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Series / Dinosaurs

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Just your average dinosaur family.
Clockwise from top left: 

Honey, I'm home!
Earl Sinclair, Title Sequence.

Dinosaurs is a puppet-based sitcom created by Michael Jacobs and Bob Young, which aired on ABC from 1990–94. At its core, it has the aesthetic of The Flintstones (only the family consists of dinosaurs, not prehistoric humans) and a more family-friendly (ie, less subtle) brand of the kind of social satire seen on 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 Corporation; his long-suffering wife Fran; his grouchy mother-in-law Ethyl; 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.

The series was the final project to be overseen by Jim Henson, who died when the series was in development. The pilot is dedicated to his memory.

Not to be confused with Dinosaur, a 2000 CGI/live-action hybrid film released by Disney that is also commonly known as "Disney’s Dinosaur". The entire series was added to Disney+ on January 29, 2021.

Dinosaurs provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Catchphrase: Later seasons (particularly the last season) greatly tone down the use of Baby's catchphrases "Not the mama" and "Gotta love me".
  • Absent Animal Companion: In the episode "And the Winner Is...", during a live-by-satellite interview with Earl, Earl reveals that the family now has a dog (in response to Roy's advice that for every question he's unsure of, just say something about children or puppies). It's an especially surprising case since it's the one time an actual dog was used (as opposed to having cave people acting like dogs). Needless to say, this was a one-time gag and the dog never appeared again.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: "Endangered Species" revolves around the grapdelite, a cute but delicious species of furry animal that 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 wanted the TV (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, who have no language and act like dogs.
  • All Women Are Lustful: All the prominent female adult characters show signs of this in "Wilderness Weekend" after getting drunk. Sid's wife admits that she only married her husband because he had a nice butt, the women spend some time watching sports programs to ogle at the male athletes, the women eventually decide to check up on the men after figuring that they're probably walking around in the nude and slapping each other with towels, and Fran makes some rather saucy remarks toward Earl near the end of the episode.
  • Alphabet News Network: DNN (Dinosaur News Network).
  • Alternate Calendar: Parodied; the dinosaur calendars count backwards since the show takes place in BC, complete with each month starting with the last day and counting down to the first. Robbie wonders out loud about what momentous event are they exactly counting down to.
  • Anachronistic Animal: Dinosaurs coexist with (primitive) humans, mammoths, mastodons, and other Cenozoic mammals, such as dogs, cats, goats, hippos, and cows—60 million years ago, which is 6 million years after the dinosaurs should have gone extinct.
  • And I Must Scream: The episode "If You Were A Tree" had Earl Sinclair swap souls with a tree when they were struck by lightning. This resulted in the tree enjoying life as a dinosaur in Earl's body and Earl's spirit trapped inside the tree and unable to be heard by any dinosaur he begged for help.
  • Animal Talk: Dinosaurs and other animals can communicate with each other but can't speak to humans, which are portrayed as primitive. "The Discovery" features a dinosaur that was raised by cavemen and can communicate to both humans and dinosaurs.
  • 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.
  • Annoyingly Repetitive Child:
    • In "Baby Talk", Baby keeps asking Earl to do amusing things such as making funny faces and putting on a puppet show. Earl gets tired of this and checks the clock; cue the reveal that it's only been about a minute.
    • In "Terrible Twos", Baby celebrates his second birthday and begins to act even brattier than usual. At the start of the episode, he keeps yelling at his parents to bring him presents, so the family tries to distract him while Earl builds him a go-kart.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Baby and Charlene can be this to Robbie. This drives episodes like "Little Boy Boo".
  • Art Evolution: Fran's puppet got a subtle makeover for season 4, with a more pronounced smile.
  • Artistic License – History: "Charlene's Flat World" suggests that Copernicus theorized that the Earth is round, when he actually proposed the heliocentric system (the Earth and the other planets revolving around the sun). Then again, that never happens on account of a mix-up so...
  • As You Know: Lampshaded in "Refrigerator Day" when Baby asks what the day is about.
    Baby: What's refrigerator day?
    Ethyl: I already told you.
    Baby: Was I listening?
  • Asshole Victim: François the foreign exchange student in "Getting to Know You". He ends up eaten by Baby, but he was so rude to the family that it is hard to deny he had it coming.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: A recurring theme in the series is that the toughest are the ones who end up calling the shots. Fairly justified since these are dinosaurs, after all.
  • Baffled by Own Biology: In "Dirty Dancing", Robbie wakes up from a dream of doing the Mating Dance with his crush Caroline, only to realize that his legs are still moving involuntarily, much to his surprise and confusion. He asks his friend Spike about it at school, and the latter explains that it's something that happens to all male dinosaurs when they go through pubertynote .
