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Fox acted too soon in cancelling its pricey sci-fi drama Terra Nova, star Jason O’Mara told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour.
In Beverly Hills to promote CBS’ period drama Vegas, O’Mara said Fox took “an awful long time to make a premature decision” on the fate of the series, adding after the session that the series was just finding its feet creatively.
“We proved that with the season finale — there was a lot more story to tell,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “Creatively, we probably could have made some slightly better decisions halfway through but I think that’s par for the course for such an ambitious series.”
While Terra Nova 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 Fox 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, despite critical praise.
O’Mara and Stephen Lang (Avatar) starred in the dystopian drama from executive producers Brannon Braga and Rene Echevarria that featured CGI dinosaurs and took place 85 million years in the past but returned to the 2149 future first seen in the pilot in the finale, which drew praise from critics.
“I think there was a lack of clarity in terms of when the mythology needed to kick in,” O’Mara said. “The first few episodes were strangely stand-alone and there wasn’t much mythology. I think the mythology needed to be kicking in right from that second episode and onward. We needed to commit to the fact that it was going to be a Lost-like mythological series and not apologize for it.”
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 20th Television banked on its performance overseas in a bid to justify the price tag attached to the production, which also featured futuristic technology.
“There was an audience to watch it, certainly internationally. … Domestically, it didn’t quite get there,” O’Mara said Sunday. “Honestly, we were on the bubble and we were a show that they should have just gone with their gut and taken another shot for another season.”
Fox canceled the series in March, three months after its finale, with Netflix circling the property for a brief period before abandoning the expensive effort, which also counted Steven Spielberg among its exec producers, shortly afterward. O’Mara took the Vegas role in second position as he awaited word on Terra Nova‘s future and noted that he would have been equally happy to continue the series should Netflix have opted to move forward with it.
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.
Echevarria told THR in December ahead of the finale that producers had pitched a Season 2 take to the network, with O’Mara confirming that there were multiple pitches for what that would look like.”The showrunners had that conversation with Fox and put together a bible for a possible second [season] but I think that changed a couple of times,” he noted. “It was pitched a couple of times.”
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