Series / Dinosaurs
Just your average dinosaur family.

Dinosaurs is a puppet-based sitcom created by Michael Jacobs and Bob Young, which aired on ABC from 199094. 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.

The show 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 spending 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 death 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.
    • A more subtle example: In "Hurling Day", after Ethyl gives her reasons for wanting to be hurled, stating that she doesn't know what, at her age, she has to live for, she quickly realizes that the one thing she has to live for is making Earl's life miserable. She later learns the same basic lesson in "Driving Miss Ethyl" where, after learning that all of her classmates have died, she realizes that this is the one thing keeping her happy in life.
  • 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 episodes 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 sees a giant squash.
  • And I Must Scream: The episode "If You Were A Tree".
  • Animated Actors:
    • At the end of the "Happy Plant" episode Robbie breaks the fourth wall and we find out that Dinosaurs is a sitcom, complete with a dinosaur crew.
    • The Chicago Tribune newspaper once ran a profile of Earl Sinclair in the same format that they ran profiles of other well-known actors of the day.
  • As You Know: Lampshaded in "Refrigerator Day".
    Baby: What's refrigerator day?
    Ethyl: I already told you.
    Baby: Was I listening?
    • Justified considering he is a baby.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: A recurring theme in the series
  • Berserk Button: Never use the E-word ("efficient") in front of Mr. Richfield.
  • 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.
  • Bumbling Dad: Earl is generally portrayed as an incompetent father.
  • Cane Fu: Ethyl's preferred method of dealing with Earl is to hit her with her cane.
  • 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.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Sexual Harris
  • Cassandra Truth: Nobody believes until it's too late that there's a monster under the baby's 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 squash outside.
  • Catch Phrase
    • 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.)
    • Earl Sinclair: "Honey, I'm home! I'm hungry!"
    • B.P. Richfield: "SINCLAIR! IN HERE NOW!!!"
  • Celebrity Is Overrated
  • Censorship by Spelling:
    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.
  • Child Naming Request: The local elder can get asked to name parent's children. In case of the Sinclair family, the baby received the name "Help Help I'm Dying You Idiot Sinclair".
  • Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs: Known as "Sugar Frosted Boo-boo Bears".
  • Christmas Carolers: Refrigerator Day includes 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 a 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. Which means that Earl is 100% wrong about being wrong.
  • Construction Catcalls: While on break, Roy begins leering at a young dino lady with a fully-developed tail.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive
    • Mr. Richfield
    • Mr. Ashland, WESAYSO's CEO, is even worse. He detests butt-kissers, mounting their heads on a wall, and he keeps a pet "lawyer" named Elliot in his desk, always ready to eat Ashland's enemies.
  • Crappy Carnival: Wesaysoland in the episode "Variations on a Theme Park", which was created in a single day to take advantage of Pangaea's newly-instituted vacation time "through imagination, ingenuity, and a relaxed attitude towards building codes". Unfortunately, the rides are unfinished, the concessions are expensive, and the hotel rooms are decorated in an unflattering cow-themed design (to go along with its corporate mascot, Moola the Cash Cow).
  • 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 aforementioned biggest and strongest. And don't get us started on what life is like for small mammals.
  • Dark Horse Victory: The episode "And the Winner Is..." revolves around the dinosaur equivalent of a Presidential election, with Earl running as an everyman candidate against Corrupt Corporate Executive B.P. Richfield. The winner is the political correspondent who anchored the election coverage, by a landslide write-in vote.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ethyl definitely counts.
    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.
    • Baby is like this all the time, possibly as much as his grandma.
  • 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.
  • Dinner with the Boss
    • In "Power Erupts", WESAYSO exec, Earl's boss Mr. Richfield invites the Sinclair 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 Dinosaurs Had It Coming: In the last episode, the dinosaurs go extinct due to a chain of events that started with them destroying the breeding grounds of a specific species of bug. When they try to fix the damage to the ecosystem, they just make things worse.
