“Terra Nova” ended its season Monday (Dec. 19) with what was, by most accounts, one of the high points of its 13-episode run. The two-hour finale delivered more action and higher stakes than almost any of the episodes that preceded it this fall.
And therein, to some extent, lies the problem. Because of the extensive amount of post-production work required on “Terra Nova,” FOX has to make a renewal decision on the show fairly soon — certainly well before the network sees what its crop of pilots for next season looks like, and maybe even before its midseason dramas premiere in mid-January.
So does the network make a renewal decision based on the potential the finale showed, or the performance of the 11 hours that came before it?
The ratings put “Terra Nova” squarely in bubble territory. The show is averaging a shade under 10 million viewers and a 3.6 rating among adults 18-49, but that’s with DVR use included for most of the season — and Live +7 DVR ratings aren’t the biggest piece of the ratings puzzle when networks determine what stays and what goes. Overnight ratings for the show in recent weeks have been in the neighborhood of 7 million viewers and an 18-49 rating in the low 2’s.
On the other hand, the DVR numbers do show that a fair amount of people are watching, eventually at least. The show has also had enjoyed strong sales outside the United States, which could help cover the higher-than-usual tab.
The show is on the verge of picking up the contract options for stars Jason O’Mara and Stephen Lang, Deadline reports, and is also looking to beef up the writing staff for a possible second season. That could be read as a positive sign … or as a relatively inexpensive way to buy some more time before making a decision.
Which brings us back to the creative direction of the show. There were flashes of a very solid show in a number of episodes: Taylor (Lang) and Mira’s (Christine Adams) jungle adventure midway through the season and the rebels-against-the-occupying-army sequences of Monday’s finale come immediately to mind. But as other critics have noted, those high points were more than offset by a tendency toward soft characterization, a preponderance of saccharine family storylines and a frustratingly muted sense of just what the Terra Nova colonists gained and lost by traveling 85 million years back in time.
If we were laying odds on the possibility of a second season, we’d say it’s about 60-40 in favor of a pickup — but that’s mostly a gut feeling. What would you do? Is “Terra Nova” worth keeping around, and if so, what do you want to see in Season 2?