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 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 associated with growing up (dating and drugs, in "How to Pick Up Girls" and "A New Leaf") and a chatty baby that generally hates him.
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.
Throughout these opening seasons (the first season is a short season with only 5 episodes) there are such gems as: "Hurling Day" (On a dinosaur's 72nd birthday, they are hurled into a tar pit, delighting Earl, whose mother-in-law is about to hit that age. However, Robbie is determined to put a stop to the practice of throwing elders into tar pits.) and "The Golden Child" (while accidentially left alone, the baby consumes massive amounts of sugar and grows a golden horn, leading the elders to believe that the baby is the result of an ancient prophecy. The episode starts with a hilarious parody of the "Mr. Wizard" show.)
Other highlights include: "I Never Ate For My Father" (Earl is stunned to learn that Robbie is a vegetarian, but they find they have time to chat about it in the stomach of another creature after they're eaten.) "Fran Live" (Fran gets her own talk show and Earl is dismayed to be first be teased about it at work and then used as an example on the show.) and "Slave to Fashion" (Charlene's expensive new coat does all the talking - literally - when she tries to become popular.)
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.
1. 1- 1 26 Apr 91 The Mighty Megalosaurus
2. 1- 2 3 May 91 The Mating Dance
3. 1- 3 10 May 91 Hurling Day
4. 1- 4 17 May 91 High Noon
5. 1- 5 24 May 91 The Howling
6. 2- 1 18 Sep 91 The Golden Child
7. 2- 2 25 Sep 91 Family Challenge
8. 2- 3 2 Oct 91 I Never Ate for My Father
9. 2- 4 9 Oct 91 Charlene's Tale
10. 2- 5 16 Oct 91 Endangered Species
11. 2- 6 23 Oct 91 Employee of the Month
12. 2- 7 30 Oct 91 When Food Goes Bad
13. 2- 8 6 Nov 91 Career Opportunities
14. 2- 9 13 Nov 91 Unmarried ... With Children
15. 2-10 20 Nov 91 How to Pick Up Girls
16. 2-11 27 Nov 91 Switched At Birth
17. 2-12 11 Dec 91 Refrigerator Day
18. 2-13 18 Dec 91 What "Sexual Harris" Meant
19. 2-14 8 Jan 92 Fran Live
20. 2-15 15 Jan 92 Power Erupts
21. 2-16 22 Jan 92 The Clip Show
22. 2-17 5 Feb 92 A New Leaf
23. 2-18 12 Feb 92 The Last Temptation of Ethel
24. 2-19 26 Feb 92 Nuts To War
26. 2-20 27 Mar 92 And The Winner Is...
27. 2-21 30 Mar 92 Slave to Fashion
28. 2-22 24 Apr 92 Leader of the Pack
29. 2-23 8 May 92 WESAYSO Knows Best
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: The first disc offers two featurettes: "Pre-Hysterical Times" (a 13-minute "making of" documentary that offers interviews with the creators, who discuss the development of the show as well as the many production issues involved with creating it, including creating and designing the characters) and "The Sketches That Started It All" (a 6-minute look at the sketches that sold the network on the series.) Additionally, there are hidden bonus clips on the set's menus and previews for other titles from the studio.
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 quite a bit. The DVD set provides satisfactory audio/video quality, as well as a few minor supplements. Recommended.