I would love to see some real peeks into what people actually believe the future generations will be like. But, since this is on Fox, I expect “we’re relatable… from the future!”
    But I’ll totally still watch.

  5. hanope says:

    Terra Nova is played by Australia (South East Queenland specifically).

  6. kateri says:

    I think I’ve already seen this show, it was called Earth 2 and didn’t last long…maybe audiences have changed in 10years?

  7. sarah says:

    Can’t wait! I’ll watch anything with Shelley Conn.

  8. Carly says:

    The Brits have it right – fewer episodes in a season but properly done. I’m psyched for Terra Nova!

  9. G says:

    I was excited before and after hearing your opinion pf the pilot, I just can’t wait for fall! I hope Terra Nova runs for plenty of seasons. It looks epic!

  10. Quist says:

    I’m hoping they’ll focus less on the dinos and more on homesteading; if they don’t have the CGI budget of say, Dinotopia, then I hope they won’t give us guys in rubber Godzilla suits stamping on miniture huts. Hard to say with this, some of us still remember Earth 2.

  11. Terra Nova says:

    Great review :thumbs:

  12. Kevin says:

    I think TERRA NOVA will indeed run 13 episodes for its rookie season even though there’s a good chance for renewing Season 2 and won’t make room from its schedule despite the fact it could make room for ALCATRAZ when it premiere by midseason.

  13. Renee says:

    Thanks Matt! I’m really looking forward to seeing this. Action is my true love.

  14. Danielle H. says:

    This should have been a movie. You can tell that BOOKOOS of money were dumped into this. I’m shocked they aren’t paying the actors $5 an episode just from all the stuff that was crammed into the trailer.

    I’m sure this will do well. People will look into it just because it is the It show of the Fall. I think I’m going to pass though. It looks interesting though.

  15. Elizabeth says:

    Im fine with a shorter season, just hope FOX doesn’t get trigger happy and yank it after the 1st or 2nd episode due to small ratings. I think Monday nights is one of those short-attention span nights during the week and thats why the 1/2 hour sitcoms or even the reality shows seem to do well. 24 was well established and had a loyal fan base when it was dumped on Mondays. (Just my opinion).

  16. Amy says:

    The review makes me more interested in this. Before it looked like a big fx spectacular without much substance to it — good eye candy but probably not thrilling after a few episodes. But hearing there’s a lot of meat to the script draws me in.

  17. QJ201 says:

    If you took the British shows “Primeval” and “Outcasts” and put them in a blender you’d get this served to you in fine crystal by Mr. Spielberg.

  18. larrouxgirl says:

    Fingers crossed that Fox doesn’t get antsy if the numbers aren’t off the charts after the first three episodes. The network has a spotty record with fanciful shows like this one (poor old “Firefly” comes to mind).

  19. Alienate says:

    My main hope is that the script and characters are better than that other Spielberg pile of poop: Falling Skies.

  20. Fudgefase says:

    Won’t they destroy their future by going into the past like this? At the very least upset it? And are they worried about the big asteroid that’s on it’s way that wipes out the dinosaurs? Or am I taking it all too seriously? Lol.

    • Volcfom says:

      I like you’re points. I’m sure they’ll address the asteroid issue – at least I hope because that will be their biggest issue. It would be cool if the series finale would show the effects in “present” time. Although, if they all get wiped out by the asteroid, it will solve the future change problem.

  21. Gavin says:

    Brannon Braga is an executive producer and writer which means that this series will get canceled like everything else he has touched. When he joined 24 the scripts got worse and the show suffered and was ultimately canceled.

    David Fury was an Exec on this, and left due to “creative differences”, which means Braga was probably coming up with time anomaly stories over real character drama.

    Braga is the kiss of death.

  22. Booooozle says:

    I know it’s a 20 million year gap but the only thing I kept thinking about when I saw the trailers for Terra Nove was that they’re going back BEFORE the KT extiction event. Mind you human haven’t been around all that long as of present day & I doubt there’s going to be any huge time jump of millions of years or anything, lol, but the thoguht still keeps running through my head: So what’s gonna happen when they get close to the KT event? Or will people being around back then speed up that event generating more CO2? I hope these human have leanred the lesson of clean tech & that’s the only thing they bring back with them to colonize.

  23. Sivat says:

    Aren’t they worried they are going to dramatically alter the future like in “A Sound of Thunder”?

  24. Michael Sacal says:

    I’m still concerned about the butterfly effect.

  25. tahina says:

    Why Monday nights, to compete with DWTS? This type of shows do better on week-ends. I hope it does great as it looks. FOX has a bad reputation cancelling good shows. I will definitely watch it. ;)

  26. Mikos says:

    I think 13 episodes is just the right number for almost any series to shoot. Less filler, more nutrient rich plots and character development.

    But I DO think travelling back in time is lame. Will watch regardless of that pet peeve.

  27. Calyx says:

    This show will suck ass, looks too expensive make, no new footage on their trailer, whats up with that? Prehistoric plot. Spielberg should stick to movies instead.

  28. Marek says:

    what the… I’ve read this 2 weeks ago!

    • Danielle H. says:

      Yeah, why the heck is this being reposted? We get it, ya’ll want us to watch it (hence the ads and stuff); now review the other new shows.

  29. Rusty says:

    This whole story line is silly. 85 million years in the past?? What for? So we all get to see Jurassic Park 4? Now that they have announced that they are making JP-4 What’s the point? The show would have to leap hundreds of years each episode to show any change in mankind’s possible future. So for a whole season 13 or 20 episodes. What’s going to be the plots? Of course the Dino’s chasing and eating folks, there will be a nut who sneaks through to sabotage the project, power struggle to see who’s in charge, love interests, someone will want to start a new religion to “make the new world according to the bible”
    The new civilization will have 20 million years to do whatever before the big one hits. Our present civilization has been around for 20 to 30 thousand years. Look what we’ve accomplished, good or bad.
    It would have been a better series to have them go back 10 thousand years and have to interact with the people back then to make any changes in the future possible. They might have just made it a wormhole to a different planet to start all over again. Like someone else said ‘Earth Two’ ring a bell?
    Just because Steven Spielberg’s name is attached doesn’t mean that it will be good, just look at Falling Skies..that series sucks but it was renewed after a couple of episodes?? WTF??? I have nothing against the cast. But the whole premise is just lame!

  30. sara says:


  31. Mal says:

    Yeah, I think it looks like a good show, but I’m one of those nerds who is wondering how sending them back to the past works, because wouldn’t everything they do alter the future? Interactions with dinosaurs, using resources earlier than man originally did, evidently having tanks or humvees or something… I hope they explain how they can change history so drastically but still have the future remain unaltered…

  32. Sean Carter says:

    I do now.

  33. lacey says:

    I’ll be watching HIMYM Monday nights, sorry Terra Nova

  34. 18hmr says:

    I saw all the episodes up to date if Terra Nova and I love it! I’ve read some pretty bad review though, after only 4 episodes! Seriously?! I really hope this show lasts, because I loved Heroes
    And its over. I need a new show, and I believe Terra Nova is it. The CGI in the dinosaurs at times doesn’t look real…. But it is the best ive ever seen for TV! It better last!!!!!!

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