  • Bait-and-Switch Time Skip: In the episode "Baby Talk", Fran has Earl babysit Baby for an hour while she cooks dinner, but she doesn't want Baby to watch television due to Baby repeating the dirty word "Smoo", which was shown on "Don't Lift that Heavy Object!" the night before. Earl does everything he can to entertain Baby without having to resort to using television, which includes singing and dancing, playing with puppets, making balloon animals, and attempting to spin plates on sticks. It is then revealed that all of that only took two minutes.
  • 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 Manchild 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: For a family friendly show, a good number of episodes end on this note. Usually when the Sinclair start an upshake in their society that could actually make the lives of their species better, the WESAYSO corporation usually swoop in and undoes their effort in the name of greed or maintaining their power. At best, the family learn a good lesson and at least break even with a few small victories.
  • Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: Mr. Richfield is 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.")
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: In "A New Leaf", Earl tells Robbie that his spikes make him look like a girl, a bum, and a girl bum.
  • 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 him with her cane.
  • Carnivore Confusion:
    • Sapient Eat Sapient is in full action: the sapient, civilized dinosaurs eat the equally sapient but non-civilized mammals, and occasionally each other.
    • Mr. Richfield is a ceratopsian (horned dinosaur) that eats meat (specifically the two mammals involved in an Adam and Eve Plot, and his daughter's boyfriends). Possibly Accidentally-Correct Writing with the new theories that ceratopsians may have been partially-omnivorous.
    • "I Never Ate For My Father" suggests dinosaurs can just decide to be either carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores.
    • An aversion is Monica, who is a Brontosaurus and correctly described as a herbivore in her debut episode.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Sexual Harris tries to hit on every female who catches his fancy. None of them are interested.
  • 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.
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Fran walking on Robbie doing the mating dance in his room in "Dirty Dancin'", given that Robbie's habit of involuntarily doing the mating dance is treated as a metaphor for masturbation and sexual attraction and Fran attempts to calm down her startled son by assuring him that what he's doing is normal.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: "Out of the Frying Pan" deals with Baby Sinclair becoming an advertising mascot for frying pans and Fran becoming obsessed with getting her youngest child to be a star. She eventually comes to her senses after having an Imagine Spot of Baby becoming a depressing wreck as an adult and writing an autobiography blaming his mother for his problems. Baby getting the wrong idea of how to treat people from the workers at the studio being fired for no good reason is also an apparent factor.
  • Censorship by Spelling: Played with in "Nature Calls":
    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 uses blocks to write "They think I can't spell.")
  • Character 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. (Doubles as an in-universe example as 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!!!"
    • Charlene occasionally says "La-la" to herself.
  • 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: Parents can ask a local elder to name a child. In baby Sinclair's case, they, unfortunately, asked the elder just as the elder was having a heart attack, and the baby's name is officially recorded as: "Augh Argh I'm Dying You Idiot Sinclair". Fran is said to have a cousin who was unfortunate enough to be named while the elder was sneezing, as well as a classmate who was named when the elder burped.
  • Child of Two Worlds: In "The Discovery", Thighs of Thunder is a dinosaur who was abandoned by her parents as a child and adopted and raised by a tribe of cavemen. As such, she can communicate with both species.
  • Chocolate-Frosted Sugar Bombs: Known as "Sugar Frosted Boo-boo Bears".
  • Christmas Carolers: Refrigerator Day includes carols (basically re-worded versions of the real ones) and are 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"
  • Clapper Gag: In "Power Erupts" Robbie mentions that another student at his high school science fair made a lamp that can turn on/off at the sound of clapping. When he and Spike hi-five, the lights go off and someone yells, "Clap on, clap off, I'm rich!"
  • 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 is 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.
    • Played with in "Monster Under the Bed", when after Fran shoots down Earl's decision that whenever a child has something to say—no matter how ridiculous it sounds—the kids should be believed. But then Baby tells them another Cassandra Truth and Earl decides "I guess I was wrong, again."
    • Earl actually is portrayed in the right in "Out of the Frying Pan", calling out Fran for playing Stage Mom to Baby, who is becoming spoiled and vulgar from influence. Cue a Nightmare Sequence and Heel Realization from Fran.
  • Comically Missing the Point: One episode shows a reporter talking about the new couple of cavemen in the local zoo (composed of two males) and their failure to produce offspring. The zoo team concludes that one of them is sterile.
  • Construction Catcalls: While on break, Roy begins leering at a young dino lady with a fully-developed tail.
  • Continuity Nod: In "And The Winner Is...", Earl asks Fran how they could have forgotten to get Baby named by the Chief Elder. Fran explains that they've been busy by listing off the events of several past episodes.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive:
    • Mr. Richfield runs his company with an iron fist and several conflicts in the series are caused by his actions. His evil executive ways reach their peak in the finale, where he's willing to bring the world to an end if it will make him a lot of money.
    • 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.
    • Georgie, a Barney parody, is portrayed as a greedy sociopath who sends Earl Sinclair to prison just for dressing up as him to cheer up Baby.
  • 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 the aforementioned biggest and strongest. And life is even worse 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; she never has anything nice to say, especially to her son in law.
