Here’s latest entry in a beloved genre, a look at a show that hasn’t aired (or even quite finished its first episodes) yet, but is clearly running into some trouble. This is Fox’s huge-budget “Terra Nova,” the story of a family from the future going back to prehistoric times and forward again in order to save the world; yes, it’s the biggest and expensive-est of the many attempts to create a new Lost. The production delays on the show, as detailed in this story, stem from two things, though the two are actually related: they went through untold numbers of writers and producers, and the shooting of what was supposed to be a two-hour launch didn’t produce two hours (meaning 80 minutes in TV terms) of usable material.
I was glad to see some pushback, in the piece, against the attempt to blame the pilot director, Alex Graves, for the problems; as one insider notes, these things start with the producer and the script, and they started shooting without really having worked out the bugs in the script.
I’ll avoid harping too much on this issue, for two reasons:
a) I burned myself out on wondering “is [name of Fox project] in trouble?” when Dollhouse was in pre-production, and even with that show, the problems really were much more fundamental than the ultimately minor stuff that was being hashed out in the press. (Yes, they substituted a new episode for the original pilot, and so on, but the premise and the lead actress were the big problems from beginning to end.) If Terra Nova fails, it probably won’t have much to do with the cost overruns or the weather in Australia.
b) Terra Nova might wind up being a hit, and then everything I or anyone else might say about it will look silly in retrospect – not that that would stop me. But it is lucky in the sense that it will come along when all the other Lost clones are gone and forgotten, and having a more interesting premise than those other shows (most of which spent too much time in dull cities as opposed to Lost‘s lush island), it has a shot.
The lack of any particular creative voice on the show, a major warning sign as well as something that might actually contribute to failure (if it fails, I mean) does seem to be part of an overall trend away from God-like creators. Terra Nova is described as a “feature idea,” and it’s being put together like a feature: the idea is developed and assigned to many different writers, as many as are needed to pull it together. It’s a network project, or a studio project, not really any one creator’s project. AMC has more shows like this (starting with Rubicon, a show where the original creator was expendable) and HBO’s Game of Thrones is a pre-sold idea where we’re not hearing much about the creator/writers of the series itself, as opposed to the creator of the books. These are projects where the network is the auteur, as opposed to your Sopranos or Mad Men or type shows where the creator of the show is the star.
And yes, I know, this show does sound a lot like a remake of this one. But this one came in under budget.