  • Doting Grandparent: Ethyl Phillips to Baby.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Multiple.
    • Robbie's stint with vegetarianism is treated like homosexuality (or having a drug addict in the family or someone in the family getting involved in an unconventional religion or political party).
    • Robbie doing "The Mating Dance" around a girl he likes.
    • Robbie bulking up on "Thornoids".
    • Charlene's tail growing being an obvious reference to breast development.
    • The "Green Card" episode refers to anti-immigration sentiment, and blue-furred mammals are standing in for African-American people.
    • A "war-time" episode ("Nuts to War"), where the four-legged dinos wage war with the two-legged over pistachio nuts.
    • The episode "The Greatest Story Ever Sold" covered philosophy and organized religion, particularly the use of religion as a pacifier for the masses.
    • There was also an episode where the dinosaurs purchased a huge amount of land from cavemen for a fistful of glass pearls.
    • Charlene's muse accidentally giving her the round-earth theory instead of a great brownies recipe, sparking a science versus religion debate.
    • And the finale where dinosaur-made climate change causes the species' extinction.
    • The happy plant is a reference to marijuana.
  • Downer Ending: And how. See Kill 'em All.
  • Drama Bomb Finale: The last episode.
  • Dumb Dinos: The dinosaurs, especially the main cast, are generally well-meaning but tend to be slow on the uptake. They end up responsible for their own extinction.
  • 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.
  • End of an Age: The last episode.
  • Enfant Terrible: Baby was already very bratty to begin with, but this was taken Up to Eleven when he reaches the Terrible Twos, resulting in a parody of The Exorcist. According to Ethyl, this happens to all children at two years of age.
  • Episode Discussion Scene: Done at the end of the Drugs Are Bad Very Special Episode parody, with Robbie stepping out of character (in an Animated Actors way, not a the-actual-puppeteer-appeared-on-camera way) to talk about the message of the episode.
  • 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.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The show's title.
  • 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 Anvilicious Take 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!"
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs
  • Fantastic Racism
    • 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.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: The two-parter "Nuts to War", filmed shortly after the first Gulf War, had the two-legged dinosaurs go to war with the four-leggers over pistachio nuts in "Operation We Are Right."
  • Flying Brick: When Earl takes a swim in a toxic waste-infected lake he gets flight, heat vision, and the ability to guess a person's weight to within a pound.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: Earl gets rich after suing WESAYSO for the broken leg he got when a tree fell on it. He immediately starts acting like an idiot, refusing to help his friends when they get laid off and prices go up. He does try to return the money, but Richfield won't rehire everyone and lower prices. Eventually, he accidentally hits Richfield's trailer with his car, and Richfield claims whiplash and sues him, winning all the money back.
  • Foreshadowing: In the first episode, Robbie notes that Pangea's dating system goes in reverse, and wonders what they're supposed to be counting down to.
  • Foregone Conclusion: We know the dinosaurs went extinct. Although it's mainly how dramatic the finale is that really hammers it.
  • Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better: Despite the presence of both bipedal and quadrupedal dinosaurs in the series, there's also genera that would normally be quadrupedal in real life walking on two legs.
  • Free the Frogs: When Robbie's class are called on to dissect cavepeople, Robbie smuggles his out of the class, takes it home as a pet, and eventually releases it into the wild.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: The Baby's weapon of choice.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: Used, at times, by Fran.
    Fran: "Earl Snead Sinclair!"
  • Fully Automatic Clip Show: Poor Earl getting hit over the head in the opening credits.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The most obvious being the Antediluvian Broadcasting Company. There's also We Are Right and We Are Rong.
  • Fun with Flushing: The episode where Baby learned to use the toilet had some of this.
  • Fur and Loathing: The episode "Slave to Fashion".
  • Genius Ditz: Roy Hess, at times.
