Friday, May 15, 2009

Dinosaurs


The 90s saw an explosion in cheesy formulaic family sitcoms. Audiences couldn't seem to get enough of allegedly normal people interacting with their loved ones; it was certainly a lot easier than being forced to interact with our own. One after another, these shows appeared, featuring a basic nuclear family and following them through their (again, allegedly) humorous daily interactions. Step by Step, Full House, Family Matters; these shows all followed a pretty standard set of story lines. Even the purportedly edgy Married with Children relied to some extent on sturdy stereotypes of a blue collar family.

It took a magical mind like Jim Henson's (which I imagine to have been full of abandoned ET design prototypes and colorful Fraggle Rock wardrobe changes) to conceive of a more original model for such a tired premise.

Why not make them dinosaurs?

Wait, wait? As in carnivorous prehistoric creatures with a penchant for carnage and general non-camaraderie? What could they possibly have in common with the white bread families of typical 90s sitcom fame?

Nothing. This was the whole point. Why not create a show that follows the family sitcom formula to a T, but with characters who inherently have nothing in common with this type of familial situation? It was a fairly innovative approach, though it did borrow heavily from Flintstones and Simpsons conventions. The situation and the characters were inherently out of sync, infusing some freshness into the stale model of a home-based situation comedy. And though the idea came to fruition a year after Henson's death, the seed he had planted grew into the Dinosaurs in 1991:



The character molds were all recognizable, but with a delightful prehistoric twist. Let's meet the Dinosaurs:


Earl Sinclair: Our hero, the mighty megalosaurus. Who knew dinosaurs looked so great in flannel? Considering this was the 90s, I'm fairly certain I owned that shirt. He could be a tad on the Al Bundy oafish side, but was determined to keep his family happy and fed. In the first episode we find that he opted to take this purportedly new family route rather than killing and eating his mate and young, which apparently was a pretty novel idea. He worked at WESAYSO as a tree-pusher, which likely explained the lumberjack getup.



Fran Sinclair: Dinosaur housewife extraordinaire. Her skills included chasing furry future dinners around the kitchen, nagging, and wearing aprons. She inexplicably birthed offspring of varying dinosaur species. Fran initially roped Earl by means of her natural feminine scent, in her case, New Car Smell.



Charlene Sinclair: 13-year old daughter, fashion-driven and materialistic a la Quinn Mordgendorfer. We do, however, find that she exhibited some signs of intelligence by managing to prove the world is round and thus changing the course of historical geographic discovery. Other than that, she was pretty vapid.



Robbie Sinclair: 15-year old son, wise beyond his years. We knew he was semi-rebellious because his best friend sports a leather jacket. In 90s sitcom conventions, a leather jacket is the only known symbol anti-authority.




Baby Sinclair: You gotta love him. Or so he says. His catchphrase, "I'm the baby, gotta love me!" was everywhere during the show's tenure. And really, I mean everywhere. It was so famous, in fact, that DTV (the fictional dinosaur TV network) allowed him to star in the following 100% ridiculous music video (please be warned that if you watch this, there is no chance of extricating this song from your brain. Attempts at detaching it from your cerebral cortex are futile. I'm still humming it 15 years later):



Baby (yes, this was his real name) also had a penchant for hitting his father on the head with a frying pan and referring to him affectionately as "Not the mama!" Cute, right?



The show premiered in the ABC TGIF lineup, appropriately sandwiched between between fellow family sitcom hits Full House and Family Matters and was fairly popular throughout the course of its 3-year run.

Beneath the surface (this would be a good place to make some sort of fossil joke that I don't have) lurked countless vaguely recognizable voices. Allow me to share with you some of the prehistoric celebrities who lent their voices to this program of puppetry:


Jessica Walter as Fran--You know, Lucille Bluth? I suppose she's also in that new 90210, but really, she is just playing Lucille Bluth all over again. You almost expect to hear the ice cubes clinking in the glass any time you hear her voice.




Sally Struthers as Charlene--Sure, she was in All in the Family, but most of us 90s kids remember her as that blonde lady constantly imploring us to get our degrees through the magically convenient means of by-mail correspondence (I was particularly partial to the veterinary technician course, if forced to choose).




Sherman Helmsley as tyrannical (insert "-asaurus Rex joke here) WESAYSO exec BP Richfield--What is this, an All in the Family reunion? Of course, he was best known from his starring role on the Jeffersons, so you could probably say in this case he was movin' on down (and yes, I recognize that was an extremely cheap attempt at humor. Just roll with it. I think Sherman would have.). For those of you that were into that kind of thing, you may also recall him as Tia and Tamara's grandfather on Sister, Sister.



Christopher Meloni as the aforementioned badass teenage friend, Spike--Most of you probably know this guy from Law and Order:SVU, but the less fear-mongering among us may recollect his performances in Oz, Harold and Kumar, or my personal favorite, Wet Hot American Summer. Also, he once played a gym teacher on Pete & Pete. What more could you want from a man?




