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Dinosaurs [tv]

Entry updated 2 August 2021. Tagged: TV.

US tv series (1991-1994). Michael Jacobs Productions, Jim Henson Productions, Walt Disney Television. Created by Michael Jacobs and Bob Young. Directors include Bruce Bilson and Tom Trbovich. Writers include David Caplan, Tim Doyle, Brian LaPan and Rob Ulin. Voice cast include Kevin Clash, Sam McMurray, Stuart Pankin, Sally Struthers, Jessica Walter and Jason Willinger. 65 23-minute episodes. Colour.

A family sitcom combining elements of the The Flintstones (1960-1966) and the non-genre shows The Honeymooners (1951-1955), All in the Family (1971-1979) and The Simpsons (1989-current), but set in Pangaea over 60 million years ago. The protagonists are anthropomorphized Dinosaurs, using impressive suits and puppetry from the Jim Henson workshop (Henson himself conceived the show in the 1980s, but died before it was broadcast). The family consists of Megalosaurus father Earl Sinclair (Pankin), an unthinking conservative slob but good-hearted when prodded, whose job involves pushing over trees; Allosaurus mother Fran (Walter), a long-suffering housewife who is clearly too good for Earl; Hypsilophodon teenaged son Robbie (Willinger), smart but lazy, the most likely to take a moral stand; Protoceratops teenaged daughter Charlene (Struthers), initially a bit shallow but maturing as the series progresses; and Megalosaurus Baby (Clash), able to speak since hatching, prone to one-liners and clambering onto Earl's head to whack it with a frying pan.

It is stated that the dinosaurs only recently moved from the forests to become civilized (to a 1980s level). As with The Flintstones, dinosaurs and humanity co-exist (see Prehistoric SF), though here people are viewed as wild animals and are dissected in science class (though Robbie hides his specimen, briefly keeping her as a pet); humans do display some Intelligence, inventing the wheel, only to punch out its centre to use as a hula-hoop.

Dinosaurs frequently dealt with serious issues: racism (see Race in SF), Religion, Feminism, censorship, corporate crime, War, sexual harassment, immigration, consumerism, Ecology and environmental matters. It has one of the darkest endings to a sitcom, when the ecological meddling of Earl's employers, the WESAYSO Corporation, brings about an Ice Age (see Climate Change): in effect causing a Nuclear Winter. The final scenes have the snow falling and the Sinclairs waiting to die (see End of the World), though Earl tries to reassure Baby: "Dinosaurs have been on this Earth for 150 million years, it's not like we're gonna just disappear." Cuts to a television weather report: "... and taking a look at the long range forecast – continued snow, darkness and extreme cold ... Good night. Goodbye."

The Simpsons had Bart watching the show and exclaiming, "It's like they saw our lives and put it right up on screen.", but this was a little unfair. Though the success of The Simpsons played a large part in its commissioning, the similarities often reflect their shared precursors – for example, the dynamics of Fran, Earl and his best friend, the T-Rex Roy (McMurray), were lifted from the Honeymooners. This does convey a slightly old-fashioned feel. The show enjoys its anachronisms and – despite the Satire sometimes being unsubtle and Baby's catchphrases overused – the Humour was often funny. The original run of the final season did not include several episodes subsequently shown on syndication; despite their events predating the Disaster, they were usually broadcast after the official finale. [SP]

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