I heard today that Terra Nova has been cancelled. This saddens me because I was one of the apparent few who watched the show. I dvr’d it if I wasn’t home. I imdb’d the cast during commercials. I always stay tuned to catch a sneak peak of next week’s episode.
There are a handful of TV shows I have loved so much that viewing them is akin to a religious experience. Tops in my small-screen hall of fame are Lost and The X Files. Destined to join them one day are Dexter and Fringe, and probably Walking Dead. But the jury’s still out on that one.
Even if it had been renewed, I don’t think Terra Nova would have made the elite list. The characters didn’t crack your heart open the way Charlie, Hurley, Sayeed and the rest of the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 did every week. (Just writing their names makes me verklempt). Despite their attractiveness, Terra Nova’s leads never generated the romantic chemistry that Scully/Mulder/Dunham/Bishop delivered. Maybe because the Shannons were already married with kids and often too exhausted to have sex let alone create any tension over it. Most importantly and most egregiously missing were those jaw dropping moments that instantly attach themselves to hash tags across the Twittersphere. Those shocking twists and reveals that have you yelling out loud, “Oh my God!” even though you’re watching alone.
So why am I disappointed that the Shannon saga is no more? Why did I ever start watching it in the first place? The answer is simple. Dinosaurs.
In my 49 years I can honestly say, with the exception of Barney, I have never met a dinosaur I didn’t like. The first one I ever saw was a Ray Harryhausen allosaurus chomping on a caveman in One Million Years B.C. Being 4 years old at the time, I wasn’t too concerned that cavewoman Rachel Welch wore eyeliner, let alone co-existed with dinosaurs. All I cared about was the menacing monster appearing out of nowhere. Maybe it was because I had an older sister who scared the crap out of me. It was comforting to know there was something bigger and badder than her, even if it only existed in stop animation.
Sometimes dinosaurs showed up in the nick of time and saved the day. It was a sixties sci-fi staple to see the romantic leads cornered by a tongue slashing gargantuan (Usually a garden variety iguana tricked out with triceratops frills or spikes). Just as the hero and heroine were about to become steak tartare, a second dinosaur would arrive on the scene and a lizard smackdown quickly ensued. Through an obstacle course of whipping tails and tendrils, the humans used the distraction to make their escape.
One classic example of this scenario featured David Hedison and Jill St. John in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World. Michael Creighton not only borrowed the title for the sequel to Jurassic Park, the climatic scene in the first Spielberg screen adaptation paid homage to this motif. The sequence with the raptors chasing Alan Grant and company through the compound were some of tensest moments I’ve ever spent in the movie theater. Thank God for T-Rex party crashers.
My son inherited my love of dinosaurs and related beasts. By the time he was four years old he had already seen every Godzilla movie rentable at our local video store. (Video stores – another victim of natural selection). I introduced him to the fire-breathing rubber-suited dude mostly to keep my sanity. His obsession with Biollant, Hedorah, Rodan and King Ghidorah kept Barney and Friends off our TV screen and out of our lives.
I’m not sure if I passed all of my dinosaur fixations onto him, though. I don’t know if he ever looks across a meadow on a bright sunny day and wishes that a brontosaurus head would suddenly pop up over the tree line. Or if he ever looks at a piece of construction equipment and wonders what the dinosaur equivalent would have been back in Bedrock. Actually, I do know that he never watched a single episode of Terra Nova, so clearly the fruit has moved on from the tree.
I guess impact tremors and deafening roars just aren’t thrilling people the way they used to. Maybe if the characters in Terra Nova had been stalked by prehistoric zombies or sexy vampires instead of giant man-eating predators, ratings would have been higher. A TV show about serial killing zombie dinosaurs. Now that would be worth tuning into!