Lisa de Moraes
Lisa de Moraes
The TV Column

‘Terra Nova’ pilot draws 9 million viewers on Fox

( Brook Rushton / FOX ) - Stephen Lang as Commander Nathaniel Taylor in “Terra Nova.”

An unspectacular audience of 9 million caught Monday night’s pilot episode of Fox’s much-ballyhooed dino-drama, “Terra Nova.”

A pilot, we point out, that costs about $20 million — or more than two bucks a head.

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Pulitzer Prize winner, Peabody recipient, Medal of Freedom honoree -- Lisa de Moraes is none of these, but she is an authority on the bad direction, over-acting, and muddled plot lines being played out in the TV industry's executive suites.

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Fox points out that the drama series’s debut did 29 percent better than the network averaged last year on Monday nights among the 18-to-49-year-old viewers targeted by TV networks. This is known as “damning with faint praise.”

Last season, you’ll recall, Fox struggled on Monday nights, starting with the new drama “Lone Star” (the season’s first cancellation), which the network replaced with “Lie to Me” (also now canceled) and then “The Chicago Code” (canceled).

Most embarrassing, in its official unveiling on Fox, the two-hour “Terra Nova” episode got thumped by CBS’s Monday sitcoms and ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”

And that’s among total viewers and among viewers in that cherished younger-than-50 age bracket.

Worth repeating: Fox’s much ballyhooed, obscenely expensive “Terra Nova” premiere got whomped among younger viewers by CBS comedies and edged by “Dancing,” which is so often derided by non-fans as being “that old-timers’ reality hit.”

In its talking points sent to The Reporters Who Cover Television, Fox noted that Monday’s “Dancing” suffered its worst “performance show” rating ever among golden 18-to-49-year-olds. Yet “Dancing” still beat the gajillion-dollar, 12-exec-producer, six-dinosaur “Terra Nova”!

Meanwhile, about 20 million of the nearly 29 mill who’d tuned in a week earlier to watch the first episode of CBS’s Charlie Sheen-free “Two and a Half Men” came back to watch the season’s second episode.

Of those viewers, the show that followed — the second-season debut of “Mike & Molly” — hung on to about 14 mill, that show’s biggest audience ever.

Yet amongst all that “winning,” Chuck Lorre, who created both those CBS sitcoms, couldn’t resist writing nastily on his “Men” end-of-show vanity card that though his long nightmare is now over, he simply can’t resist the urge to write a tell-all book to settle the score.

So much for taking the high road.

Legal eagle-eyed

In a shocking development, “Dancing’s” first big step this season on its road to degradation was taken not by the competition’s first transgender competitor, Chaz Bono, as some had forecast (like that psych professor from Tufts U. who told Bill O’Reilly that kid viewers should be banned from watching, lest they be influenced to switch genders).

No! It was HLN’s professional legal scold Nancy Grace, who Monday night ever so briefly flashed one of her “girls” during her quickstep and again immediately after the performance — the show’s very first double nip-slip.

“On the European version, that would be perfectly fine!” America’s quickest-witted reality-show host, Tom Bergeron, quipped after her second nipple revelation as the camera quickly cut away from Grace while she adjusted her gown, then buried her face in the chest of dance partner Tristan MacManus.

Interestingly, Grace decided to go with a Stout Denial Defense after the live performance show, and she’s stuck to that story.

“We have taken every precaution known to men in this dress right here — I’m talking industrial-size precaution,” Grace firmly told an Us magazine reporter who was at the studio to conduct exit interviews with the celeb hoofers.

“There may have been . . . a little bit of jiggling, but there was absolutely not a wardrobe malfunction,” she insisted.

But the next morning, one of those serious students of TV — the ones who watch shows frame by frame to set the record straight on these important issues — posted frame grabs of Grace letting shine one of her “beacons of justice,” as the Hollywood Web site the Wrap reported.

“I have been judged guilty without a trial!” Grace screeched at tabloid Web site TMZ early Tuesday afternoon in response to the frame grabs.

“I will go to my grave denying the nip-slip,” she added for dramatic effect.

Grace insisted that she was modestly wearing “petals” — a flower-shaped adhesive coverup favored by Hollywood starlets — during her live performance.

Adhesive pasties do come shaped like flower petals. They also come shaped like stars, hearts and just plain old circles. But so far as we can tell from an exhaustive Internet search, no company has yet thought to manufacture pasties designed to look exactly like nipples.

And if some company does manufacture such a product, it prompts the question: If a woman appearing on TV in a plunging neckline modestly covers her nipples with pasties that look exactly like nipples, has she, in fact, modestly covered her nipples?

No word yet from the “DWTS” producers.

Rooney to retire

Andy Rooney will announce on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” that it will be his last regular appearance on the newsmagazine. Rooney, 92, has been featured on the program since 1978.

Sunday’s appearance will be Rooney’s 1,097th original essay for “60 Minutes” and will be preceded by a segment in which he looks back on his career in an interview with Morley Safer, CBS News said.

Rooney’s first essay for the show was about the reporting of automobile fatalities over a July Fourth weekend.

“He’ll hate hearing this, but he’s an American original,” CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager said Tuesday in the announcement.

 
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