(The Disneycember logo is shown, before showing clips from Dinosaurs)
Doug (vo; mimics Baby Sinclair): Not the mama! Not the mama! (Speaks normally) Yeah, if you were around in the early 90s, then you know this phrase, and it probably drove you insane. This was the catchphrase of the little baby dinosaur from the Disney and ABC show, Dinosaurs. Despite this catchphrase of the time being shoved down everybody's throat with the advertising and merchandising and so forth, revisiting this show, I actually found it was much better than I remember it. Oh, don't get me wrong. There's still plenty in it that's gimmicky and childish and obviously meant for little ones, but as the show progressed, it got a very solid cynical edge to it, using Jim Henson Studio's family-friendly designs to disguise what at times was actually pretty clever commentary. I know how crazy that sounds, but hear me out. There actually is more to this show than I think people give credit.
Doug (vo): The series, at first, kind of seems like a reversal of The Flintstones, with the dinosaurs running everything and the cavemen being more like the pets. The one downside I have to this is I never liked that the humans were the same size as the dinosaurs. I mean, I know, they didn't exist at the same time, but...dinosaurs didn't have sinks either. I know I'm overthinking it, but it just drove me nuts. Anywho, the majority of the show is centered around Earl Sinclair. He has a pretty run-of-the-mill family with a supportive wife, a rocking son, an insecure daughter, a pain-in-the-ass mother-in-law, and, of course, a cute little baby who says cute little things. He has a best friend who's not very smart, a boss who's always a jerk, and all sorts of shenanigans happen around him with his harebrained schemes and stupid ideas.
Doug (vo): Like I said, sounds very run of the mill, and, at first, it kind of is. A lot of the early episodes is just setting up the very basic characters, and, in a way, kind of the very basic world. I mean, like I said, it's kind of like Flintstones, you've seen this before. It's cool seeing it in live-action with the great animatronics and puppets, and, honestly, I'd argue it looks better than the actual Flintstones movie. But early on, the characters and situations are a little cookie-cutter and you can even see where they cut corners. Just count how many times you see a lot of these dinosaur suits pop up again as different characters.
(Clips focusing on a Season 3 episode "Baby Talk" are shown)
Doug (vo): But after the show began to grow an audience, the writers took a lot more risks in what they can get away with...or maybe not risks, because they never flat-out said what they were doing. For example, there's this great episode based around TV censorship. The baby sees a bad word on TV, and it's repeated over and over and over, so he starts saying it. Everybody is horrified, and so, they decide that the TV stations have to change the way TV is done. So that word is officially outlawed. But why stop at that word? Why not all bad words? Okay, well, all bad words are outlawed. But why stop there? How about scanty clothing? They don't like certain types of clothing, so they get rid of that. But why stop there? They just keep going and going and going until the law of the entire world is changed. But what makes this brilliant is the swear word the baby says. You know what it is? Smoo.
(Doug accidentally pronounces the word as "shmoo", but a caption appears saying, "Actually "Smoo" but I didn't have time to fix it")
Doug (vo): What's a smoo? Nobody knows. They never explain it, they never even give any context to what it might be, they just say it's really, really insulting and everybody is horrified whenever it's said. Now a kid can watch that and really have fun, trying to imagine what it is, and it kind of sparks the imagination and creativity. But an adult can watch it and totally get what they're doing. This was during what, at the time, was considered PC culture, you know, before...things got better. But who's gonna look to Dinosaurs to see them disrupting everything, especially when they're saying bad words that don't even exist?
(Clips focusing on a Season 2 episode "And the Winner Is..." are shown)
Doug (vo): There's one that practically predicts the future. Earl's boss is running for President and chooses Earl as the only person to go against him, knowing he's a patsy. When Earl's conscience gets the best of him and he admits that he's a patsy and that nobody should vote for the boss, but they shouldn't really vote for him either, 'cause he doesn't know what he's doing, they eventually vote for a newscaster. Yeah! A reality show host!
(Clips focusing on a Season 2 two-parter episode "Nuts to War" are shown)
Doug (vo): There's another great one that satirizes war. In this world, they literally go to war over nuts. Yeah, over something as silly as jars of nuts. War is literally nuts in this world. But to them, war is just throwing stones. Yeah, it's like nothing, but then there's this big advancement when they move on to sticks, literally throwing sticks and stones, and they're like, "Oh, my God! Somebody could lose an eye!", like that's a big, big deal. All I could think about as a kid is, "Man, imagine if they saw wars that humans would make and how terrible that would be, and they're so shocked by this." It's silly, but you can actually pull some significance out of it.
(Clips focusing on the series finale, "Changing Nature", are shown)
Doug (vo): But by far, the episode everyone remembers is the final one, probably the most depressing and cryptic finale that's ever been run by ABC. The dinosaurs finally get so comfortable and powerful that they end up destroying the world. Both through fire and winter of their own making, it looks like nobody's gonna make it, but Earl still stands by the people in charge know what they're doing, and won't let their entire species die away. The final image is just Earl looking out the window with his family, and that's it. Again, nobody would get upset, because we don't see them die and they don't say any bad words, but everybody knows what's implied. This is how the dinosaurs have wiped themselves out, and it could be how we could wipe ourselves out. There's definitely hints to how humanity could do it, but they never get too specific. It's just a warning that these species were here and used to rule the planet, and now they're not. Now we're here currently ruling the planet, and one day, we also may not. Would you expect that to be the ending of a show, the series finale that has the catchphrase "Not the mama"?
Doug (vo): Somewhere along the lines, the writers either got this super-cynical edge, or they just realized if they disguised it enough, nobody would ever question them, but either way, they made a show that surprisingly had some smart satire. Now, with that said, is this one of the great shows? Not especially. I mean, the characters are still kind of cookie-cutter, and the jokes can be hit-or-miss, and, yeah, sometimes, it does seem weird and silly just to be weird and silly, which isn't always bad, but it's not always funny either. But nevertheless, I think this show was smarter than people thought it was. And when people go back and watch it again, yeah, they see all the weird little catchphrases and the funny little family-friendly stuff, but the more they watch it, the more they do see elements of themselves in it, too, again, more in the stories than the characters, but they still see it. So, yeah, I actually think this is a very smart and enjoyable show, even if it is very inconsistent. When it doesn't work, it's not godawful or anything, it's just a little awkward. But when it does really work, it surprises you, and delights you that such a seemingly innocent show can have this surprising edge to it. I'm not guaranteeing you're gonna fall in love with it or anything, but I do think that you might find more than you originally remembered.
(A signature scene showing Earl Sinclair arriving home from work is shown)
Earl Sinclair: Honey, I'm home!