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Four Big Network Gambles That Definitely Didn’t Pay Off

Dramas 'Terra Nova,' 'Flash Forward,' 'Viva Laughlin' and 'Supertrain' Are Four Examples

For every big network ratings hit like this season’s “Young Sheldon” or “The Good Doctor,” there are many more that fall by the wayside (and that’s even if they manage to make it past the pilot). Often times the networks have already pumped millions of dollars into the project in a high stakes gamble in which only approximately 20 percent of the series which are commissioned to make it to a second season.

Here, in no particular order, are four of the biggest failed series — all classic TV turkeys in their own right — that left the execs with more than a little egg on their faces.

“TERRA NOVA” (Fox)

The 2011 series aimed to capitalize on the success of the “Jurassic Park” franchise by telling the story of a family that traveled back to prehistoric times from 2149 in a bid to save the planet. The pilot was said to have cost around $18 million and the 13 episode season a further estimated $48 million, so the stakes were high. Production, which took place in Queensland, was beset by disasters including floods and leech infestations which helped the budget to rise unexpectedly. Then, to cap it all, the viewers simply did not take to it. Only 13 episodes were ever made.

“FLASH FORWARD”

Time travel in the opposite direction was at the heart of disappointing ABC drama “Flash Forward,” in which a mysterious global event led to everyone on the planet being able to see their future. Written by David Goyer, with a track record of movie screenplays (including “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” to his name), and starring Joseph Fiennes, ABC never disclosed the exact budget. Goyer, however, has been quoted as saying the network was “very good at opening up the piggy bank.” Despite relatively positive reviews, the viewers weren’t overwhelmed and “Flash Forward” also only lasted one season.

“VIVA LAUGHLIN” (CBS)

Based on a BBC show from the UK called “Blackpool,” “Viva Laughlin” was a cross-genre musical drama series that told the story of a character called Ripley Holden (played by Lloyd Owen) who was hell-bent on creating his own Vegas-style casino. The pilot alone cost approximately $7 million, and other cast members included Hugh Jackman and Melanie Griffith. But even stars of this caliber could not save it from being cancelled after just two episodes. “Viva Laughlin,” no doubt, it left more than a few studio execs wondering if the money wouldn’t have been better gambled on a Bitcoin online casino experience, which you can have for far less than $7 million. You can get started instantly on Bitcasino with your up to m฿ 1,000 welcome package.

“SUPERTRAIN”

Classic fiasco “Supertrain” in 1979 is the series that was said to have very nearly bankrupted NBC. The action centered around a train that traveled coast to coast at over 200 miles an hour (as a sort of super-charged “Love Boat” with different stories and characters in each episode). Things started badly when the scale model of the train used for external shots and costing $1 million ($3 million at today’s rates) was damaged beyond repair on its first outing. Poor ratings and abysmal reviews meant only nine episodes were ever screened, leading you to wonder if NBC could have turned things around had it been more patient. After all, other initially struggling TV series have started out slow and managed to have long runs (like NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation,” for example). But the way things are today with players like Netflix and Amazon snapping at the networks’ heels, there are bound to be may more gambles that are pulled in the future before the losses grow too high.

Written by Marc Berman

Marc Berman

Marc Berman has been writing professionally since 1999 and is the author of the “Mr. Television” for Campaign US (www.campaignlive.com). Most recently, Berman was the creator and Editor-in-Chief of website and newsletter TV Media Insights for Cross MediaWorks. From 1999-2011, he was the Senior Editor for Mediaweek and has also written for The New York Daily News, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and Emmy Magazine, among others. Berman has also appeared on “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra,” “Access Hollywood,” “Inside Edition,” “The CBS Evening News,” E!, CNN, CNBC, Fox News and MSNBC.

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  1. Oh my gosh, I remember Supertrain. What a mess.
    I was thinking the prime time Jay Leno show would be on the list.