Watching last night's episode of Terra Nova, Fox's time travel dinosaur serial, we came to a realization: It's a very, very strange show.
Last night's episode, about the hunt to uncover a secret spy amidst the colonists' ranks, wasn't particularly weird or anything, but it still helped prove our bigger thesis. What is so strange about this show? Well, as others have noted, there is something curiously square about this series. It's a family program in the way that "family programs" hardly exist anymore. There's something very 1990s about it -- it's not squeaky clean like something older than that, it's still trying to have a little edge to it, but boy if it isn't mostly four or five slabs of butter a week that are neatly cooked down by the end of the episode. The show is so neatly wrapped up every week there should be a "The End" title card at the close of each episode.
And that is definitely strange! Strange for the TV landscape of 2011, strange for a major Fox show on a Monday night. Remember when shows like this -- and we mean exactly like this -- used to air in syndication on Saturday nights? This show's analogues aren't Fringe or Lost or Battlestar. They're Xena and Relic Hunter and the stupider episodes of Star Trek: TNG. There is something so mysteriously, almost alarmingly, goopy and retro about the show that it's hard to feel like you're not missing something, like there must be some other angle or reason or nuance to the show that you're not getting. They can't possibly have just put Hercules: The Legendary Journeys with dinosaurs on the air in 2011, right?? Wrong! They did. They totally freaking did.