Fox took a "big swing" and missed. The network has opted not to move forward with a second season of its Steven Spielberg time-travel drama Terra Nova.
The news comes as Fox has an increased roster of hourlong dramas, including J.J. Abrams' Alcatraz and Kiefer Sutherland-Tim Kring's Touch, and heavy hype surrounding its drama development. Given Terra Nova's international appeal, however, its studio, 20th Century Fox TV, will attempt to shop the big-budget series to other networks.
While the pricey dinosaur series averaged 7.5 million total viewers and 2.6 million in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demo in its 11-episode first season, it failed to catch on the way the network had hoped. Its two-hour finale matched a series low in the demo, drawing a 2.1 rating among adults 18-49 and an audience of 7.2 million.
Addressing reporters during the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in January, Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly said the network was waiting to make such big decisions as the fate of the Spielberg series until they had a better sense for both the midseason series and development projects. "I do feel fortunate that we have some high-class problems," he said at the time. "[Terra Nova] was an exciting bet to take and it's proven that it was worthwhile."
To be sure, Reilly and his team had hoped the series would fill a big-event genre programming void left by the departure of such series as Lost and 24. "Terra Nova is a big swing -- and the best of Fox tends to be big swings, in concept and/or tone," he told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the series' premiere. "We are in the big-bet business. So if you're looking to break through and garner a big share of a fractured audience, and it is going to be costly regardless, you take the most exciting shots you can for your audience."
And a big bet it was. The cost of the twice-delayed two-hour premiere has been pegged at a price tag between $10 million and $20 million, a fee Fox brass argued would be amortized over the course of the show's first season. Premiering nearly day-and-date across international territories, both the network and studio banked on its performance overseas in a bid to justify the price tag attached to the production, which features futuristic technology as well as CG dinosaurs. Returning to Australia for the show’s second season -- as opposed to moving it to Hawaii as was originally discussed -- was another effort to keep the budget in check.
But when the series finally made it to air in late September, it met with an underwhelming response from critics and viewers alike. Still, while the family drama opened to only 9.2 million total viewers and a 3.1 in the key demographic, it managed to hold on to 97 percent of the demo viewers in week two, a promising sign for a freshman series.
Heading into the Dec. 19 season-ender, executive producers Brannon Braga and Rene Echevarria told The Hollywood Reporter that they were "guardedly optimistic" about a renewal and described early talks with the network about the direction that a potential second season could take. "We have pitched a take on Season 2 to the network and that's part of the decision making process for them," Echevarria said. "They were listening to some of the ideas and had feelings about what did and didn't work for them."
After quietly picking up the option on castmembers Stephen Lang and Jason O'Mara, the cast and crew began finding other gigs while the network dragged out its decision, once expected by December 2011. Already, Lang has booked a three-episode arc on USA Network's In Plain Sight, while executive producer Jon Cassar has reunited with 24 pal Suthlerland to direct an installment of Touch. Today's long-awaited decision frees up the show's many stars to consider other pilot season opportunities.