    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 to a devil for a mug. Fortunately, the mug came with a guarantee of refund for unsatisfied customers, which Earl found out when the devil was about to collect. Earl's refund came as a Reset Button Ending that made time go back to the moment the devil showed up to offer the deal in the first place.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Played for Black Comedy. Here, it is perfectly okay for dinosaurs to eat still-living and equally-sentient creatures. The biggest and strongest dinosaurs are not above picking on, or even eating, the smaller and weaker dinosaurs. And in addition, many of the Shows Within a ShowMr. Lizard, Totally Hidden Predator, Pangaea's Funniest Home Injuries—all seem to involve real dinosaurs getting killed on-camera for the amusement of the audience. Basically, this is a Crapsack World where life is cheap.
  • 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". "Slave to Fashion" has a scene with her coming over for dinner.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: Georgie the Hippo from "Georgie Must Die". He may seem nice and understanding, if unbearably annoying to teenagers and adults, at first, but this is only a facade and he's really a greedy scumbag who only cares about the money he can get by having his impressionable audience buy his merchandise.
  • 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 in "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 dinner 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.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: B.P. Richfield stated that he wanted to kill Earl and his family when Earl showed up to work 4 hours late and was acting annoying, the only reason Richfield doesn't actually kill Earl and his family is because he would get into legal trouble and just fires him instead.
  • 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... or a number of things).
    • Robbie doing "The Mating Dance" around a girl he likes.
    • Robbie bulking up on "Thornoids".
    • Charlene's tail growing out 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 idea of religion being used 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.
    • The happy plant is a reference to marijuana.
    • The finale where dinosaur-made climate change causes the species' extinction.
  • Downer Ending: Along with a Drama Bomb Finale. The dinosaurs start to go extinct due to a chain of events that started with Earl's Corrupt Corporate Executive boss foolishly destroying the breeding grounds of a specific species of bug. The dinosaurs try to fix the damage to the ecosystem, but wind up turning things From Bad to Worse by wiping out all plant life, then plunging the planet into an ice age, due to their short-sighted decisions. As the ice piles up and things get colder, Earl has to explain to his shivering family why they are all about to die.
    Ethyl: I always knew you'd screw up... I just didn't know how bad.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Parodied. Zamar, "that guy in the woods", and the Sinclairs go to cure Baby's illness has this almost down to a science, but he's still working out some kinks - for instance, when he says "you have traveled many miles through great wilderness to seek my wisdom!" it's supposed to crack on "wisdom," not before! And then, later:
    Zamar: (dramatically) Sickness, begone! I, Zamar, that guy in the woods - commands it!
    (nothing happens)
    Zamar: (even more dramatically) COMMAAANDS it!
    (nothing happens)
    Zamar: (groans in annoyance, then speaks in a normal voice) "Wisdom."
  • Drugs Are Bad: The Aesop of "A New Leaf" and "Steroids to Heaven", played straighter in the latter than the former.
  • 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. Ironically, one of the show's aversions of this trope is a Brontosaurus, a common victim of this stereotype.
  • 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.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Sinclairs fit the trope description to a T. Earl is the classic incompetent father who can barely keep Baby in check, Fran is the long-suffering voice of reason, Charlene is often selfish and demanding, Baby is spoiled and often bratty, Ethyl is the overbearing mother-in-law and episodes tend to focus on the many ways their personalities clash with each other. The only one who doesn't fit this trope is Robbie, who tends to be more of a Soapbox Sadie than a Dumbass Teenage Son, but only most of the time.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The earliest episodes of Dinosaurs, from season 1 till about midway through season 2, have a very distinct, almost theatrical, look to them. The show was clearly shot on film over videotape, use much low-key lighting and more elaborate camera shots than a standard network sitcom would. Eventually, the show made use of a more standard sitcom approach to its production values.
  • 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 Is Nigh" Ending: The series ended with the self-inflicted end of the dinosaurs fast-approaching. The news predicts that it will be tens of thousands of years before the suns comes out again, and there is constant snowfall. Earl says that it's not like dinosaurs are just going to die out, and the final scene shows Howard Handupme doing one last broadcast, and he ends his brief monologue with "Good night... Goodbye." Throughout the credits, snow continues to fall.
  • 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. To further illustrate her point, Earl and Fran both have zero memories of when Robbie and Charlene were two. She chalks it up to the experience being so terrible, they blocked it out.
  • Entertainment Above Their Age: In "Baby Talk", Earl turns on the TV, and a show called "The Smoo Show" is on. Baby seems to enjoy it, especially since he's recently gotten into saying the word "smoo" (which is an in-universe swear word).
  • 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.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: The last episode ends with everyone of the dinosaurs doomed due to te impending Ice Age.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: In "Life in the Faust Lane", the devil retorts to Earl's remark about needing a lawyer that he is the king of lawyers.
  • 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 may be a Take That! against perceived semantic hair-splitting by insurance agents.)
