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Dinosaurs is a show created by Jim Henson (or at least his production company, since he died when the show was still in pre-production) that aired on ABC in the early '90s. At its core, it has the aesthetic of The Flintstones (only the family consists of dinosaurs, not prehistoric humans) and the social satire of a toned-down All in the Family and The Simpsons.It followed the adventures of the Sinclair family: Earl, the not-too-bright blue collar dad who works as a tree pusher for the WESAYSO Company; his wife, long-suffering Fran; and their three kids: rebellious teenager Robbie; naïve middle daughter Charlene; and annoying younger sibling Baby. Many of the episodes were allegories of modern social issues, such as bullying, puberty, the environment (a major issue dealt with on the show, if the last episode is indicative of anything), war, sexual harassment/discrimination, government incompetence, corporate greed and corruption, indecency in the media, racism, cultural appropriation, animal rights, religion, and women's rights.Now with a recap page.
Dinosaurs provides examples of the following tropes:
Adam and Eve Plot: A cute but delicious species of furry animal has been reduced to a single breeding pair.
Aesop Amnesia: In "The Family Challenge", after both television sets are destroyed, Earl gets the family to participate on a game show where the prize is a television set. But after spenidng a month preparing for the game show, they find that they don't really care about television anymore. But after getting all the answers wrong, Earl is given the choice of battling the competing father (a mammal) in a sudden dearth round or answer a question he has no chance of getting right. While the rest of the family (except for Fran, who did not know that the television was the prize), Earl proves to Fran that he enjoyed the time he spent with his family by choosing the question. He purposely gets it wrong by talking about how he himself learned that family is more important than TV, but then they win a consolation prize, a tiny TV, and soon the family is back to watching TV and ignoring Fran's desire to spend more time as a family.
All Animals Are Dogs: In at least two episodes, the family has one or more cavemen as their pets. Guess how they act.
An Aesop: Many episodes have one. Some have a Spoof Aesop (such as "A New Leaf", where the moral is not so much "say no to drugs" as it is "say no to drugs or else there'll be more preachy sitcom endings like this") and same have Aesop Amnesia (like in "Monster Under the Bed" where Earl decides that adults should believe what kids say no matter how unbelievable it is, only for Fran to dismiss it as a stupid lesson, and for Earl to decide she's right when Baby looks out the window and seesa giant potato.)
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Georgie the hippo in "Georgie Must Die", who acted like a friendly and playful Man Child that loves making children happy, but was really a Manipulative Bastard who only uses the smiles of children for his own profits to make money and avoid taxes.
Break the Cutie: Robbie in "Career Opportunities". While getting a feel as a tree pusher, he incurs the wrath of Richfield, and is shown the entire time to be paralyzed in fear. Unlike most instances of the trope, it's Played for Laughs.
Cane Fu: Ethyl's preferred method of dealing with Earl.
Carnivore Confusion: Mr. Richfield is a ceratopsian (horned dinosaur) that eats meat (specifically the two mammals mentioned above, and his daughter's boyfriends). Possibly Hilarious in Hindsight with the new discoveries that Triceratops may have been omnivorous.
Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes until it's too late that there's a monster under the babies bed. And when Earl decides that parents should believe what kids tell them, no matter how far-fetched, he quickly changes his mind when the Baby sees a giant squid outside.
The Baby's "Gotta Love Me!" and "Not The Mama", among others.
An odd instance — "We're going to need another Timmy!" was only used in 3 episodes, yet it sticks out in people's minds. (This one doubles as an in-universe example as the it's part of a Show Within a Show and it sticks in the characters' minds.)
Fran: I don't want to argue in front of the B-A-B-Y. Earl: Well I'm not changing another D-A-I... no wait... D-I-A... (Baby used some blocks to write "They think I can't spell.")
Check Please: Robbie invented a device that'd allow people to draw energy from a volcano. Fearing the financial loss WESAYSO Corporation would suffer, Mr. Richfield invited the Sinclairs for dinner and tried to buy all rights to the device. When Earl unwittingly gave Richfield the idea to buy the volcano instead, Richfield quickly left the scene and Earl asked for the check.
