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Will Fox's $50+ Million Gamble on 'Terra Nova' Pay Off?

The MediaWorks Guide to Fall TV: 'Terra Nova'

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'Terra Nova' follows a family that travels back in time to prehistoric Earth.
'Terra Nova' follows a family that travels back in time to prehistoric Earth. Credit: Fox

I've discovered that there are some seemingly universal journalistic rules of thumb when it comes to describing Fox's new series "Terra Nova": Besides mentioning the basics -- that it's a Steven Spielberg-produced family dinosaur time-travel drama -- it is apparently imperative that the modifier "big-budget" appear in any coverage of the show, as well as, for good measure, words along the lines of "plagued by delays."

And so! Tonight at 8/7 Central, we finally find out if Fox's big-budget gamble on the family dinosaur time-travel drama "Terra Nova" will pay off. Last October, as the Steven Spielberg-produced series was just getting underway in Australia, The Wrap reported that the pilot alone had already rung up a bill of $10 million and "could cost as much as $20 million, according to insiders." Since Fox ordered a full season of the show from the get-go, it's not clear how much of that initial spending gets spread out over the entire delay-plagued production run, but the consensus among industry watchers (a.k.a. industry guesstimators and intrepid gossips) is that Fox is spending at least $4 million per episode -- or a minimum of $52 million on the 13-episode season.

That presumably doesn't count the costs of Fox's on- and off-network marketing blitz for the show -- including the most-recent promo clip, titled "Behind the Scenes: The Heart of Terra Nova." We're embedding it below as part of the MediaWorks Guide to Fall TV, our ongoing series of video cheat-sheets to help you stay on top of the cultural/media conversation about the season's brand new shows. And we're doing so because Landon Liboiron, who plays Josh Shannon, offers the most succinct summary of the show we've heard yet: "Terra Nova," he explains, is "this massive production of adventure and action and, like, dinosaurs and guns and future and past and all this crazy stuff that you have to absorb, but at the very center of it all there's this, just a simple story of a family trying to stay together."

See what he did there? He said "massive" -- implying a big budget -- but didn't actually say "big budget." (He didn't have to because he's an actor, not a journalist.)

P.S. Here are your official CliffsNotes for the show, via Fox:

From executive producers Steven Spielberg, Peter Chernin, Rene Echevarria and Brannon Braga comes an epic family adventure 85 million years in the making. "Terra Nova" follows an ordinary family on an incredible journey back in time to prehistoric Earth as a small part of a daring experiment to save the human race. In the year 2149, the world is dying. The planet is overdeveloped and overcrowded, with the majority of plant and animal life extinct. The future of mankind is in jeopardy, and its only hope for survival is in the distant past.

When scientists unexpectedly discovered a fracture in time that made it possible to construct a portal into primeval history, the bold notion was born to resettle humanity in the past -- a second chance to rebuild civilization and get it right this time. The series centers on the Shannon family as they join the Tenth Pilgrimage of settlers to Terra Nova, the first colony established in this beautiful yet foreboding land.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age . Follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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