Stephen Lang is one of the stars of "Terra Nova." (Brook Rushton / Fox )
The dinosaurs may have roamed in prime time, but Ashton Kutcher's roar was louder.
Fox's dino-epic "Terra Nova" got off to a decent if unspectacular start Monday night, proving no match for CBS' "Two and a Half Men," which remained strong in Week 2 with new costar Kutcher.
The heavily publicized two-hour premiere of "Terra Nova," the long-anticipated time-travel drama from executive producer Steven Spielberg and already one of the most expensive series in TV history, averaged 9.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
In the Monday time slot, that was much better than last year's critically acclaimed bomb "Lone Star" (4 million) but a bit down from the premiere of last season's "House."
In the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-old demographic, Fox averaged a solid if not thrilling 3.1 rating/8 share, good for third place overall on the night. That number had to be somewhat disappointing to Fox executives, given that the "Terra Nova" pilot was estimated to cost at least $15 million, one of the costliest in TV history.
By comparison, last week's "Hell's Kitchen" finale averaged a 2.6 rating — and reality shows are much cheaper to produce than scripted dramas such as "Terra Nova."
But Fox executives adopted a philosophical tone toward the results.
"It's a science-fiction show; that always narrows the audience a little bit," Preston Beckman, the network's scheduling guru, said of "Terra Nova. "It's really about where it is Week 2 and 3. What you hope is that people who liked it tell their friends.... We continue to hope families will catch onto it."
If "Terra Nova" underperformed relative to its hype, "Two and a Half Men" continued to surprise.
The sitcom delivered 20.5 million viewers — nowhere near last week's record-breaking 28.7 million premiere, but still far and away the evening's most-watched program. Ratings for ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," meanwhile, were unexpectedly soft, with 16.2 million tuning in. NBC continued to suffer with its lineup of "The Sing-Off" and "The Playboy Club," the latter of which failed to draw even 4 million viewers.
Analysts expect "Men" to settle around the 12.7 million viewer mark it averaged last season, the final, shortened one for the since-fired Charlie Sheen. But at the rate things are going, it may take a while to get there, much to the dismay of Fox and other rivals.