  • Genre Savvy: When Earl gets his Flying Brick powers, Roy tells him he has to become a superhero and not tell his family, because that's how they do it in comic books.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: When Earl starts freaking out after Robbie misses his howl, thereby dooming all dinosaurs, Ethyl whacks him with her cane and tells him to get a hold of himself.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • One of the greatest examples is in "The Howling" when Ethel informs us that male dinosaurs tend to get cranky around the time of a full moon because of Pre-Howling Syndrome... PHS.
      Charlene: I'm so happy I'm a girl.
    • The News Anchorsaur Howard Handupme (though that's more of a reference to the fact that he's a puppet).
    • The mating dance. There's also a mating dance instructor Earl visits called "Mel Luster".
    • "Sexual" Harris, the subject of the episode "What Sexual Harris Meant".
    • After Charlene, Earl, and Roy perform at the war in "Nuts to War: Part 2", Charlene says "I was born to give pleasure to whole groups of boys!".
  • Getting the Baby to Sleep: Earl does the Mating Dance to get Baby to sleep.
  • Gilligan Cut: Lots and lots of times with Earl.
  • 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.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: In one episode of "Ask Mister Lizard", Mister Lizard makes Timmy wear safety goggles before doing a dangerous experiment, one that goggles wouldn't help stay safe.
  • 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). The WESAYSO company fixes that with poison, killing the vines, but also every other plant. WESAYSO plans to fix that with mass volcanic eruptions (to create rain clouds), which destroy the ecosphere, bring in the Ice Age and end the dinosaur civilisation (and the series).
  • Grounded Forever: The episode "License to Parent":
    "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.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Earl and Roy.
  • 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.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Or rather, animals who act like humans are bastards, since the actual humans (cavepeople) are primitive and treated like animals.
  • Hypocritical Humor: From "Earl & Pearl", when Pearl tells her brother Earl "Lordy, brother, have you gotten fat."
  • I Love Nuclear Power: In one episode Earl gets superpowers from a dip in a toxic waste dump. When he finally showers it off he loses them.
  • Image Song: The irritatingly catchy "I'm the Baby" is the best known because it had a music video that aired after an episode, but there was actually a full album of these. Even the food in the Sinclairs' refrigerator got its own song.
  • 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 Came from the Fridge: And they even help you get hard-to-find items, too!
  • 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.
  • Karma Houdini
    • Mr. Richfield though it's subverted in the series finale. He may have all of that money but he won't be able to enjoy it.
    • 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.
    • Pretty much any Corrupt Corporate Executive is this.
  • Kent Brockman News: Howard Handupme of DNN News.
  • Kill 'em All: The last episode.
  • Kill the Poor
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In the first episode, after quitting his job, Earl comes across a mammal in the forest who had escaped being his dinner, and the mammal is so sad that he wants to be eaten. Earl ends up deciding not to eat him. When Earl goes back to his old job, he finds that the mammal is now his bosses assistant, and he arranges for Earl to get the raise he had previously been denied.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: In "Earl, Don't Be a Hero", Earl saved the world by diverting an asteroid, then he flies back home where his wife scolds him for being late for dinner and not calling.
    Earl: Well excuse me! But it just so happens I was out saving the whole-- (the family looks at him) the whole twenty cents for not calling. It adds up, you know.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall
    • 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 they need to hear it because it'll make 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 imitation Simpsons shows lasted.
    • In the "happy plant" episode, Robbie, Earl and Charlene, while high, think that their lives are being broadcast as a TV show in another universe. Then, there's the end where Robbie tells the audience that drugs are bad because they lead to preachy sitcom episodes (including parodies of it).
  • 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.
  • Limited Wardrobe
  • Look Ma, I Am on TV!: In one episode, there's a TV report about a meteor about to fall on the Sinclair home. Earl and the kids look out the window and wave at the camera as the meteor plummets towards them.
  • Loophole Abuse: In "The Family Challenge", the living room TV got destroyed by a meteor, and Earl had actually bought meteor insurance. However, the insurance person tells Earl that a meteor is only a meteor when in space, on Earth it becomes a meteorite, and therefore insurance doesn't pay anything.
