TV: 4 Ways to Bring Terra Nova Back on the Air… and KEEP It There
Check out these theories on how to improve the show!
“Terra Nova,” the Fox series about people from the future who go back in time to the land of the dinosaurs to save civilization, ended its first season on Dec. 19, 2011 to solid ratings, but the network is iffy on whether to bring it back.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the series averaged 7.8 million viewers and a 2.6 in the 18-49 year-old advertising democratic, which is actually pretty good, even by TODAY’S cutthroat ratings standards.
So why is Fox unsure about the show’s future? Well, “Terra Nova” costs a lot to produce, so the ratings need to be better than average to support the price tag. And reviews of the show have been tepid to harsh for the most part, with writers panning the show's family feel and disjointed focus. (I for one don’t think that being a family show is necessarily a bad thing. No tone or focus is bad, inherently; it just depends on the execution. But in “Terra Nova’s” case, the “Land of the Lost” meets Diet “Jurassic Park” vibe hasn’t been cutting it for some.)
I’ve seen every episode of “Terra Nova,” and I think it’s a show worth watching, but I admit that it could use some fine-tuning. Here are some of my ideas on how the creative team could spice things up:
1 – Give more of the characters a purpose.
“Terra Nova’s” got a lot of characters who don’t do much. I say either trim down the cast or give a WHOLE bunch of them some new functions within the show’s narrative.
The biggest problem is with the Shannons. The mother and father, Elisabeth and Jim, are important in most of the episodes, but two of their kids need a trip to the storyline clinic, stat!
Maddy and Zoe don’t really do much of anything except take up space. What’s Zoe’s role anyway except to be the cute kid of the group? She just exists for these “Awwwwww” moments so viewers can drool over how sweet and precious she is. The writers should give her an illness or make it so that she’s not really Jim’s baby to ramp up the drama. And Maddy, the oldest daughter? I’ll admit, the actress is decent and likeable, but that character doesn’t do anything to drive the show forward at all. The only thing Maddy does is make out with her boyfriend Mark.
The only Shannon kid who actually does stuff that’s important to the overall story of the show is Josh, and that’s not saying much. Sure, he does stuff, but mainly out of stupidity. He was dumb enough to be duped into breaking into the colony lab to steal things for the Sixers when he really should’ve been smarter than that.
2 – Ramp up tension and conflict between characters.
This is related to #1, but it’s really its own category. There were opportunities in season one to put some tension between characters that was never explored. Malcolm, the chemist (or engineer, or whatever he was), was cool, but it seemed like the writers dropped a lot of what they had in store for him. He debuted as Elisabeth’s ex-boyfriend and potential romantic rival for Jim over her affections. He showed up out of nowhere, and Elisabeth was all, “Oh, Malcolm, my ex-boyfriend from college is back, all grown up. Hey boy, how y’all do?” and he was given a prominent role in the colony as one of the science / medical staff. He had a lot of promise.
Malcolm and Elisabeth, as two scientist / doctor types had a lot in common in terms of their profession and life experiences, and they had a history before Elizabeth ever met her husband Jim, the main character. Of course Jim got jealous. He worried his wife might rekindle her feelings for her ex lover, and there were power dynamics that changed because Malcolm was given a powerful role in the science lab, and thus, a powerful role in relation to everyone else in the colony. Would he threaten Jim’s status in the marriage and in the power dynamics in Terra Nova society? We never found out because that stuff was NEVER brought up again prominently. Ever.
And speaking of rivalries with Jim, what about Wash, Taylor’s right hand woman? Taylor leads the colony and protects it, and she seemed like his second-in-command, his most prominent general, in Terra Nova, and then… Jim, this puny little Chicago cop, shows up, and suddenly HE’S the second in command around the colony. What about her? She’s a military woman who’s already fought in major battles, and she’d been fighting dinosaurs and protecting citizens for a while. But Jim comes, a city cop with no military training or experience with prehistoric times or dinosaurs, and she’s automatically bumped down the food chain a bit. She should’ve been PISSED. And it would have made some good drama. It’s too bad she got shot in the head in the season finale. Now we'll never see the friction.
3 - Make it actually scary for these people to be in the Jurassic Age (or whatever age they’re in)
The dinosaurs on “Terra Nova” pop up as an afterthought. In the pilot episode, the show made it seem like the world outside of the colony’s gates was terrifying because there were HUGE ASS lizards who could attack and eat people. Soldiers carried guns and drove around in heavily fortified vehicles in the wilderness, and the colony was surrounded by a tall perimeter fence… with good reason.
And then, mere episodes later, characters start passing in and out of the gates as casually as they’d come and go from Central Park. How many times did Skye sneak off to see the Sixers and return by herself, unarmed? A bazillion. Other characters came and went as they pleased, a lot of times by themselves or in small numbers. That made no sense.
Which leads me to reason #4…
4 – What are the dinosaurs even around for?
Except for in a few episodes, they don’t do anything. The dinosaurs just come around every now and then to remind the audience that this show takes places millions of years in the past. They’re there to tell us, “Look! It’s a DINOSAUR! Isn’t it awesome looking?” Those creatures are purely window dressing and plot devices for the most part.
I say make those mofos some damn contenders. Have some T-Rex eat or severely maul some random extra now and then. (Remember all those red shirt people on “Star Trek?”) Have some of the soldiers straight up KILL some dinosaur in self defense. Make some colonists domesticate some of the dinosaurs and ride them like horses. Do SOMETHING with the damn things more often.
Well folks, there you have it. My theories on what Fox could do to make “Terra Nova” more interesting. Who knows what the producers will do when it comes back, IF it comes back, but I hope it does. “Terra Nova” wasn’t perfect, but it was watchable, and I see potential.
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