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Terra Nova‘s dinosaurs nibble on Kutcher’s audience

After endless hype and a delayed premiere, Terra Nova’s $20 million dollar pilot finally roared into the primetime race last night. Steven Spielberg’s gorgeous, CGI series had a decent start, but couldn’t beat out Two and a Half Men or Dancing with the Stars.

While CBS ruled Monday night and ABC‘s Dancing with the Stars saw a ratings drop but stayed in second, Fox is calling Terra Nova‘s third place premiere a win. The action adventure series finally stomped onto screens Monday and managed to lure in around 9 million viewers with the promise of dinosaurs, time travel and family drama. That brought Two and Half Men down to a still impressive 20 million (from last week’s 29) and didn’t manage to beat Nancy Grace’s nip slip, but was a decent start for Fox Mondays.

Terra Nova gets a decnt start, but can't topple CBS or ABC

As fall TV aficionados recall, Fox tried to conquer Mondays last year with the equally-hyped soap Lone Star, which barely made it out of the gate before being canceled. The net didn’t fare much better with the replacements, The Chicago Code and Lie to Me, which were aslo ultimately canceled. With that in mind, Terra Nova is certainly a performer for the net!

While TV critics are crying foul on Terra Nova‘s writing and dialogue, everyone who tuned in last night stayed for the whole ride. Clearly, that’s a good omen. There’s also no question that Terra Nova is gorgeous, but that was to be expected: The pilot cost a reported $2 million dollars and in addition to featuring the lush wilds of Australia, it was touched with CGI magic.

The question is, will viewers return for another installment next week and also lure in others with their reviews? Fox has high hopes. Not only has Terra Nova survived the exposition and set up, which can weigh any pilot down, but next week it assumes its 8 p.m. time slot: That means the dinosaurs won’t have to compete with The Kutch.

Terra Nova: What Went down

The two-hour Terra Nova pilot covered a lot of ground, literally and figuratively. The premiere introduced two very different worlds — or rather, the same world, in two different times — through the Shannon family and still managed to keep the action moving.

Terra Nova's Shannon family

The series begins in 2149, a future that finds our planet dark, polluted and devastated. With the earth’s resources diminished, families are limited to two children and, right off the bat, Officer Jim Shannon (Jason O’Mara) and his surgeon wife Liz (Shelley Conn) get caught hiding an extra kid.

With the planet dying a slow death, however, hope lies in the past and the Shannons get a ticket to ride — sort of. With her husband in jail for their baby infraction, Dr. Liz is drafted to time travel to the Terra Nova colony, a utopia as yet unsoiled by man, where blue skies boast puffy clouds and look down on lush forests populated by dinosaurs. Liz slips Jim the tools to escape and he manages to join the family, while sneaking the youngest, illegal child over to the Promised Land in a hail of gunfire.

Clearly, that’s not the best way to make an entrance, but by the pilot’s end, Jim has proven himself to the man in charge, Nathaniel Taylor (Stephen Lang). He’s even earned the right to again protect his fellow man, only to learn about the Sixers, a mutinous crew of settlers from the Sixth Pilgrimage to Terra Nova.

While setting up these two worlds and the mysterious conflict with the Sixers, it quickly became clear that Fox’s Terra Nova is also, at its heart, a family drama. Jim is finally reunited with his family, but it will take a while for him to settle back into life with the wife and kids, Josh (Landon Liboiron), Maddie (Naomi Scott) and Zoe (Alana Mansour), who have survived for years without him.

Teen Josh, in particular, harbors some serious resentment and quickly learns that in this new world, he’s no longer just a kid. This is the future. There’s no time for teen angst. Of course, it still exists.

The action picks back up next Monday. Will you be there?

Images: Fox

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