  • 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.
    • Also, Spike's name is meaningful. He has spikes.
  • The Meaning of Life: In the episode "The Greatest Story Ever Sold", Baby starts asking how and why all dinosaurs exist. Since this is the first time this question was ever asked, it sends all of Pangaea into a state of panic since no one knows the answer. The Council of Elders ends up creating a new cult to give cheap easy answers so that everyone will get back to work. The cult: Potatoism. Robbie is the only one who doesn't buy into it.
  • Mega Corp.: The WESAYSO Corporation.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Parodied with "Captain Action Figure", which blatantly plugs its toys in the show, causing impressionable viewers like Baby to demand it.
  • Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: Earl in the last episode.
  • Monster Munch: Various small mammals exist only to be the dinosaurs' food, even though they are sentient and sometimes have dialogue. "Swamp Music" even has Robbie invite mammals over for dinner (which, naturally, turns out awkward at first).
  • Mood Whiplash: The final episode.
  • Moral Guardians: In "Baby Talk", after the Baby starts saying the dirty word "smoo" after hearing it on television, Earl starts a group dedicated to keeping objectionable words off the TV (because he and other parents don't want to have to spend time with their kids while leaving the television off). When their protests fail against the networks, they go to the government, who very easily agrees to outlaw such language on television, only to then outlaw objectionable language and things in real life as well.
    • In one episode, Earl complains when Timmy of "Ask Mr. Lizard" fame has to wear safety goggles to look into a still-dangerous volcano.
    Earl:Geez, those cranky parent groups must have gotten to them.
    Fran: And not a moment too soon. I've never liked this show.
  • My Friends... and Zoidberg: "Hello family! ... And Ethyl."
  • Naming Ceremony: Babies are taken to the Chief Elder, who looks the baby over and announces the baby's new name. The clerk who transcribes the pronouncements has a tendency to literal-mindedness, resulting in babies with names like Burrrp Excuse Me Siegelman and, in the episode revolving around this ceremony, Agh Ugh I'm Dying You Idiot Sinclair. Fortunately, the appointment of a new Chief Elder allows the Sinclairs to take the baby back for a new name, and the new Chief Elder names the baby... Baby.
  • 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.
  • Nonstandard Character Design: The cavemen, being played by humans while everyone else is a Muppet. It's pretty jarring.
  • 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.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Ethyl to Earl.
  • 1 Million B.C.: Inverted, since the dinosaurs are civilized and the humans wild.
  • 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.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: If Baby actually says to Earl that he loves him, you know something is wrong.
  • 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.
  • People in Rubber Suits: Sorry if this shocking revelation has just shattered anyone's illusions here. No, Virginia, there is no Sinclair family. This is also mixed with hand-operated puppets.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Earl is a licensed sexist, much like his co-workers at WESAYSO.
  • 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).
  • Ptero Soarer: One delivers the newspaper. Another showed up in a pet store, and the Scavengers base had one that kept annoying the pack leader and getting knocked around.
  • Punny Name
    • 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".
  • Random Species Offspring: Earl and Fran's kids all appear to be different species from their parents.
  • 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.
  • Rule of Funny: The only reason dinosaurs are involved at all.
  • Running Gag: Several.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: Earl is a rare example of a Megalosaurus, and Spike is presumably a Polacanthus. Dryptosaurus, Troodon, Ceratosaurus, Psittacosaurus, Corythosaurus, and Protoceratops appear as one-off characters and puppets.
  • 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.
  • Serious Business: Collectible mugs, apparently the ultimate status symbol in Pangaea. They even have their very own cable news network.
  • Show Within a Show: Several, most notably Ask Mr. Lizard ("We're going to need another Timmy!").
  • Shout-Out
    • 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.
    • In "Driving Miss Ethyl"' Earl and Ethyl are in the car. As a large creature moves closer to the car, a glass of liquid in the cup holder starts jiggling, an obvious Jurassic Park nod.