  • Exploding Calendar: Made fun of in "High Noon", where Earl frantically tries to stick the previous day back on when he's run out of time to prepare for his duel with Gary.
  • 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 it's 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!"
  • Faint in Shock: In "Nature Calls", Roy passes out at the sight of Baby's soiled diaper while he and Earl are changing him.
  • Fake-Out Opening: The title sequence begins with dramatic camera shots of a dinosaur walking in the woods, with suspenseful music playing... and then the camera pans up to show it’s Earl Sinclair, who then says “Honey, I’m home!”
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • A few episodes dealt with tensions between two-legged and four-legged dinosaurs. A bit of Fridge Logic when one realizes B.P. Richfield—a triceratops—is also a four-legged dinosaur even if he is shown to be bipedal.
    • 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 sung by a dinosaur singer.
    • "Getting to Know You" suggests that birds aren't held in very high regard by non-avian dinosaurs (granted, the bird family in question were pretty colossal Jerkasses.
  • 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."
  • Fictional Flag: In the two-part episode "Nuts to War", Robbie and Spike are drafted and sent off to fight in a war. Earl assures Fran that they'll be safe so long as they have the dinosaur flag on their uniforms. Said flag is a series of red and white concentric circles — in other words, a literal target on their backs.
  • Flawless Token: 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), a Head-Turning Beauty. It's hard to miss because she's a brontosaurus, but she's also been referred to as "a female African." Within the context of the show, Monica is black (though the stand-ins for "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).
  • 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.
  • F--: Played with in "Network Genius", where one example of Earl's television shows making everyone dumb shown is Robbie getting failing grades at school. Most of his report card has F's, but one grade is an M. Then Robbie clarifies that his last grade is this not because he was somehow stupid enough to fail that badly, but because the teacher grading him forgot the alphabet.
  • 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.
  • Foolish Husband, Responsible Wife: Earl is the foolish, ignorant husband while Fran is the more sensible, down to earth wife.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The very first line of the first episode is Howard Handupme reporting that the asteroid predicted to crash into Earth and cause an extinction-level event is going to miss, and Earl reacts in pleasant relief (akin to someone happy that the weather forecast means their barbecue isn't going to get rained out). This foreshadows two things: that nature isn't fated to wipe out the dinosaurs in this universe (the dinosaurs themselves will thanks to their own oblivious ignorance), and lack of respect for their environment.
    • Robbie notes that Pangea's dating system goes in reverse, and wonders what they're supposed to be counting down to.
    • An episode involves future archaeologists discovering items used in the show and guessing (incorrectly) what they were used for as we see Flashbacks to the episode's main plot. It's funny at the time, but when the setting of the show is dug up someday millions of years from the present, everything is right where it is today. This world looking exactly as it does in the show's present when it gets buried can't be good! Almost as if the end happened pretty rapidly, and pretty soon...
    • In "Scent of A Reptile", Charlene discovers to her horror that all of the MacGuffin Lilies have been destroyed to make way for a 1-Hour photo booth—a species rendered extinct for something silly and trivial. In "Changing Nature", Charlene goes through this again when she finds that the bunch beetles' mating ground has been paved over for a wax fruit factory.
  • Foregone Conclusion: We know the dinosaurs went extinct. It's mainly how dramatic the finale is that really hammers it.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Earl acknowledges this fact in "A New Leaf", wondering why the numeric system goes to ten when dinosaurs only have eight fingers.
  • 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 in "Employee of the Month", Robbie smuggles his out of the class, takes it home as a pet, and eventually releases it into the wild.
  • Freudian Trio: Earl is the Id, Fran is the Superego, Robbie is the Ego. Robbie tries to do the right thing and rambles a lot about what he thinks is the right thing and while not intentionally a troublemaker, he does make mistakes out of being a psychologically lazy teenager. Fran is more responsible and mature due to having more experience as an adult and being the logical, down to earth wife. Earl is just stupid and impulsive.
  • Frying Pan of Doom: The Baby's weapon of choice, to the point he ends up becoming a spokesperson in one episode.
  • 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.
  • Genius Ditz: Roy Hess, at times. Most of the things he says are simple-minded misconceptions and face-value conclusions, but he's also skilled at chess and more than once was able to find the solution to the week's plot because it was something he happened to know a lot about.
  • 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 the Baby to Sleep: Earl does the Mating Dance to get Baby to sleep.
  • Gilligan Cut: Lots and lots of times with Earl, such as this line from the finale.
    Howard Handupme: Anyone with even the slightest awareness is asking, "what happened to the bugs?"
    Earl: What happened to my beer?
  • Glacial Apocalypse: The series ends with Earl's attempts to fix the environmental damage caused by WESAYSO backfiring and starting the Ice Age when attempts to create more rain to boost plant growth create volcanic cloud cover that will take thousands of years to dissipate. It eventually becomes clear that the snow is not going away, and that the dinosaurs will die out completely.
  • 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).
