December 19, 2011 5:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Terra Nova' EPs 'Guardedly Optimistic' for Season 2, Tease Finale's 'New Mysteries'
Going into Monday’s two-hour freshman season finale, Fox had yet to make a decision on whether pricey dinosaur drama Terra Nova would return for a second season.
Averaging 7.8 million total viewers and a 2.6 in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic, the series hasn’t been the breakout hit the network had hoped, with its penultimate episode matching a series low.
With speculation that the series could move from its home in Australia, where the production has created an entire world, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producers Rene Echevarria and Brannon Braga recently to discuss those rumors, what they’re hearing about a second-season renewal and Monday’s finale.
“It’s bigger than the pilot in a way," Echevarria says of the two-hour event, airing Monday at 8 p.m. on Fox. “It’s a big production and as big a story as the pilot.”
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The Hollywood Reporter: The series is awaiting word on Season 2, will the finale contain itself or does it set up cliffhangers that it would need a second season to explain?
Rene Echevarria: A few doors are closed, and few new doors are opened. I wouldn't call it a cliffhanger, per se; some tantalizing new things occur (laughs).
Brannon Braga: We promised ourselves and the audience that we'd tell a complete story this season, and we do tell a complete story. Having said that, there new are some new startling mysteries and aspects are uncovered about Terra Nova.
THR: What indicators have you heard about whether the series will get a second season?
Echevarria: We're guardedly optimistic; we're hoping for good news any day. There are a lot of factors in play and a lot of things for the network to consider. We know we have a lot of people there who like the show and we have a core audience that seems to like what we're doing. We're hoping for good news soon.
Braga: The sooner, the better.
THR: What considerations, if any, have you made in terms of potentially moving the series to Hawaii in a bid to lower the costs for a potential second season?
Echevarria: I don't know where that speculation is coming from, it's not really founded. If anything, that would be much more expensive.
Braga: It's a shorter flight (laughs).
Echevarria: Australia is very aggressive in its tax abatements. In terms of keeping production there, the facilities we have in Queensland are world class.
Braga: We also built a town that would have to be reconstructed. It would be a major move.
Echevarria: We're invested in Australia and that's where we would go back.
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THR: Are there any specific cost concessions you're looking to make that would help lower costs for a second season?
Echevarria: We amortized cost of those sets over the cost of the first 13 episodes; they are now paid for. We paid the mortgage (laughs) and that in a sense frees up that amount of money per episode to either go on screen or absorb [costs associated with returning series how] every year, a show becomes more expensive as everyone contractually makes more money. We'd be able to hold the line on costs having amortized that, which I'm sure is a factor.
THR: You've teased that there will be a death of a major character in the finale. Would eliminating a major character help with any budgetary concerns for the series?
Braga: We're not looking to cut costs right now.
Echevarria: That's not part of the conversation right now. You hear a lot of, 'It's a really expensive show.' It's not an inexpensive show but it's not most expensive show on television by a long shot.
Braga: It's an expensive show for a first-year show. We were all pretty much on budget. Season 1 wasn't one of those runaway productions you read about. We found a way to do the show within our current budgetary parameters. The pilot [expense] is well known, but the series came in on time and on budget. None of the conversations about renewal have been about money so far. It's all been creative. When I say it's not about money, but obviously ratings -- it hasn't been about, "Hey, if you can do the show for this much cheaper, let's talk turkey."
We have said that a beloved character will meet their end, but that decision was not a financial one -- it was a creative one. At a certain point in television, the only way to show that the stakes are really high is to show that anything can happen to anybody.
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THR: Do you have a story line mapped out for a potential second season?
Echevarria: We don't have it all mapped out but we have pitched a take on Season 2 to the network and that's part of the decision making process for them. It's a creative conversation with them; it was an opening conversation, it went well, but they have some thoughts of their own and we're eager to get in there and work it out and come up with a great Season 2. They were listening to some of the ideas and had feelings about what did and didn't work for them. It's the beginning a conversation.
THR: How do the ratings compare with what your expectations were going in?
Echevarria: It's such a brave new world with DVR and with other platforms. One of the things you may be hearing more about is VOD. I'm not talking about iTunes or Hulu, I'm talking about people on their cable system watching a show the last five episodes of half shows on TV and that's becoming a bigger deal. We're getting another 700,000 viewers on VOD -- we're getting 35 percent more viewers in Live Plus 3. It's hard for somebody who's been knocking around the business for a while, it's all new. Advertisers are paying attention to those numbers. We wouldn't be having creative conversations with the studio if the numbers weren't at a minimum threshold that makes sense for them. They wouldn't be asking us to come in if we weren't at a threshold that we can build on.
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THR: The finale will go back to the present-day world of 2149, why wait the entire season to, pardon the pun, go back to the future?
Echevarria: That was a phrase we had to work so hard to never use! People "back in the future," and we started saying "2149," which we'll have to change to 2150 soon enough! (Laughing.) We had a 13-episode order, two of those hours were the pilot and that didn't leave a lot of story real estate to be bouncing around too much. The decision made that we would establish the colony and life and the people in this world early on. We were building this world as we went along building new assets for the show -- sets, like the bar and things like that. It would have been difficult to also build and produce that world of 2149 while still amortizing cretaceous era sets. Now that they've been paid for, if we're talking about same amount of money we might have more wiggle room to do those things.
THR: There's so much back story we have yet to see: Who does Lucas work for, what happened with his family with Taylor. How much of the two-hour finale will explore that?
Echevarria: That whole tragic relationship comes to a head for sure and it'll come to a head and they'll go mano-a-mano. You'll find out what makes him tick, why he hates his father so much and why he decided this would be the way to humiliate him and bring him down even if it's not as simple as wanting to take his place. It's worse than that really. In Season 2, as we get to tell the audience about what happened on those 118 days that Taylor was alone in Terra Nova and how that all links back to his personal back story. We may get to go into that. We do have a flashback story that we've thought about doing this year and decided to do in Season 2.