Fox sees family, not sci-fi, at heart of "Terra Nova"

Sun Aug 7, 2011 12:01pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It may have started out as a time-travel mystery starring dinosaurs, but Fox television now appears to be repositioning its pricey new "Terra Nova" series as a family adventure.

The opening two-hour premiere of the ambitious and much-delayed TV series, executive produced by Steven Spielberg, has been tweaked and partly re-shot ahead of its debut in September to put more emphasis on character, producers say.

"If we don't get (lead character) Jim Shannon and his family right, we don't have a show. It's about story and keeping it strong," director Jon Cassar told TV reporters on Friday last week at a gathering of critics.

"If you don't tune in and love this family in the first hours, it doesn't matter how good the dinosaurs look," Cassar added.

"Terra Nova", shot entirely on location in Australia, is the most expensive first-year show ever for Fox. Executives have declined to give figures, but according to some reports the two-hour opener on September 26 cost more than $15 million.

Set in 2149 on an overdeveloped and polluted planet, the series follows a group of "pilgrims" who are transported back 85 million years to a prehistoric Earth -- complete with dinosaurs -- through a time fracture.

A year ago, producers were touting "Terra Nova's" high-tech special effects, strong environmental themes and sci-fi mystery. Another major plot strand to lure viewers was humanity being given a second chance to save Earth by going back in time to avoid mistakes and reverse the future's course.

That is no longer part of the plot, producers said while promoting the upcoming show. "They are not going back to change history," said executive producer and writer Brannon Braga, who wrote for both "24" and the "Star Trek" TV shows and movies.   Continued...