The Shannon family adjusting to life in “Terra Nova.” (Brook Rushton/Fox)

Fox has made a bold, semi-expensive bet on “Terra Nova,” the new Cretaceous-era drama that makes its two-hour debut tonight at 8. But even with the promise of Steven Spielberg’s influence (he’s one of several executive producers), impressive visual effects and more than a few minor similarities to “Lost” — similarities that I pointed out in this “Terra Nova” preview and that this blog will explore in more detail after the first episode airs — will viewers give the show a shot rather than watching “Dancing With the Stars” or another round of Ashton-Kutcher-gets-naked on “Two and a Half Men”?

As Post TV critic Hank Stuever points out in his review of “Terra Nova,” the ambitious series definitely has promise. But it will succeed long-term only if its characters — particularly the generic-in-the-pilot members of the Shannon family, who leave the environmental wasteland of Earth circa 2149 to kick it with brachiosauruses — become more multidimensional and intriguing.

“The Shannons are so flat — as are the actors who play them — that they might as well be the fake family under glass in a new picture frame,” Stuever writes. “Who would have ever thought that in 2149 people would name their kids Josh, Maddy and Zoe? ‘Terra Nova’ assiduously avoids imagining what 22nd-century people would look or talk like; their hairdos and clothes are very 2011 and their problems (Josh resents Jim for going to prison! Maddy is good at math and hopelessly boy-crazy!) seem pathetically 1987.”

We’ll have to see in the coming weeks whether those characters develop some layers. That said, there’s enough to recommend in“Terra Nova” to make it worth watching. But will you?

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