A frequently clever and generally quite funny show that was likely a costly effort, "Dinosaurs" ran for four years on ABC before taking that long walk off the short pier over a tar pit. The series had actors in animatronic costumes portraying an average family of dinosaurs living in the stone age. In their world, humans are viewed as pets and wild creatures and while the family enjoys their versions of modern appliances, they also deal with problems such as the fact that their dinner is often looking for an opening to make a dash out the front door to freedom.
The series focused on the Sinclair family, made up of overweight father Earl (Stuart Pankin), mother Fran (Jessica Walter, formerly of "Arrested Development"), son Robbie (Jason Willinger), sister Charlene (Sally Struthers!) and the baby (Kevin Clash), whose "I'm the baby, gotta love me!" line became popular.
The series did a terrific job throughout its run spreading the focus around and both aspects of the series - the family comedy and the workplace comedy - were equally hilarious. An everyguy in the mold of Al Bundy, Drew Carey, Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson and others, Earl drags himself off to his job pushing down trees for a boss with anger issues, B.P. Richfield (voiced superbly by Sherman Hemsley). At home, Earl must deal with two teens going through the usual issues (drugs/peer pressure, first loves) associated with growing up and a chatty baby that generally hates him and tries to make his life miserable when possible.
While the series was another family sitcom at its core, the writers did a remarkable amount with the dinosaur concept and consistently came up with some inspired ideas for the characters. Although considered at the time to be a "family" show, the series played well to both adults (every episode has at least a few bits that only adults are going to get) and older children.
"Dinosaurs", despite continuing to produce great episodes, started to lose its audience in the third season. By the fourth season, the series was pulled from the air after the seventh episode, leaving seven unaired episodes. While the show was ended before its time, it certainly tied up all the loose ends with "Changing Nature", the finale. (spoilers)A controversial episode (since it was such a somber departure from the show's norm), "Changing Nature" had the dinosaurs destroying their environment after trying - badly - to fix things after building over the home of an important species of beetle. The end of the episode sees the characters facing an ice age they brought upon themselves, and it's really quite a serious (there's no jokes towards the end, as things get progressively worse until a heartbreaking last scene), emotional conclusion from a series that had, up until that point, shown itself to be superb at dishing up slapstick with a side of social commentary and occasional lessons. (end spoilers.)The episode was both a strong message about protecting the environment and a touching goodbye to the characters.
Again, the third and fourth season still deliver quite well, with several memorable episodes, including: "Network Genius" (Earl is put in charge of the local network, but decides to change the programming when his choice of shows are making everyone stupid), "Charlene's Flat World" (Charlene gets put on trial for her theory in class that the world is round, forcing her to go on a journey to prove it), "The Son Also Rises" (Robbie challenges Earl to a dual at the "Pit of Death", with the winner taking over the household), "Earl, Don't Be A Hero" (Earl gets superpowers, but has one weakness: his own company) and "Variations on a Theme Park" (Vacation is invented and Earl's company opens WeSaySoland, which turns out to be a nightmare of a vacation for the Sinclairs.)
Overall, I think "Dinosaurs" still holds up quite well years later. Although a few episodes are a bit uneven compared to the rest, the dialogue and situations still seem clever and funny. Additionally, the sets and costumes still look great (this was the last project Jim Henson was involved with; son Brian Henson and Michael Jacobsen took over after Jim Henson sadly passed away), as well.
30. 3- 1 18 Sep 92 Nature Calls
31. 3- 2 2 Oct 92 Baby Talk
32. 3- 3 16 Oct 92 Network Genius
33. 3- 4 23 Oct 92 The Discovery
34. 3- 5 30 Oct 92 Little Boy Boo
35. 3- 6 6 Nov 92 Germ Warfare
36. 3- 7 13 Nov 92 Hungry for Love
37. 3- 8 20 Nov 92 License to Parent
38. 3- 9 4 Dec 92 Charlene's Flat World
39. 3-10 18 Dec 92 Wilderness Weekend
40. 3-11 8 Jan 93 The Son Also Rises
41. 3-12 15 Jan 93 Getting to Know You
42. 3-13 29 Jan 93 Green Card
43. 3-14 5 Feb 93 Out of the Frying Pan
44. 3-15 12 Feb 93 Steroids to Heaven
45. 3-16 19 Feb 93 Honey, I Miss the Kids
46. 3-17 26 Feb 93 Swamp Music
47. 3-18 12 Mar 93 Dirty Dancin'
48. 3-19 18 Apr 93 If I Were a Tree
49. 3-20 2 May 93 We Are Not Alone
50. 3-21 9 May 93 Charlene and Her Amazing Humans
51. 3-22 2 Jul 93 The Clip Show II
52. 4- 1 1 Jun 94 Monster Under the Bed
53. 4- 2 8 Jun 94 Earl, Don't Be a Hero
54. 4- 3 22 Jun 94 The Greatest Story Ever Sold
55. 4- 4 29 Jun 94 Driving Miss Ethyl
56. 4- 5 6 Jul 94 Earl's Big Jackpot
57. 4- 6 13 Jul 94 Terrible Twos
58. 4- 7 20 Jul 94 Changing Nature (Series Finale)
59. 4- 8 Unaired Scent of a Reptile
60. 4- 9 Earl and Pearl
61. 4-10 Life in the Faust Lane
62. 4-11 Variations on a Theme Park
63. 4-12 Working Girl
64. 4-13 Into the Woods
65. 4-14 Georgie Must Die
VIDEO: "Dinosaurs" is presented here in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Although it's been quite a few years since the show was on, it looks about the same as how I remember it looking when originally broadcast. Sharpness and detail are mostly pleasant, although some scenes can look mildly softer than the rest.
The presentation does show some slight traces of pixelation on a few occasions, but otherwise looked clean. Colors remained bright and vibrant, with nice saturation and no smearing. Overall, these presentations were just fine.
SOUND: "Dinosaurs" is presented here in stereo. Dialogue, effects and music remained crisp and clear throughout, with no distortion or other issues.
EXTRAS: Brian Henson, Kevin Clash, Kirk Thatcher and Bill Barretta offer commentaries for "Into the Woods" and "Nature Calls". There's also a pair of short featurettes: "Creatures With a Cause: The Issues of Dinosaurs" and "I'm the Baby: Gotta Love Me!" on the fourth disc.
Final Thoughts: Before sitting down to watch "Dinosaurs" again after quite a few years, I was concerned about how well the show held up, but much to my delight I laughed (well, aside from the finale, although that grim episode works well in its own way) quite a bit. The DVD set provides satisfactory audio/video quality, as well as a few minor supplements. Recommended.