    • A conversation between Earl and Mr. Richfield in "Changing Nature" both plays it straight and averts it within the span of a few minutes. Richfield responds to a question by Earl with an angry "How the heck should I know?". A couple of sentences later, Earl describes Richfield's plan to drop bombs into volcanos as "unleashing the holy fires of Hell".
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Mr. Richfield's boss is the CEO of the WESAYSO corporation, Mr. Ashland, but he rarely factors into the family's plots and does not even have a dedicated puppet. He is still behind all of the corporate and environmental problems seen in the series.
  • 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).
  • Grossout Fakeout: In "Nature Calls", Earl is changing Baby and is suddenly sprayed in the face. It's subsequently revealed that Baby was spraying him with a squirt gun.
  • 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. The two characters who avert this trope are B.P. Richfieldnote  and Baby Sinclairnote .
  • Helpless with Laughter: Discussed in "Baby Talk" when Earl mentions that he laughed so hard from watching someone say the word "smoo" on live television that he thought he might have to call in sick from work.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Earl and Roy are both shown to be very close friends.
  • Hollywood Prehistory: The show is set 60 million years ago, in a world of civilized dinosaurs and primitive humans.
  • 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 Not the Dominant Species: Dinosaurs rule the earth while humans are primitive cavepeople.
  • Hypocritical Humor: From "Earl & Pearl", when Pearl tells her brother Earl "Lordy, brother, have you gotten fat", despite the fact that she's physically identical to Earl with the only differences being her country singer outfit and earrings.
  • Ignorant About Fire: In "The Mating Dance", Earl tells Robbie and Charlene that they're "playing with fire", but Baby says he's the one who's playing with fire. It is then revealed that the table is on fire and Baby is sticking his tail into the burning spot.
  • Image Song: "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.
  • Imagine the Audience Naked: At one point in the two-part episode "Nuts to War", Charlene feels nervous about performing in front of the troops. Roy suggests to Charlene that she imagine the audience "in their underwears", which succeeds in helping Charlene overcome her nervousness, but Earl isn't too happy about this and orders his daughter to imagine the audience with pants on as she walks onto the stage.
  • 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 to the publicity, the same channel then started showing "The Flark Show".
  • Injured Limb Episode: In "Earl's Big Jackpot", Earl injures his leg being hit by a falling tree after Mr. Richfield forces him to work after hours for no pay. Mr. Richfield fires him and Fran and Robbie trick Earl into suing We Say So, who are forced by the jury to reward Earl $8,000,000,000.00 instead of the $800.00 required for the medical bills. Mr. Richfield blames Earl and raises consumer prices, while Earl spends his new wealth lavishly.
  • Innocent Awkward Question: Near the end of "Changing Nature", as Earl is apologizing to his family about plunging the world into an ice age, Fran assures him that they all understand, prompting Baby to ask, "Understand what?". This makes everyone to look anxiously at Earl to see how he could possibly explain something so dire to his youngest son.
    Earl: Uh... Well, little guy, what happened was... Daddy was put in charge of the world, and he didn't take real good care of it. And now, it looks like there won't be much of a world left for you or your brother and sister to live in.
    Baby: Are we gonna move?
    Earl: Well... no. There's no place to move to. This is the only world we got.
  • 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.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: When Earl's and Fran's marriage turns out to have expired and they can't get it renewed, Earl tells the children, who are complaining to him, that no one is happy with the situation. Que Ethyl coming through the door in her wheelchair and making victory laps on the floor while gleefully singing about how "happy days are here again — my daughter's free from Fat Boy!"
  • 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 they'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 occasions gotten him out of serious trouble.
  • Judgment of Solomon: In "Switched at Birth"—where 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 public's 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.
  • Kent Brockman News: Howard Handupme of DNN News.
  • Kid-Appeal Character: Baby Sinclair. According to the writers, Baby's nature as the trope gave them freedom from network interference and the ability to cover weightier topics.
  • 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.
  • 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 boss's 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 not calling that he'll be late for dinner.
    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.
  • 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.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
    • In "How to Pick Up Girls", 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. This quote from Earl is made on the aforementioned Show Within a Show;
      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, risqué 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 many imitation Simpsons shows had 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.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: "If You Were a Tree" had a lightning strike cause Earl and a tree to switch minds.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Everyone wears the same clothes all the time.
  • 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:
    • Many characters have names related to different oil and gas companies.
    • The episode "Family Challenge" had the Sinclairs competing on a game show against the Nielson family, who have an extensive knowledge of television.
    • Spike has spikes.
    • Roy's name is a bit more subtle—he's a Tyrannosaurus rex, a.k.a. "tyrant lizard king", and "Roy" means "king" in multiple languages.
  • 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.
  • Meek Mesozoic Mammal: Small talking mammals make up the dinosaurs' main diet (followed closely by other dinosaurs). They are shown as being kept alive inside the refrigerator and will often argue with their predator, even in the middle of being eaten.
  • MegaCorp: 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.
