Nick Leshi

Nick Leshi
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Bronx, New York, United States of America
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December 13
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Writer, actor, media professional, fan of entertainment, pop culture, and speculative fiction. Contact nickleshi@aol.com for more info.

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MARCH 22, 2012 11:09PM

Why Terra Nova Failed

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There is talk that Netflix might reach a deal to produce new episodes of Terra Nova, which was recently cancelled by FOX. The much hyped science fiction television show, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, only lasted one season after a long wait to get it on the air. If it eventually does live on, the showrunners hopefully learned from their mistakes. If you promote a show as being about "dinosaurs and time travel," then make sure that dinosaurs and time travel are a pivotal element of each episode's plot instead of just an after-thought -- at least that's what they seemed like to me.

Terra Nova might as well have been a contemporary drama set in a jungle somewhere; it certainly didn't seem to be the groundbreaking must-see-TV event it aimed to be. The interesting futuristic society established in the first few scenes of the pilot episode were never really explored again in depth. The dinosaurs, when we saw them, didn't deliver that sense of wonder that was present in Jurassic Park or other exciting adventure stories of the past. With a name like Spielberg attached to the production, even if he was linked in name only without much creative input, I was expecting more.

As I watched it, hoping the poor-excuse-for-a-story was going somewhere, I grew frustrated with the lack of innovative ideas. The drama was forced and uninspired, the characters were unoriginal stereotypes, and the sci-fi elements were boring, the final kiss of death. 

Despite common belief, a science fiction series doesn't necessarily need to be ridiculously expensive to produce or loaded with special effects, it just needs to have solid, imaginative ideas. Terra Nova, like so many other lackluster television shows, seemed to be making stuff up as it went along, pilfering from other stories to bide some time without really adding anything new or fresh to inspire viewers to tune in week after week. 

Done the proper way with intriguing, meaty storylines, they could have gotten away with showing the dinosaurs sparingly (Spielberg knew how to do that with Jaws, for example), but when the story is all empty calories the audience then grows restless and demands to at least see giant dinos battling each other and hunting down humans for as much of the hour-long episode as possible -- and no multi-million dollar budget can live up to that expectation week after week.

I'm sure others have different opinions on what went wrong, and maybe they can fix it if Terra Nova manages to live again on Netflix or some other place, but that's my two cents, give or take a penny. What do you think?

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I was eager to check out Terra Nova because of the premise and the Spielberg connection but soon lost interest in the series...Not sure this dead dawn horse is worth reviving... but the key will rest on the writing and creative force behind the project--someone with the gifts that Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams can bring, for instance.
The idea is great, and it could have been a big hit if it was picked up by HBO or Showtime. The production was cheap; cheap writing, cheap sets...R
I really wanted TN to work, to be entertaining, to be Star Trek TNG in the other direction. Na, no way. No deep meanings, no tie ins to current day issues, no state programs to control same sex or no sex romances, no one even close to Picard or Q. Did they not advertise there would be dinosaurs on the tour? I think the cast tried but were given little to work with. The only reason to revisit and bring it back is, I really want to see whats in the Badlands.
Fox doesn't really see scripted series as being the future. When they start new scripted shows these days, they tend to do it cheaply and without much effort. Glee is a cheap show to produce and it gets tons of money from ads as well as the music they sell. They want every show to be like that. A well scripted and produced sci-fi show just doesn't fit their motives. Hence, nobody watched it and it never had a chance.
OzTech, good point, but are you suggesting that Terra Nova might have had a better fighting chance on a different network? Unless it was dramatically different from the show I saw, I don't know if that's true.
You pretty much summed it up, Nick. I can sum it up in 4 words--it wasn't very good.
We lasted about 2 1/2 episodes and went off in search of something a bit less mundane.