Christmas Carolers: Refrigerator Day includs carols, which are basically re-worded versions of the real ones, and are also seen being used in advertisements, which Robbie feels cheapens the holiday.
Church of Happyology: A slight jab in one episode with a commercial selling a book called "Dino-Netics: The Science of Selling Books"
Clip Show: Two are done in the series. The first is done in a mock-documentary style where an paleontologist talks about dinosaurs and fossil hunting. The second one features the same guy, and done in a more infomercial type with him trying to sell books on paleontology.
The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Earl, even in the episodes where his complaints seemed to have a certain degree of validity, was always proved 100% wrong by the coda. Lampshaded/subverted in "License to Parent". In the final scene of the episode Earl gripes about how "you were right, I was wrong... Fran is perfect and Earl learns another lesson." Fran disagrees, saying that perhaps she learned the lesson this time around.
Construction Catcalls: While on break, Roy begins leering at a young dino lady with a fully-developed tail.
Crapsack World: It's a world where the biggest, strongest, or oldest are the only ones that get a say in matters, and the decisions made are usually terrible. If you are not the absolute apex predator, you always have to watch your back from being eaten by aformentioned biggest and strongest. And don't get us started on what life is like for small mammals.
Earl: It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. Ethyl: Then you're the guy for the job.
Or upon learning that Earl will be challenged to a duel to the death.
Ethyl: (to Fran) Congratulations. You're a widow.
Deal with the Devil: Earl once traded his soul for a mug with a devil. Fortunately, the mug came with a guarantee of refund for unsatisfied customers which Earl found when the devil was about to collect. Earl's refund came as a Reset Button Ending that made time come back at the moment the devil showed up to offer the deal in the first place.
Depending on the Writer: Whether or not Ethyl lives with the Sinclairs. Ethyl's first appearance ends with her moving in with the family, but while she's often seen living with the Sinclairs, there are also episodes where she doesn't live with them. Earl invites her over for dinner with his boss in "Employee of the Month", she doesn't appear until halfway through "The Family Challenge" (not being there for the first two family dinner scenes), she doesn't go on vacation with the family in "Variations of a Theme Park", and "Slave to Fashion" has a scene with her coming over for dinner.
In "Power Erupts", WESAYSO exec, Earl's boss Mr. Richfield invites the Sinclaire family to dinner at a fancy restaurant in order to convince Robbie to sell his volcano-powered generator designs... after WESAYSO has discredited the idea with some mass-media mudslinging.
When Earl was made Employee Of The Month, Mr. Richfield said he'd invite Earl and his family to dinner at his place but, since he was doing some alterations in the bathroom (or so he said), he invited himself to diner at Earl's place. With an overinflated ego, Earl had his family ready for this and even invited his mother-in-law to rub it in her face. Richfield didn't show up.
The Dutiful Son: Back when they were kids, Earl and his sister Pearl dreamed of being singers. However, for the sake of his sick mother, Earl set the dream aside and resented his sister for not doing the same.
Economy Cast: One-shot characters are played by the same seven or eight puppets every episode, known as "Unisaurs". That meant a character could be male in one episode and female in another. This got a little awkward when the puppets usually used as Earl's coworkers played females. In one disturbing episode, the usually-male puppets are used as not just females, but exotic dancers.
Employee Of The Month: When Mr. Richfield placed a suggestion box, Earl suggested the EOTM prize would motivate the employees. Mr. Richfield then made Earl the first EOTM just because he didn't want to take his time evaluating other employees.
Escalating War: The two-parter "Nuts to War" miniseries, made in response to the Persian Gulf War, where a petty territorial dispute over the rights to pistachio trees escalates into a full-blown war between the two-legged dinosaurs and the four-legged ones. In the end, there was only one two-legged casualty, but it turns out Robbie is okay.
Exact Words: The house gets hit by a meteorite. Earl says it's okay, since they have meteor insurance. Guess what the insurance guy says? This is a spectacular demonstration of lay people not doing the research. Or possibly an AnviliciousTake That against perceived semantic hair-splitting by insurance agents.
Exploding Calendar: Made fun of in one episode where Earl frantically tries to stick the previous day back on.
Expy: The Simpsons has lampshaded in one episode (the episode where Sideshow Bob returns to marry Selma Bouvier) in which Bart is watching a Springfield version of Dinosaurs and he remarks that its just like someone watched their family and copied it.
