Dinosaurs: The Complete First And Second Seasons

One of the many glories of the invasion of television in DVD collections everywhere is the ability to reconsider your childhood addictions in a different light. For a generation of 20somethings, series such as Full House or Family Matters can be exposed as the manipulative and horribly written garbage that was fed to children of the early 1990s. Dinosaurs is an interesting counter example. Set in a prehistoric alternate universe much like our own (except, well, with dinosaurs), Dinosaurs features an animatronics working-class family created by Jim Henson. Like the former shows, Dinosaurs was part of the "TGIF" night of programming that was a staple for most eight year olds in 1991. But Dinosaurs was a considerably more intelligent series than its fellow "TGIF"-ers, and perhaps its adult-oriented humour was what led to its lower-than-Urkel ratings and three-season limit. Dinosaurs followed the lives of the Sinclairs: Earl, the overweight breadwinner who pushes down trees to barely support his family; Fran, his loving and strong-willed wife who often questions Earl's decisions; rebellious 16-year-old Robbie; 14-year old valley girl Charlene; and "the Baby" (whose catchphrase "Not the mama" is Dinosaurs' probable legacy). Following, or, arguably, stealing from, the satirical nature of The Simpsons (and the comparisons don't stop there), Dinosaurs often works on two levels: one to please the children, the other to provide social commentary. Issues such as women’s rights, drug abuse (in the standout episode of the set, "A New Leaf"), censorship, environmentalism, racism and even the Gulf War are tackled. This dual purpose is blatantly referenced in an episode in which Earl asks Fran to watch a puppet show on TV; Fran dismisses it with, "Earl, that's for kids." Earl replies: "Because they're puppets, it seems to have a children's aesthetic, yet the dialogue is sharp-edged, witty, and unquestionably skewed to adults." Earl's statement is often true. There are certainly some hit-and-miss episodes, but Dinosaurs is generally quite clever and, surprisingly, does not seem dated at all (even with 15 years of special effects developments working against it). The set’s extras are pretty standard (some "making of” docs and some mildly entertaining "eggs" found throughout). In any case, it’s an interesting trip down memory lane for any 25-year-old, and a decent time for anyone else. (Buena Vista Home)