In a Flyover State: Why I'm Cheering for 'Terra Nova'

Why B&C's editor-in-chief is blatantly hoping Fox's big bet pays off

Why This Matters

From the Flyover Notebook

• TCA press tour kicks off this week, and by my count, of all the fall shows trotted out last year at this time, do you know how many are still on the schedule? Zero. Yup, basically the development duo of my 3-year-old and Beetlejuice from The Howard Stern Show could have done just as well.

• If there’s reason for optimism, it’s that more of the pilots this year look like real shows. Personally, I liked 2 Broke Girls on CBS andSmash on NBC, and I was surprised at how good Tim Allen’s new show on ABC was after he and the clip both stunk at upfronts. And I get why critics love B&C cover girl Zooey Deschanel in New Girl, but I’m curious to see if she is mainstream enough for America to agree.

• Speaking of Fox, it says here their decision to tighten the tap on free streaming is going to be trend-setting. Look for the other nets to follow suit in some way. Yes, I get that some have said it was a great week for piracy Websites and you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Sorry, I disagree. I don’t care what happened to the music industry—giving the milk away for free online is not the answer and never will be.

• I know what I just wrote; but I did just get a big new TV that hooks right into our Internet and my 3-year-old sat and watched a YouTube video of nothing but garbage trucks picking up trash cans for as long as I would let him. Think that’s strange? Me too, but the stupid video had gotten 3.2 million views. What the hell are we all doing trying to cast actors and break stories anyway? Turns out reality TV buffs are right: nothing sells like trash. —BG

Is a journalist, much less one who runs a television trade publication, allowed to actually cheer for one network’s show? Let’s find out, because I don’t mind saying I am blatantly pulling for Fox's Terra Nova.

I am a sci-fi dork (but not enough to ever be caught dead at Comic-Con), though that’s not why. And it’s not because I have a dinosaur fetish. Honest.

Terra Nova
was a huge, audacious idea. It feels like we are about to celebrate the fifth anniversary of when the damn thing was announced; that’s how long it’s been “in development.” When Fox trots it out this week at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., it’s going to feel like déjà vu all over again, since the network was talking about it last year before it never launched.

That’s exactly why I’m pulling for it. Fox is taking a massive, massive swing. And that is what broadcast television—especially with all that new retrans cash coming in—has to do. Broadcast networks have to stop sitting back and making the same kind of shows over and over again, and then bitching that cable gets all the buzz for getting 1 million people to watch each week of a 12-episode run.

When Terra Nova was going “Terra Nowhere” for so long, rival networks and studios loved to quietly tell journalists that the thing was a train wreck. Well, as they used to say on The West Wing, if they’re shooting at you, you must be doing something right.

I have seen a version of the pilot, and it feels big. It’s not made to watch on your phone or your iPad or that crappy 25-inch TV in the kitchen you’ve been thinking about replacing. This is grown-up stuff, perfect for that brand new 60-inch plasma you’ve been pricing (jeez, just go buy it already; at press time our country was about to default, so we’re all screwed anyway). Better yet, if I were Fox, I would actually screen the first episode (or the first two together) in movie theatres around the country. It feels that big.

Yes, I’m sure critics will pick apart character development and things like that, and I have no idea where the story about a family that goes from the future back to the dinosaur age will go. But I’m along for the ride, and I really hope it works. Because while I understand that solid shows like Bones and NCIS and Castle pay the bills, if broadcast TV wants to grab some of the buzz back from cable, making ridiculously massive bets is the way.

E-mail comments to bgrossman@nbmedia.com and follow him on Twitter: @BCBenGrossman