Kevin Clash as Baby Dinosaur--You might not recognize him by face, but Kevin here voiced some of your favorite childhood characters (allow me to assume these are your favorites. Thank you for your cooperation.) Most notably, Elmo, but also Clifford the big red dog, and everyone's favorite animated rat, Splinter from TMNT. Oh, and he also played that lovable sax-playing Sesame Street owl who sang "Put Down the Ducky". Great song.


Admittedly these are not the biggest names in the biz, but they reflect the nature of the show itself. It wasn't the flashiest or the most original, but deep down it was good fun. While the show addressed a surprising number of political issues for a puppet-centric program, it was generally lighthearted and didn't take itself too seriously. At the end of the day, isn't all you want just to watch a giant puppet dinosaur get smacked on the head with a frying pan by his less-giant puppet dinosaur son? I think so.

29 comments:

Badass Geek said...

This show SCARED me as a kid.

Oh, the nightmares.

I have no idea why. It was cheesy as heck.

Little Ms Blogger said...

You warned us and still I played the baby song clip - UGHHHHHH what was I thinking?....

I remember this show and I'm guessing the Cavemen show that aired from October to November 2007 was ABC's attempt to think outside the box.

Maybe they'll make a dinosaur movie like they're doing with Land of the Lost....

nicole addison said...

hahah!! i loved that show as a kid! the baby cracked me up! looking back it was such an awkward slightly scary show but i adored it anyways? do you remember alfie? i think that was nineties.. but he was one of my faves too :)

nicole addison said...

scratch that it was alf!

Haley said...

I frickin' loved this show! So did my little brothers...one even had a Dinasaurs themed birthday party...and he got the Baby character doll that had a pull string that said all his catch phrases....cute the first 1000 times we heard it...not so much afterwards...but it was hilarious when the voice box started going out and it sounded satanic-like...thanks for the memories!

jlc said...

OMG what an AWESOME idea for a blog!! Glad I found it!!

And yeah, what was with their fridge?? Totally freaked me out but I watched religiously anyhow before school everyday!

SassyLittleGinger said...

I LOVED this show!!! I was actually just thinking about it the other day, I want to buy some of the seasons to show my stepbrothers. they're all 2000 and up kids so they have no idea what it is. lol wow this brings a flashback... i watched it ALL the time. i loved the baby.

Alex said...

This was one of my favorite shows as a kid. It was up there with Alf, Blossom, Full House, and TMNT.

Amber said...

I don't think I ever saw this show, but I was in LOVE with the land before time!! Haha!

Nessa said...

How come i dont remember this?! The only dino i remember is Barney...wow, i missed this! lol

My Wooden Heart said...

baby sinclair was THE best!

Dani said...

I loved this show!!! I always still say "not the mama, not the mama." Ahh thank you for making my day!

Cassiopeia said...

teehee awwwww i so remember that show! woop!

xxxc

KLo said...

THIS SHOW WAS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for the memories : ) : ) : )

Andhari said...

I don't remember this too since it's not aired here. BOOO. And Barney is afer my time :P

Lil' Woman said...

I loved that show...I should have listened to you, I am now singing in my head "I'm the baby, gotta love me..."

ChinkyGirLMeL said...

hey there ...dropping in to let you know that i have an award for you down at my blog

Panda Mime said...

I love Dinosaurs, your blog and Christopher Meloni.
Thanks for following me!
x

the girl in stiletto said...

i've watched this show before... but it's somewhat vague in my memory.... i love land before time :D

Cee said...

I wasn't allowed to watch this because "the baby was rude" according to my mother. However, I would always sneak it!

The Novelista Barista said...

hahah omg i loveeeed that show!!!!!!!

ChinkyGirLMeL said...

OMG!!!! I used to watch that every single day!!!! hehehehe...I miss the good ol days. =)

Katie said...

Love love loved that show!

K @ Blog Goggles said...

Oh my goodness. I had completely forgotten about this show. That baby was so annoying.

Jessica said...

I remember this freaky show. I think we had the baby as a toy where you pulled its string and it talked.

marathoner81 said...

I tried to read this at home, but my computer froze up...Guess I'll have to make sure to read your blog at work!

I laughed out load at this post...I was just thinking about this show the other day and "Not the Mama!"

Miss HoneyDew said...

Probably my fave show from when I was a kid! "Not the mama!" Loves it!

BrookeJamison said...

Ahh the good old days. Anyone remember rockos modern life and Ren and stimpy? ? Haha I watch those shows now and I can't help but to wonder, "did they really air this on Nickelodeon?" No wonder the children of the 90's are so great

Anonymous said...

I do not remember ever watching this show. But, for whatever reason, my family owns a Dinosaurs jigsaw puzzle. It used to be kept in this cabinet and I remember that the picture really freaked me out and that the box smelled funny.

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