While watching TV in one episode, Earl remarks how once one show is successful, more shows try to copy it. To which Baby replies, "Don't have a cow, man!"
A few episodes dealt with tensions between two-legged and four-legged dinosaurs. A bit of Fridge Logic when you realize B.P. Richfield himself, being a triceratops, is also a four-legged dinosaur.
Mammals being treated poorly, particularly when they get shafted on a music deal in one episode. The dinosaur producers like the music and lyrics, but they don't like the idea of a mammal having created it so they co-opt it for themselves, and release the music and lyrics, but as sung by a dinosaur singer.
Glamorous Wartime Singer: When the dinosaurs went to war over pistachios, Charlene, Earl, and Roy (all in dresses) performed for the soldiers, as it was the only way to get to the front lines and bring Robbie home.
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: One episode has Baby repeating "Smoo" after hearing it on TV for the first time. Earl leads a protest group to get the network to stop making shows about Smoo and other dirty words (Flark, Glick).
Green Aesop: Many episodes had one, but none quite so much as the finale: Every year, a huge swarm of insects passes through town, and people come from miles around to see the spectacle, until WESAYSO builds a wax fruit factory on their breeding grounds. The insects die out, and without them, the vines they consumed spread virulently (soon they're taking over the Sinclairs' house, the news studio, WESAYSO's headquarters and everywhere else). WESAYSO plans to fix that with mass volcanic eruptions, which destroy the ecosphere, bring in the Ice Age and end the dinosaur civilisation (and the series).
"For scratching his father's brand new car, Robert Mark Sinclair was grounded for six to ten years. He is currently serving his sentence in his room."
Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Most of the characters wear everything but pants, and it's not just the men. Fran and Charlene might wear a nightdress if they were going to sleep, otherwise the female characters all are pantsless too. Lampshaded in the "smoo" episode, when censorship goes amuck, Earl shows that, as part of the push for censorship, the pants that he suddenly is forced to wear, to Fran's horror.
Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: Earl is a Megalosaurus. Fran is, according to Word of God, an Allosaurus. What their children are is anyone's guess. On the behind-the-scenes feature for the DVD, the creators admit that the kids' designs aren't based on any real dinosaurs and are made up.
Impossible Insurance: In one episode, the Sinclair's house (and TV) gets struck by a falling meteorite. Earl actually had bought meteor insurance but is denied coverage since he's only covered for meteors and once a meteor passes through the atmosphere it becomes a meteorite. When the insurance company employee told Earl he'd only get coverage if his house had been floating in space when the meteor hit the TV, Earl claimed it was and that the neighbors would confirm it.
Informed Obscenity: In one episode, a great controversy erupted over the word "smoo". And thanks the the publicity, the same channel then started showing "The Flark Show".
Innocent Swearing: Baby learns one such word, "smoo". (In the dinosaur lingo, this is a dirty word because it describes debris that accumulates on the sole of a dinosaur's foot.)
Insane Troll Logic: In "Family Challenge", Earl preps his family for their upcoming game show appearance with a lesson. On his blackboard, he has classified everything on Earth into three categories — "Animal", "Vegetable" and "Rocks".
Robby: What about fire? Earl: Vegetable. Charlene: What about water? Earl: Water is the opposite of fire, which we have previously established as a vegetable. What's the opposite of a vegetable? Fruit! So, water is a fruit. Fruit is not a vegetable, so it has to be an animal or a rock. We know it's not an animal, so therefore, fruit is a rock.
It Is Not Your Time: Ethyl once went to the afterlife only to be told it wasn't her time yet and she woke up with earth on her face since Earl buried her. She missed her late husband so much she didn't want to wait for her time any longer until he warned her to live her life to her full extent otherwise she'd spent her afterlife at a "not so nice place". (In her case, a Sinclair household full of Earls, resulting in a Big "NO!".)
