I meant to write about this on Friday when TV Guide's Michael Schneider posted a piece about all the short orders for series next season, including GCB, Alcatraz, Awakening and Smash. But since none of those shows is debuting until mid-season, we never figured any of them would be getting 22 episode orders.
Terra Nova on the other hand, debuts in the fall but the news of its short first season isn't a huge surprise either. It has been plagued by production issues. An airing of the pilot that was originally scheduled for May with a big American Idol lead-in was scuttled because they couldn't get all the CGI done properly in time. TV Guide cites the complexity of the CGI as the reason a 22 episode season would be difficult. According to the story, Terra Nova is expected to finish airing its first season in December and not return until September 2012. The story also says producers are expected to immediately start working on on shows for next fall as soon as production wraps on the first season.
While I suspect Terra Nova to perform better than the average Fox scripted show, at this point I can't help wondering whether it needs to do significantly better than average, particularly if Fox isn't convinced the show can crank out 22 episodes for the 2012-13 season. It will take a long time to reach the ~88 episodes for syndication at only 13 episodes per year. That adds in the potential for complaints that "the show was off the air for 9 months and lost all momentum." That probably means that Fox will have to spend a bit more marketing its second season and as Scheider notes in the TV Guide piece, Fox will already have to spend a little more on whatever Fox airs instead of the 9 episodes of Terra Nova. For me, all that adds up to Terra Nova's fall ratings deserving a little more scrutiny than they otherwise would have.