  • Minimalist Cast: The only major characters (and the only ones to get their own unique puppets) are the Sinclairs, Ethyl, Roy, Monica, Richfield, and Spike.
  • Mistaken for Toilet: Inverted in "Nature Calls", when Baby Sinclair thinks the toilet is a chair and wonders why there's a hole in it.
  • 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).
  • Mooning: In "Nuts to War", Ethyl Phillips snarks that footage of the war between bipedal and quadrupedal dinosaurs has been deemed too intense to show at dinnertime because one of the soldiers probably mooned the camera.
  • 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.
  • Morality Chain: Fran and Robbie are usually this to Earl. Many episodes are about one or both of them appealing to Earl to do the right thing to resolve the episode's conflict.
  • 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.
  • Nature Tinkling:
    • In "How to Pick Up Girls", one of the things Spike advises Robbie to do in order to get a girl to like him is to mark his territory on her lawn, having him prepared by instructing him to drink 8 glasses of water. The two end up caught and arrested by cops right when Robbie starts urinating off-screen.
    • Baby Sinclair runs away from home in "Nature Calls" after getting sick of Earl trying to potty-train him early to get out of having to change his diapers. He later talks about this to some forest mammals he encounters. The forest mammals express their disgust at using a toilet and inform Baby that in the wild you can go wherever you want to go.
    • After getting sick of his father ordering him around constantly, Robbie challenges Earl in a fight over the title of head of the household in "The Son Also Rises". Robbie ends up winning, but discovers that in addition to being the one in charge of the family, he also has to take over Earl's responsibilities, such as earning money to pay the bills and doing home repairs. Fran points out to Robbie that the toilet is clogged and that he's expected to fix it. Robbie snaps back to his mother that there are toilets everywhere, citing trees and bushes as examples.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • In the last episode, Earl gets made VP of Communications to help clear up flowering vines are plaguing the dinosaurs; the vines are spreading out of control because WESAYSO built a wax-fruit factory over the bunch beetles' mating grounds, causing the bunch beetles to go extinct. Since the beetles ate the vines, the vines no longer have anything holding them back. Robbie and Charlene both tried to get Earl to use alternate, less-damaging methods, but he uses an herbicide that destroys all plants on the planet, causing a sharp increase in global warming. To fix that, WESAYSO decides they need more clouds, so they come up with the plan to bomb volcanoes & create ash clouds. When Earl had the opportunity to object and save his species, he caved. In the end, the ash clouds bring a new Ice Age, doomed to kill off the entire dinosaur civilization.
    • A minor one, but In "Power Erupts", while standing up for his son, Earl lets it slip that Richfield could just buy the volcano to stop the Power Dome from being sold. It becomes a Bittersweet Ending because it puts a stop to WESAYSO's Smear Campaign against Robbie.
  • Noble Savage: In "The Discovery", the cavemen who live on the land Earl discovers are treated as an obvious stand-in for Native Americans. They're shown to be far more respectful of nature and the environment than the Earl or the WESAYSO corporation, who want to "rape and denude" the land to build a town there.
  • 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: Fran's mother Ethyl is often very obnoxious to her son-in-law Earl.
  • 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.
  • Overly Literal Transcription: In "And The Winner Is...", every child is named by the Chief Elder in a ceremony, which is transcribed by a bureaucrat who just blithely writes it down. This is why Baby Sinclair's name is briefly "Aaugh Aaugh I'm Dying You Idiot." Fran mentions that she had a cousin named "Achoo" and a classmate named "Burp Excuse Me Siegelman".
  • 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.
    • Part of a Take That! to Scientology, where "Dino-Netics" is advertised on TV.
  • People in Rubber Suits: The main bodies of the dinosaurs are portrayed this way to move around, mixed with hand-operated puppets for the faces.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Earl is a licensed sexist, much like his co-workers at WESAYSO. And whenever prejudice against four-legged dinosaurs is a plot point, he'll be the first one to espouse racist opinions.
  • Prejudice Aesop: Inverted horrifically in "Getting to Know You," where Charlene enrolls in a foreign-exchange program. Just when Fran and Robbie remind Earl that the whole point of the foreign-exchange program is to shut down stereotypes, they find that Francois Poupon and his parents align exactly existing stereotypes about the French... I mean, birds. Thus, the Sinclair family learns that racism is cool now. There's being cynical about the foreign-exchange program, and then there's actively insulting what the foreign-exchange program stands for!
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: The second opening adds Monica, Spike and Richfield.
  • 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".
  • Radiation-Induced Superpowers: In one episode Earl gets superpowers from a dip in a toxic waste dump. When he finally showers it off he loses them.
  • 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."
  • Real Men Eat Meat: Earl seems to think this is the case in “I Never Ate For My Father”, since he is aghast at the possibility of Robbie becoming a vegetarian. He also forces Robbie to attend the YMCA (Young Male Carnivore’s Association).
  • 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 yelled 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" and a childhood classmate of Fran's, "Burrrp Excuse Me Siegelman."
