Dino-Might? Fox Rolls Dice on Spielberg Series Despite Spotty TV History

Report: Hollywood heavyweights could team up for “Terra Nova”

Fox is talking to a pair of Hollywood tyrannosauruses — Steven Spielberg and Peter Chernin — about putting together a dinosaur-themed series for the network.

That's according to Variety, which late Tuesday reported that the two showbiz titans are in talks to executive produce a series that sounds like an edgier take on "Land of the Lost." Dubbed "Terra Nova," the drama revolves around a family from the future that ends up living in prehistoric times.

Craig Silverstein and British writer Kelly Marcel wrote the pilot script, Variety said. Because the project could be so ambitious — think big-budget dino F/X and expensive prehistoric sets — Fox and producer 20th Century Fox TV might want to go straight to series on "Terra" and skip the pilot phase.

Former Fox chief Chernin has a slew of TV projects in development at various networks, including Fox. His exit agreement from News Corp. requires Fox to make a certain number of Chernin projects, and "Terra Nova" could seem like a good bet to make.

Variety says Fox Broadcasting chief Peter Rice is really high on the idea of a Steven "Jurassic Park" Spielberg dino show, and fought off strong interest from CBS to land the rights.

But it's worth noting that as sexy as Spielberg's name might be, his track record with weekly TV series — particularly on projects with big advance commitments — is pretty awful.

Back in the 1980s, NBC gambled heavily on the Spielberg anthology series "Amazing Stories" — and as much as young TVMoJoe loved the show, viewers didn't. It disappeared after two seasons.

Then in the 1990s, the network ponied up big bucks for the privilege of having Spielberg produce "seaQuest DSV." The network had TV critics over to the Amblin lot for a Spielberg-hosted screening of the pilot, but the move backfired when the journalists began laughing at all the wrong moments and, while the pilot was still showing, started thinking up how they'd headline the show's inevitable demise ("Voyage to the Bottom of the Ratings" was our favorite).

The new century brought more failure for Spielberg in TV. He didn't lend his name to NBC's "Father of the Pride," but the animated flop was from partner Jeffrey Katzenberg's DreamWorks Animation.

Spielberg did get behind another series project during the aughties: The reality series "On the Lot," which he produced with Mark Burnett. It flopped shortly after premiering in the summer of 2007.

The director has had better luck with long-form projects for TV. HBO's "Band of Brothers" was an instant classic (and there are high hopes for next month's "The Pacific"). Miniseries "Taken" and "Into the West" also did well.

Bottom line: While Spielberg may be a living legend — OK, let's drop the "may": He is — his signature on a TV series hasn't yet produced the same results as in the film world.