Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Media Studies


Robert Thompson


Broadcast Television, Cult Television, Fox Network, Genre, Speculative Fiction, Television Industry Studies

Subject Categories

Film and Media Studies | Mass Communication


When it aired in Fall 2011 on Fox, Terra Nova was an experiment in creating a cult television program that appealed to a mass audience. This thesis is a case study of that experiment. I conclude that the show failed because of its attempts to maintain the sophistication, complexity and innovative nature of the cult genre while simultaneously employing an overly simplistic narrative structure that resembles that of mass audience programming. Terra Nova was unique in its transmedia approach to marketing and storytelling, its advanced special effects, and its dystopian speculative fiction premise. Terra Nova's narrative, on the other hand, presented a nostalgically simple moralistic landscape that upheld old-fashioned ideologies and felt oddly retro to the modern SF TV audience. Terra Nova's failure suggests that a cult show made for this type of broad audience is impossible. However, as ratings continue to drop yearly, programmers' definition of what constitutes a mass audience adjusts accordingly. Inevitably, and in the near future, any distinction between mass and fragmented audiences will be moot and, when this happens, the cult audience will be synonymous with the mass audience.


Open Access