Terra Nova, 2 Broke Girls (27\09\2011)
Terra Nova - 101 + 102 - Genesis (1 + 2)
I hated this. I really did. I was surprised by my own vitriol.
It's just the laziness of it all. The producers behind Terra Nova have no patience. They have no subtlety. They have no ambition. They have nothing. They were so desperate to get to a knock off of Jurassic Park that they ignored every bit of logic or characterisation that was so desperately needed to make this work.
If you didn't see the show then here's the plot in a nutshell. In the year 2149 humans have polluted their atmosphere so badly that life is barely worth living. Hope has come from a wormhole (or something like it) which can take people to an alternative timeline 85 million years in the past. So now lucky humans get to travel to this alternate world back in Earth's pre-historic past where they can start a new life. Once there humans live in a colony called Terra Nova surrounded by huge fences to keep out the dinosaurs and other bugs which live in the surrounding jungle. A colony of breakaway humans referred to as "Sixers" live nearby and are plotting some mischief.
Now of course that all sounds fairly promising until you meet our main characters: the Shannon family. Jim and Elizabeth are mum and dad with son Josh and daughter Maddy. Contrary to 2149 population rules they have a third child, young Zoe. In 2149 Jim goes to prison for this illegal act. When Elizabeth is recruited to go to Terra Nova she comes up with a plan to reunite her family there. So Jim breaks out of prison, picks up Zoe (who has been living God knows where) and makes a run at getting to Terra Nova. Naturally he succeeds and once in Terra Nova is not punished. Yes that's right. He is assigned work as a farmer instead of being thrown back into prison. But Jim is such a great police officer you see that by the end of one day in Terra Nova he has won the respect of the colony boss and been trusted with a new job on the security staff.
As you can imagine the absence of logic in this story drove me insane. Who thought it was a good idea to script Jim breaking out of prison and breaking in to the Terra Nova HQ? He had almost no help from what we saw. Are we supposed to think he is a super human? No. What we end up thinking is that this is a dumb show with no interest in real drama or tension.
Only certain people are allowed to leave 2149 and go back to the paradise of the past. So it really was laughable that Jim could just run past security guards and leap through the Stargate (which is what it looked and functioned like). Then once in Terra Nova the lack of punishment was beyond ludicrous. How could anyone trust this man after he broke out of prison and defied rules that are in place to protect the future of the human race?
It all made me think that those first eighteen minutes were entirely pointless. Why did we have to have all suspension of belief massacred like that? Once on Terra Nova the family are given a house and allowed to just begin their new lives so what did all the prison stuff achieve?
So if you can hold your nose and ignore all of that we are now essentially in Jurassic Park. Again showing a lack of patience our first meeting with dinosaurs comes fast and with no suspense or real sense of wonder. A bunch of brontosaurus' are leaning their long necks over the side of the big fence and eating plants and trees.
So much was wrong with that scene. For a start I just don't understand the lack of build-up the dinosaurs got. If the writers had spent eighteen minutes just talking about how amazing it would be to see dinosaurs then this could have been a great moment. Instead it was just thrown out there with no discussion. Worse than that though who on earth thought fences should be built that would allow brontosaurus' to lean over them? That was so dumb it makes me angry all over again. Zoe nearly dies because one particular bronto tries to eat a branch she is waving enticingly at him. Just so dumb and thoughtless. Sadly the effects were not of Jurassic Park standard and so the extended glimpse of these creatures only served to remind you that you were watching a knock off.
This introduction to dinosaurs was not nearly enough of course. A bunch of foolish teenagers take Josh and go walkabout outside the gates. Shockingly dinosaurs attack them and we get a clichéd battle straight out of the movies as the teenagers hide inside their ATV while the dinosaurs circle menacingly. Naturally the kids whose names we don't know get mauled while Josh and his new girlfriend survive unscathed.
The girl, Skye, apologies to Commander Taylor after they are rescued and he responds "Your still in one piece, that's the important thing."
Seriously! That was his response to an act of stupidity that nearly cost dozens of lives and a potentially nasty altercation with the Sixers. It would be hilarious if it weren't such a sad waste of a great concept.
All these logic gaps are important because they undermine the selling point of the show. That selling point is come and be thrilled by dinosaurs hunting humans. That's it right there. But for that to be exciting you have to have rules and logic and characters you care about. In these episodes the writers make it clear that there will be no excitement because nothing that happens will have any consequences. No one important is going to die, no one is in real jeopardy, this is all just nonsense in service of making the Shannon family look cute.
The dark hints that Terra Nova isn't all it seems to be are vaguely intriguing but I have zero faith that they would pay off in an interesting way. I was more concerned by all the questions that weren't asked. The Terra Nova colony is under the control of one man basically. Commander Taylor is a soldier and I wanted to know where his authority came from. No really. Is there an American government in 2149? Is there a United Nations? Is the Terra Nova project sanctioned by a democracy or a dictatorship? Who put a military commander in charge of the colony? Why isn't there an elected government?
If you would like some even more relevant questions then where is Terra Nova? Are we in what will become the United States? Are we in France? Brazil? India? I think those would be interesting questions. Why did the colony get placed where it is? Surely picking a rich jungle filled with dinosaurs isn't the best idea? Couldn't they have chosen a safer spot? Or couldn't they use their technology to burn down sections of forest to make their lives safer? I'm all for environmentalism but if my children keep getting eaten then I think I might pick up an axe.
Of course none of this is addressed and so we are left with a formless show. We are given no reason to care about the Shannon's or Commander Taylor beyond the fact that they are nice people (if you ignore the law breaking). I will watch one or two more episodes just to see what an average Terra Nova story looks like but if you don't see another review here then you will know that nothing changed.
2 Broke Girls - 102 - And the Break-up Scene
This was not encouraging. The ridiculous stereotypes working in the diner and elsewhere remain but that was not the biggest problem with this.
The writers tried to reset the dynamic between Max and Caroline in a clumsy way. I don't mind Max becoming cynical in the clear light of day but the way that was presented was a drag to get through. Max was just endlessly putting Caroline down and Caroline was constantly overstepping her bounds in a way that was unsympathetic. The way she kept talking while Max was trying to tell off Robbie was the most obnoxious example.
The balance of the writing felt off as we were given no reason to understand why Max would put up with Caroline. Sometimes Caroline would seem like a believable character but then she would come out with a line like "We used to own Seattle" or not wanting her horse to see her in her waitress outfit and the groans kept coming. How can they afford to feed that horse by the way?
I don't know whether there is a live studio audience for all the scenes but for me the telling moment was the silence which followed Max calling Caroline a thief just like her father. Surely if the audience were engaged that would have drawn an "Oooh." It was a pretty hurtful thing to say and yet there was silence. Either the audience wasn't engaged or the editors aren't. In the end Max forgave her though it wasn't convincing.
This was just a badly written episode with way too much time spend on the girls arguing. Hopefully things will improve but there is a lot of work to be done.