    • In "Earl, Don't Be a Hero", Robbie believes Captain Impressive is from another planet inhabited by "a race of highly-intelligent creatures", while Charlene heard he lives in an underwater domed kingdom.
    Fran: Where did you hear that?
    Charlene: I have sources.
  • Single Precept Religion: The Elders start looking for a belief system simple enough to be understood by the dumbest individual. The winning entry is one based on the world being created by a potato.
  • Small, Annoying Creature: Baby Sinclair
  • Snow Means Death: The last episode.
  • Soap Punishment: Used when Baby learns rude words off the television. When Fran washes his mouth out, every time a bubble from his mouth pops it echoes the word.
  • Spikes of Villainy: B.P. Richfield has a lot of horns on his frill.
  • Stealth Pun
    • 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!).
  • Stock Dinosaurs: Fran is an Allosaurus, Roy is a T. rex, B.P. Richfield is a Triceratops and Monica is a Brontosaurus. Stegosaurus, Edmontosaurus, and Parasaurolophus appear as one-off and background puppets.
  • Stout Strength: Earl can knock down trees with relative ease.
  • Straw Character: In the election episode, Earl's already-strawmanned evil big-business boss became a Republican-expy Strawman 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 the poor.
  • 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 have undoubtedly 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 large creature swallows Robbie whole in front of his father Earl. Later on, Earl has to get swallowed alive by the same creature 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. Or so it seemed.
  • 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.
  • Tempting Fate: Earl's last quote in the entire series: "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." Cue the whole family watching the Ice Age that will doom the dinosaurs.
  • 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).
  • The Trickster: Baby.
  • Theme Naming: The names of the main characters are based on oil and/or gas companies (Sinclair, Roy Hess, Ethyl Phillips, 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).
  • They Killed Kenny Again: "We're gonna need another Timmy!"
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Baby's reaction to being dropped into a pterosaur nest and informed that he'll be eaten once the chicks hatch is a simple "This stinks." He ends up getting away alive, though.
  • Tinkle in the Eye: Subverted; Baby Sinclair uses a squirt gun.
  • 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 when they were two, that they had blocked out the entire year.
  • Tyrannosaurus rex: Roy
  • Unexpectedly Dark Episode: The final episode ends with all of the main characters being killed in an ice age, and the main character (who was responsible) explaining why they're going to die to his youngest child.
  • Unfortunate Names: When the elder is asked to name children, sometimes the result is "Cough Cough Excuse Me", or "Help Help I'm Dying You Idiot Sinclair".
  • Unishment: Being tossed across the kitchen by daddy is this to Baby, who enjoys it.
  • Very Special Episode: Spoofed and played straight with nearly every episode.
  • Villain with Good Publicity
    • Georgie in "Georgie Must Die".
    • 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.
  • Weather Saves the Day: On one episode, the Sinclairs are about to be burned at the stake for refusing to follow a new religion based on worshiping a potato. Just as they are about to be set on fire, it starts raining and the flames are put out. Not only does this save the Sinclairs, it also proves that the potato religion is false.
  • What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: [[in-universe]] Earl starts getting into a puppet show that Baby's watching, and tries to convince Fran to give it a shot. She, however, dismisses it as a kid's show. He notes that it seems that way because of the puppets, but comments that "the dialogue is unquestionably sharp, edged, witty, and thematically skewed towards adults." Fran isn't convinced and refuses to watch.
  • When I Was Your Age...:
    Earl: When I was your age we didn't have lawn mowers, we didn't have scissors, we had to get down on all fours and graze like a cow.
  • Wham Episode: The last episode.
  • Wham Line: "Considering the thickness of the cloud cover, scientists predict it may be tens of thousands of years before the sun shines over Pangaea again."
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Richfield says this when he lays off his tree pushers, who have pushed down every tree that can be pushed.
  • You Mean "Xmas": "Refrigerator Day"