Coincidental or not, it’s been the year of Steven Spielberg. First, it was his collaboration with J.J. Abrams on the film Super 8, and then, two television shows in one year. The first aired this summer on TNT, the post-apocalyptic, alien-infested Falling Skies, and then this fall, the time-traveling, dinosaur drama Terra Nova on FOX. I want to talk about the television shows, not the movie, and why I gave up on both.
Oddly, I was never interested in Falling Skies, a show that should be right up my alley. But it was airing during the summer, a time when I want a break from television, and it was on TNT, which shouldn’t matter, but for some reason told me I wasn’t interested. Plot-wise, the post-apocalyptic survival story felt like The Walking Dead, but with alien overlords instead of zombies, but still, I wasn’t interested. My husband was though, so we set our DVR to record the series and watched when we felt like it.
Turned out, that wasn’t much. The pilot was solid, and I was engaged. The balance between post-apocalyptic horror and family drama was compelling and worth-while. The characters were immediately sympathetic and immediately recognizable. But as the episodes progressed, we found ourselves less and less interested. The pacing started slowing down, and it felt like they were doing the same thing every episode, so we let the series build up on our DVR. We watched four episodes total, and the remaining six of the first season were sitting, waiting on the DVR. But the longer we waited, the less interested we were, until my husband and I decided that despite hearing the show got better as the season progressed, we just didn’t want to watch it. So we deleted it.
Then there’s Terra Nova, a show I just had to watch because I couldn’t resist dinosaurs on my television. The pilot was promising, but I found I was more engaged in the future story, the dystopian climate of 2149, where families are capped at two kids and people have to walk around wearing re-breathers. But once we got to Terra Nova itself, things seemed a little too clean, a little too shiny and happy. That may be intentional, because as the episodes progress, the viewers get the impression there’s more to Terra Nova itself than just humanity starting over. We just don’t know what.
What turned me off on this show was just how much of a family drama it was. Sure, at 8:00 pm, what did I expect? But every episode was pretty well self-contained, and the writers are trying to hard to appeal to the different age groups (kids with a sense of wonder, teens more worried about a love story, and macho men surviving in prehistoric times) that I felt like the show didn’t have a real focus. And when you consider one of my favorite shows is Lost (don’t be hating!), you can imagine how the simplistic, episodic nature of Terra Nova drove me batty. That’s not to say that Terra Nova didn’t have some interesting continuity: there was the question of the Sixers, and the question of what was really going on with Commander Taylor’s missing son.
But with every episode, I was less and less engaged. A pretty show, though I’m not too sure about the dinosaurs (poor bastards needed more screen-time, that’s for sure, but save for one, I don’t think we met an actual dinosaur that really existed; the writers kept making them up. But maybe I’m just behind on my dinosaur lore?). There was also the fact that I didn’t believe what the show was telling me. I’m convinced that Malcolm is the Sixer spy, and that time travel is not a one-way street, and that before the season is over, the hero, Jim Shannon, is going to be marched back to prison in 2149 and forced to finish his sentence plus a little more for his escape. Call me crazy, and I may be wrong, but if I’m not? That’s why I stopped watching the show, because it feels easy to predict.
It’s a show that if I didn’t watch live, I didn’t want to catch up on. I had no excitement for the upcoming episodes. So after a bit of debate, the hubby and I took it off our DVR queue.
It’s an odd thing: comparing Falling Skies to Terra Nova gives the viewer a lot of superficial similarities. The old, grizzled commander. The attractive, somewhat exotic female lead. Kids, kids, and more kids, though at least the teens/kids in Falling Skies didn’t come off quite so bland as the ones in Terra Nova.
But I suspect those very same superficial similarities were part of the problem. Launching both shows in the same year, albeit in different television seasons, gave the target audience a sense of having been there, done that. I felt a little stretched by premises too similar to each other, and it caused me to cancel both shows.
Does that mean both shows were actually great shows that deserved my attention? No. I think both had their flaws, and both had their entertainment value. I just got bored with both of them. Falling Skies because I never really wanted to watch it to begin with, and Terra Nova because it made me wish I was watching Jurassic Park instead.
But what about you? Anyone here watching either show? Do you love them or hate them? Let’s talk! I’m happy to be spoiled for how both shows turn out, so don’t feel the need to censor yourself!