Ironic Echo: At the very end of the first episode, Earl tells Baby while standing at the window that he and his brother and sister were born dinosaurs, "and dinosaurs rule the world... and we're gonna rule the world forever." In the final episode, he admits to Baby that he's screwed up the world to the point where there isn't much of a world left for his children. He also says desperately, "And hey, I'm sure it will all turn out OK. After all, dinosaurs have been on this earth for 150 million years. It's not like we're going to just... disappear." One of the final scenes is Earl at the same window, watching the encroaching Ice Age that will doom the dinosaurs.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Spike is generally considered to be a troublemaker and a bit of a delinquent. However, he is genuinely concerned for Robbie's well being, and has on several occassions gotten him out of serious trouble.
Judgment of Solomon: In one episode where the baby was believed to have gotten switched with a green clone of himself from another family, he was cut in half and then put together in a weird cross between this trope and Vegas-style stage magic.
Earl's fellow network executives in the episode "Network Genius" also qualify. When the programming Earl puts on makes dinosaurs dumber, he reluctantly puts on more intelligent shows which succeed in making dinosaurs smarter again, but eventually they become so smart that they don't feel a need to watch television. Earl ends up quitting when he finds out his fellow executives don't care what's on TV, as long as they get ratings. And then they use the publics love of reading to put out an Expy for TV Guide, which gets them watching television again and losing their newfound intelligence, while the ratings presumably improve.
When the bipeds declared war against four-leggers, the biped President announced the young and the poor would be drafted.
In a debate on whether rich people should eat poor people, the proposition's supporters claimed being food was the only thing poor people were useful for and those opposed claimed the poor could contaminate whoever ate them.
Knight Templar Parent: Richfield. He's eaten every ex-boyfriend his daughter has dated after they broke her heart (not after, while they were dating his daughter). Naturally, this raises problems for the Sinclair family once Robbie starts dating her.
In the "How to Pick Up Girls" episode, Earl and Baby are watching a puppet show on TV. Fran wonders why they're watching a "kids show". Earl then explains that while it is a kids' show, it has a lot of dialogue and jokes that kids wouldn't get, but older viewers would:
Earl: You might think that because they're puppets, the show seems to have a children's aesthetic. (aside glance) Yet the dialogue is unquestionably sharp-edged, witty, and thematically skewed to adults.
During the "Sexual" Harris hearings on TV, Monica gets called a prostitute by one of the workers. Ethyl complains about the language used on TV these days and how it's bad for kids. Fran argues that it makes them think, with Ethyl saying that she doesn't want kids to think, and instead would rather have them watch "safe little situational comedies with time-tested repetitive storylines".
Another episode had Earl complaining about how all the family sitcoms airing are about idiot fathers, saying, "This is why TV stinks. One show's a hit, and they make 50 more just like it, with the same characters and the same premise." This is coming from a show that was made on the heels of The Simpsons' early years, when it was considered fresh, new, and subversive (made evident by Baby saying, "Don't have a cow, man!").
The episode where Ethyl tells her story about the afterlife and gets on TV for it, Earl once again mentions watching the kiddie puppet show with witty, risque jokes. Fran once again tells Earl that it's a kids' show, and Earl uses the concept of Parental Bonus again as a defense. Fran then adds, "It'll last a year," which is how long most of the imitationSimpsons shows lasted (including Dinosaurs).
Laugh Track: Employed against the wishes of the producers by ABC for the first few episodes, before (thankfully) being abandoned. The Netflix and DVD version of this show is thankfully laugh track-free.
Let's Meet the Meat: The furry little mammals often stored and used as food. They may not be happy about their ultimate fate, but oftentimes treat being eaten as a matter of course, and go along with it dutifully.
MacGuffin: Parodied. In the episode "Scent of a Reptile", Charlene gets her "scent", which will attract one male dinosaur, who will be her mate for life. Because her destined mate is a slobbish janitor, her grandmother tells her the only way to change her scent is with a very rare flower found on the other side of the world — the MacGuffin Lily.
Marijuana Is LSD: Averted in what is quite possibly the most realistic portrayal of the drug on the episode "A New Leaf," which shows that anyone who eats the happy plant becomes giggly, lethargic, unproductive, constantly hungry, and, in some cases, paranoid.