  • Retroactive Wish: Baby Sinclair was whining about wanting his pacifier. After it fell off the fireplace, Earl shouted that he wanted a big-screen TV and cable. As nothing happened, he said he wanted a bigger fireplace.
  • Right Behind Me: This gag is used in the episode "Life in the Faust Lane", where Earl Sinclair is angered to learn that his friend Roy Hess borrowed the priceless mug he got by offering his soul to the devil in order to impress a date. Earl proceeds to complain about Roy and his date ruining the mug by getting their greasy fingerprints and slobber all over it. Roy just happened to be entering the Sinclairs' house to return the mug as Earl was talking, and he isn't the least bit amused by what Earl said about him; after all, his girlfriend has gotten her slobber problem well under control!.
  • Rule of Funny: The only reason dinosaurs are involved at all.
  • Running Gag: Several.
  • 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 Catchphrase ("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.
  • Series Continuity Error: The show never really followed much of a continuity, but some facts have been given multiple explanations, usually relating to Earl. Though in some cases (such as Earl's stupidity), the facts may not all be completely contradictory.
    • How and why Earl became a tree pusher. "Career Opportunities" establishes that the Job Wizard decides on the job everyone will have (though in Robbie's case at least the wizard picks his job based on his parents occupations, and the end of the episode shows that the Job Wizard does accept bribes to provide a blank job certificate). Meanwhile, in "Earl and Pearl" it's said that Earl had to drop out of high school and take a job as a tree pusher after his father died (but to be fair, Robbie went to see the Job Wizard when he was in high school as well). And while the Job Wizard seems to be the one capable of picking jobs, in "Scent of a Reptile", the school janitor says he plans to go to night school and then become a tree pusher, as if a high school education is a qualification for the job (but then again, he is as stupid as Earl).
    • Why Earl married Fran. "Scent of a Reptile" establishes that females get a scent gland that's repulsive to every male dinosaur except for the one they will marry. In "How to Pick Up Chicks", Earl says that Fran was the first he asked out and had such a nervous time that he asked her to marry him so he won't have to go through the experience of asking out another female (but then perhaps the scent is what gave him the nerve to ask her out, as difficult as it was), and in "Hurling Day" Earl argues that he married Fran so he could hurl Ethyl (though this could be more him justifying hurling her when Fran becomes against it).
    • In "Hurling Day", Earl says that his hurling gloves were a gift from his father on his wedding day, while in "Earl and Pearl", it's revealed that Earl's father died while Earl was in high school.
  • Serious Business:
    • Collectible mugs, apparently the ultimate status symbol in Pangaea. They even have their very own cable news network.
    • In the "Nuts to War" double-length episode, pistachio nuts. Considered vital to civilization that dinosaurs will wage war over them.
  • Shoot the Television: In "Terrible Twos", when Baby enters the terrible twos, Fran attempts to calm him down with a Blarney birthday video. Upon seeing it, Baby slingshots his bottle at the TV while saying, "Eat glass, Blarney!", destroying it. For added humor, Blarney actually sees Baby slingshot his bottle and screams in fear.
  • Shout-Out
  • Shown Their Work: Pterosaurs are clearly not acknowledged as dinosaurs by the show, as they are not portrayed as civilized or anthropomorphic as the dinosaurs who treat them as pets or wild animals, and in "Nature Calls", one mammal correctly refers to a Pteranodon as a flying reptile.
  • Show Within a Show: Several, mostly one-off Shout-Out gags such as Mr. Ugh, (a parody of Mister Ed with a caveman in place of the horse) but the most notable one is Ask Mr. Lizard ("We're going to need another Timmy!").
  • 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.
  • Snow Means Death: The last episode ends with the beginning of the Ice Age, with its freezing temperatures and snow due to the WESAYSO Corporation using bombs on the volcanos, causing a volcanic winter.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Robbie is an unusual male variant. By the end of the series, Charlene matures and starts to become one of these as well.
  • 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.
  • Space Jews: The Poupons from "Getting to Know You" are a family of prehistoric birds depicted as distasteful French stereotypes.
  • Species Title: For the work as a whole and an episode:
    • The work is a puppet show series about a family of dinosaurs.
    • The episode, "Endangered Species", is about the grapdelites, who are undergoing an Adam and Eve Plot.
  • Spikes of Villainy: B.P. Richfield has a lot of horns on his frill. Averted by Spike, who despite some questionable behavior is one of the more decent characters on the show.
  • Spoof Aesop: "A New Leaf" is essentially a Drugs Are Bad episode, but in the end Robbie tells the audience to abstain from drugs not because of the harmful consequences of drug abuse, but so that television shows can stop doing Drugs Are Bad episodes.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: All adult male dinosaurs (Earl included) have a very low and sexist opinion about females, as they always expect the latter to stay in the house raising kids, preparing the meal, and doing other ungrateful jobs, while they work in factories and whatnot. Indeed, the idea of an independent female having a real job sounds so foreign for them that it almost borders to heresy.
