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

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.

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