Meaningful Name: The episode "Family Challenge" had the Sinclairs competing on a game show against the Nielson family, who have an extensive knowledge of television.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Earl as he was made VP of communications to help clear up the vines that were plaguing the dinosaurs (due to WESAYSO building a wax fruit factory over the bugs that ate them and kept them at bay). Robbie and Charlene both tried to get him to use alternate, less damaging methods but he wouldn't listen and when came time for the final volcano exploding plan. When he had the opportunity to object it and save his species, he caved. In the end, the plan formed a new Ice Age which will no doubt kill off the dinosaur civilization.
Not the Intended Use: Baby likes hitting Earl over the head with a frying pan, which breaks the pan. This leads to an argument between the Sinclairs and the manufacturer over their warranty which promises the frying pan will last through "normal use", and in their house, Baby beating Earl over the head with a frying pan is considered normal.
Only Six Faces: Because of how elaborate and complex the (remote-operated) faces were, expect to see the same few used for the one-shot, unnamed, and background dinosaur characters.
The Other Darrin: Played with. Fran's animatronic was entirely redesigned for the second season so it absolutely does not resemble her first incarnation, but her voice actress (Jessica Walter) stayed on and played her for the entire series.
Out of Order: Even though Charlene grew a bigger tail in "Charlene's Tale", certain episodes filmed prior showing her shorter tail such as "Employee of the Month" and "Unmarried... with Children" aired after it. There's also the seven episodes filmed prior to the series finale that were shown afterwards when the show moved to syndication.
Overprotective Dad: Taken Up to Eleven with Mr. Richfield. He's so overprotective, he actually eats his daughters boyfriends. (He claims he only wanted to talk to the first one, but he lost his temper, and "after that, it was like eatin' peanuts.")
Parental Bonus: Referenced in "How to Pick Up Girls" about how the puppet show Earl and Baby are watching isn't strictly a kids' show because it has jokes and double entendres that older viewers would like as well.
Also done in a Take That to Scientology, where "Dino-Netics" is advertised on TV.
Positive Discrimination: Monica. She's a career woman (the only one on the show), extremely intelligent (highest scores in her class), articulate, physically strong, and, judging by several of the males' reactions (particularly Roy), beautiful. It's hard to miss because she's a brontosaurus, but she's also been referred to as "a female African." So, yes within the context of the show, Monica is black (though the "blacks" on the show are actually blue, furry mammals). But it doesn't matter because she doesn't take crap from anyone (like when she went against the WESAYSO board members in a sexual harassment case, even though she lost) and she proves that some women don't need to be married to be happy (in "Unmarried...With Children," she let her marriage license expire because she looked back at her marriage and realized it wasn't worth the $40 renewal fee).
The newsreader (a hand-operated puppet) is named Howard Handupme.
And (as seen below) Foreman Harris' nickname is "Sexual", leading to the trial's pun of "What 'Sexual' Harris Meant".
Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: "And let me conclude by saying Foreman Harris is a great guy. Monica's been a troublemaker as long as I've known her and I'm pretty sure she cheats on her taxes. Stop here, look up, smile◊."
Repeat After Me: The Chief Elder has, among other responsibilities, the duty to name babies. When Earl and Fran brought Baby to be named, the Chief Elder started feeling pain and moaned. As the scribe in charge of writing the names on a certificate wrote the moans, the Chief Elder explained he was dying. Until a new Chief Elder was elected so the Sinclairs could take Baby to be renamed, Baby Sinclair's official name was "Agh Ugh I'm Dying You Idiot Sinclair". Another victim of the trope was Fran's cousin "Atchoo".
Not to mention a childhood classmate of Fran's, little "Burrrp Excuse Me Siegelman."
Retroactive Wish: Baby Sinclair was whining about wanting his pacifier. After it fell of the fireplace, Earl shouted that he wanted a big-screen TV and cable. As nothing happened, he said he wanted a bigger fireplace.
Self-Deprecation: One episode where Earl was a TV executive had him see a pilot episode of Dr. Kirk Marcus, M.D. which featured a minor character called "Baby Cuddlebunny", who is essentially a parody of Baby Sinclair himself. Earl liked him and demanded that he be the doctor, changing the name to Baby Cuddlebunny, M.D.. He later spouts his catch phrase ("Not the pajamas!"), wears T-shirts of his likeness, and the execs even make a talking pullstring doll (similar to the real doll made of Baby Sinclair). Ethyl even wonders how his catchphrase got so popular.
