As proven by another, more successful, Steven Spielberg franchise, bringing dinosaurs back is generally a bad idea. Thus, Fox has decided to pull the plug on Terra Nova: Fall 2011’s high concept series that landed somewhere between science fiction, fantasy and political allegory. 20th Century Fox TV is attempting to shop Terra Nova to other networks, but who knows if the series will find a new home?
Terra Nova entered the airwaves with more hype than any show of the season, and unsurprisingly so. Spielberg backed the series about a family from a tyrannical 2100s traveling back in time to live in a prehistoric society among dinosaurs—but their Utopia turns out to have its own corruptions. That’s a concept with a lot of potential. But Terra Nova never really seemed to find the right voice, clumsily juggling small mysteries, overlapping conspiracies and pseudo sci-fi concepts, none of which packed much weight.
But it’s not always easy to live up to the kind of hype that Terra Nova had. The show is among several projects in recent years with intriguing concepts that were expected to rope in high ratings, but, for whatever reason, didn’t pan out so well.
The Playboy Club
NBC was likely banking on viewers based on controversy alone. This past fall, The Playboy Club took to the air, teamed with a great deal of antagonism from figures like feminist icon Gloria Steinem and pro-family groups. Although the saying goes that there is no such thing as bad publicity, the problem here is that just about everyone opposed the show. Liberals and conservatives alike found it offensive. So, there was really no one left to see what “everyone else” was making such a fuss about. Thus, it suffered a pretty speedy cancelation.
The popularity of Mad Men inspired an insurgence of period dramas. Some, like Boardwalk Empire, have worked out quite well. Some, like Pan Am, simply paled in comparison. The series about airline culture in the 1960s might have worked were not for its inevitable comparisons to Man Men—far more of a curse than the gift that ABC might have thought it would be. The show had an ample cast and potentially interesting subject matter. But the hype did Pan Am in, rendering it just a halfhearted rehashing of the AMC wonder.
Earlier in the year, in the heat of the revival of superherophilia, NBC put a lot of faith into The Cape, a series about a straight-laced cop by day/renegade vigilante by night. The show had potential—the existence of comic book culture proves that the idea is fertile territory. But The Cape only lasted one short season (not the six-and-a-movie many of us were hoping for), proving that people are happier with reincarnations of the superheroes they already know. Even The Cape fans have to get aboard that train.
NBC backed a series in 2010 that might have been the first post-LOST compensation: The Event, a political mystery/thriller/sci-fi whose ambiguous title was the chief reason to watch the show. In the wake of one of the most stimulating political races in recent history, a show about intrigue, conspiracies and the Big Secrets could have been a huge hit. But the network might have been just a season too late to launch The Event. Washington D.C. had been overshadowed by Seaside, New Jersey, by then.