Having stuck with “Terra Nova” since the beginning — and waited patiently for the show to return from its post-baseball break, hoping for better — I have to say it’s official: Creatively speaking, the series is a disappointment.
Although everyone was calling this Fox’s “dinosaur drama,” let’s face it, the big lizards were just over-sized bait — thrown out there to attract the rubes. This is really a family adventure, one where the kids are attractive but not particularly interesting, and the parents — despite the appeal of Jason O’Mara and Shelley Conn — are such goody two-shoes it all leaves a nagging saccharine taste.
The producers also seem somewhat at a loss regarding how to sustain self-contained episodes without unveiling too much about the larger mythology. Two weeks ago, that meant doing a murder case — as if this was “Law & Order: Special Dinosaur Unit.” Last night offered a slightly better “Omigosh, the camp’s lost power!” plot, but also side trips that were tedious, and an extended fight scene that resembled something out of a Jackie Chan movie.
For Fox, the question of what to do with the show beyond its first-season run becomes interesting. Given the auspices, one suspects it wins in the case of a tie. Yet the ratings are hovering in a so-so range, which is magnified by the fact that even though we see dinosaurs only sporadically, this obviously isn’t an inexpensive program to make.
In hindsight, the show’s problems were probably foreshadowed by the changes made to the pilot, which eradicated any suspense or mystery and went instead with hammering viewers over the head with the “We broke the two-kid rule” twist right out of the starting gate. It served notice that “Terra Nova” was more intent on being a blunt instrument and hoping families came along for the ride.
The result, alas, is a creature that’s neither fish nor fowl. And despite its promotional appeal and promise, it won’t be a surprise if it winds up becoming extinct prematurely.