James Hibberd
December 20, 2011 AT 01:54 PM EST

UPDATED: Terra Nova might still get saved from extinction has been cancelled. Below we list six ways the show went wrong — and how things could have been salvaged for a second season (the studio is still shopping the project to other networks).

Terra Nova has been a self starter in the ratings on Mondays and its family-friendly nature makes it an easy pitch to advertisers. Yet the show’s overall adult demo ratings have disappointed, and sources say the network has been creatively unsatisfied with the show, as well. But in an odd way, some of Terra Nova‘s problems have worked in its favor — everybody involved with the project agrees there’s room for improvement and, therefore, possible ratings growth.

If renewed, expect Fox’s order will be along the lines of the first season’s 13 episodes, not a full 22 like most other shows.

So far, the discussion has focused on ways to make the show better, and the compelling two-hour finale was a great step in the right direction. Here are our six suggestions for making Terra Nova a must-watch show for season 2:

1. Age up (at least a little). During most of the season (the finale was an exception), Terra Nova tried too hard to target kids. There’s a difference between being family friendly and having story threads that will annoy anybody old enough to be in Fox’s target 18-to-49 demographic. This doesn’t mean Terra Nova has to play like a prehistoric Breaking Bad (as awesome as that would be), but if you’re putting characters’ lives in jeopardy each week, you need to tell the story in manner that’s reasonably convincing to a modern adult audience. You already have dinosaurs, so getting kids to watch is easy. You’re more likely to keep kids watching something that feels reasonably smart and sophisticated (like, say, Terra Nova forebears Jurassic Park and Avatar) than you are trying to get adults to endure scenes like little Zoe whining in an air duct while her dad sings the “Go Away Spider Song.”

2. Make sense. This goes hand in hand with No. 1, but deserves its own entry because a grown-up show can still have lots of plot holes (the latter seasons of 24, for instance). The comment boards on Terra Nova have plenty of readers making sport of the show’s contrivances — from the way characters constantly sneak in and out of a guarded high-tech colony that’s supposedly secure against infiltrators, to unconvincing acts of betrayal that are always quickly resolved and forgiven, to the silly producer-driven mandate that characters can never kill dinosaurs even if their lives are in imminent danger. The more holes there are, the more a viewer’s faith in the story drains away. We know we’re watching a fantasy, but we still have to believe it a little.

NEXT: Four more ways to improve ‘Terra Nova’ (those special effects, and we gotta talk about Jason O’Mara…)

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