In "Charlene's Flat World", after being convicted of heresy for thinking the Earth wasn't flat, Charlene requests her sentence be death by being thrown off the Earth. She and Robbie return from the other side... 80 days later.
In one episode, Earl and Roy are dumping toxic waste in a swamp called "Silent Spring Recreation Area".
Robbie has a poster in his room of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Cavemen. An Actor Allusion too, as the guys in Robbie's, Charlene's and the Baby's suits were Donatello, Michaelangelo and Splinter in the 1990 film. Also a bit of Fridge Brilliance in that Jim Henson's Creature Shop, who designed the costumes and puppets for Dinosaurs, also designed the live action Ninja Turtles.
The Sinclair family's name comes from the Sinclair gas station, which has a green dinosaur for a mascot. Earl is name after Earl Holding, the company's owner. Earl also wears a shirt of the Sinclair clan's tartan.
Earl's boss, B.P. Richfield, is named after both British Petroleum (BP) and the Richfield Oil Company (which coincidentally absorbed the Sinclair chain in the late 1960s, and both companies were later absorbed by BP many years later!).
Straw Character: In the election episode, Earl's already-strawmanned evil big-business boss became a Republican-expyStrawman who among other things described trickle-down economics as stuffing the pockets of rich people so full of money that the change would fall out and roll downhill to poor people.
Sudden Downer Ending: Possibly the saddest sitcom ending ever. After all those episodes of laid-back comedy, Earl accidentally triggers a series of environmental crises, resulting in the Ice Age that will bring about the extinction of the dinosaurs. The series ends with the main characters (along with the rest of the world) standing around quietly, contemplating their grim fate. Knowing something like this would haveundoubtedly happened eventually does not make the final episode any less depressing.
Swallowed Whole/"Fantastic Voyage" Plot: In one episode ("I Never Ate for My Father," where Robbie becomes an herbivore and Earl tries to set him straight), a Tyrannosaurus swallows Robbie whole in front of his father Earl. Later on, Earl has to get swallowed alive by the same Tyrannosaurus so that he can get himself and Robbie out of the beast alive.
Switched at Birth: There's an episode called this trope where the Sinclair family finds out that Baby's egg got switched with the egg of the Molehill family.
Teens Are Short: Averted — Robbie, who started the show at 14, is either the same height or slightly taller than Earl depending on the episode.
Terra Deforming: In the last episode, Earl ends up destroying all plant life on the planet to get rid of these vines that were growing everywhere as a result of the bugs that would normally eat them having gone extinct.
That Old Time Prescription: Baby gets seriously ill and the family spends lots of money on fancy new medicines. When those fail, they go to a healer who lives in the woods, who cures the baby with moldy bread (which is where penicillin comes from).
Theme Naming: The names of the main characters are based on oil and/or gas companies (Sinclair, Roy Hess, EthylPhillips, B.P.Richfield). Petroleum is a fossil fuel. Since dinosaurs are the best-known fossil animals, they have become associated with oil. Earl also sounds like "oil" (but only if you affect a Deep South accent).
Too Dumb to Live: Each and every Timmy. Well, maybe not at first, when the experiments weren't as obviously deadly, but after how many Timmies bit the dust, and after Mr. Lizard started hiding behind lead shielding before Timmy did what he did, this was clearly in effect.
Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Earl and Fran suffered so much from their experiences with their two oldest kids while they are two, that they had blocked out the entire year.
Possibly the WESAYSO Corporation as well. They do some pretty bad things in the show, but no-one ever really stands up to them, nor do they protest stuff they do, such as when they bad-mouth Robbie because he created a dome over a volcano which could give everyone free energy.
Wasn't That Fun?: Turned into a Running Gag. Whenever Baby endured any kind of physical punishment, ranging from being hit to being thrown across the room, and one time, even falling out of a tree, one of the first words out of his mouth was an enthusiastic, "Again!"
We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: In the episode where Earl becomes a TV executive and creates programming that makes most of Pangaea's population stupid, the cameraman in the newsroom fails to focus on Howard Handupme's anchoring, bringing up a "PLEEZE STAND BIE" card.