  • Stealth Pun
    • The Sinclair family's name comes from the Sinclair gas station, which has a green dinosaur for a mascot. Earl is named 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!).
    • Staying with the petroleum theme, Ethyl is a obsolete name for a popular formulation of anti-knock gasoline from the '20s to the '60s — the reason it's obsolete is that the "ethyl" in "ethyl gasoline" stood for tetraethyl lead, an additive that was phased out starting in the '70s as the environmental and health effects that ethyl caused came to light.
  • 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.
    • Earl is shown to be very conservative in his beliefs, belittling Robbie's iconoclasm and Monica's feminism as "left-wing".
  • Straw Misogynist: The entire WESAYSO corporation is full of them. Roy isn't exempt from sexist behavior, but he's generally shown to be far more respectful to women than his peers.
  • 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: Part of a "Fantastic Voyage" Plot in "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.
  • Swapped Roles: In "The Son Also Rises", Robbie defeats Earl to become family patriarch. As usual for this trope, the responsibility overwhelms him, and he begs Earl to switch lives with him again. While Robbie learned that Earl's life sucks, Earl learned that Robbie's life...doesn't, and he would hold that against his son forever.
  • 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.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Used as a brief gag in "Network Genius", where we see a brief scene from a show called Pangea Hills: Dino210. The scene has a teenage dinosaur inform her friend that she is "in trouble". When asked to prove it, she shows that she has just laid an egg.
  • 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 huddling together, watching the dawn of 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, and 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" if you affect a Deep South or strong New York accent.
    • In the final episode, "Changing Nature," Richfield is seen talking to his boss, Mr. Getty. This is a reference to J. Paul Getty, a mid 20th-century oil baron who was the richest person in the world during the 1960s.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Done on the show's science show parody, when the child with the scientist is killed. "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.
  • Thought Crime: Challenging accepted dinosaur wisdom is not only frowned upon, several episodes show that it is punishable by death. A game show contestant is sentenced to be burned at the stake for saying that the Earth revolves around the sun, and both Charlene and Robbie are nearly executed for doing it (extenuating circumstances spare their lives).
  • Tinkle in the Eye: Subverted and later played straight in "Nature Calls". When it appears that Baby Sinclair is peeing on Earl while his father changes his diaper, it turns out that Baby was using a squirt gun. At the end of the episode, Baby wakes up Earl in the middle of the night to inform him that he's ready to begin potty-training, and the subsequent dialogue implies that Earl is trying to teach Baby to pee standing up.
    Earl: Now, imagine there's a fire and you are the fire captain. No. No. No. I'm not the fire! The fire's over there!
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Each and every Timmy. After how many Timmies bit the dust and Mr. Lizard started hiding behind lead shielding before Timmy did what he does, this was clearly in effect.
    • This is arguably the issue of the dinosaurs in general, with a lot of the show's satire revolving around them have little if any sense of self-preservation. A Candid Camera-type show which is a running gag in one episode has a huge carnivorous predator hidden in unexpected places and eating random dinosaurs, with the last one being a regular viewer of that same show and all he says about his predicament is, "Hey, it's the predator! Am I on TV?" and then it eats him. And that's not even getting into the series finale....
  • 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.
  • 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 "Burp Excuse Me Siegelman", or "Augh Argh I'm Dying You Idiot Sinclair".
  • Unishment: Being tossed across the kitchen by daddy is this to Baby, who enjoys it.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Earl is selfish, inconsiderate, a jerk, and often negligent towards his wife and kids.
  • Very Special Episode: Spoofed and played straight with nearly every episode.
  • Villain with Good Publicity
    • Georgie in "Georgie Must Die" is beloved by everyone, but he's actually someone who evades his taxes and is far from a nice guy.
    • 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 worshipping 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 tells his children that when he was their age, "we didn't have lawnmowers, we didn't have scissors, we had to get down on all fours and graze like a cow."
  • Wham Episode: The last episode—it ends with the start of the Ice Age and the future death of all the dinosaurs in a Downer Ending.
  • Wham Line: As part of the last episode. "Considering the thickness of the cloud cover, scientists predict it may be tens of thousands of years before the sun shines over Pangaea again."
  • Woken Up at an Ungodly Hour:
    • At the beginning of "The Mating Dance", Baby wakes up crying in the middle of the night because he's hungry. This exchange between Fran and Earl occurs:
      Fran: Earl, feed the baby.
      Earl: Why?
      Fran: Because if you don't feed it, it'll die.
      Earl: How many other kids we got?
      Fran: Two.
      (Earl falls back asleep)
    • At the end of "Nature Calls", Baby wakes Earl up. Earl's slightly annoyed and grumbles that he's trying to sleep until Baby says he wants to try using the toilet for the first time.
  • 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": The titular holiday of "Refrigerator Day" is the dinosaur's equivalent of Christmas, given that they lived eons before Christmas existed. It has also Thanksgiving and Hanukkah’ references. It celebrates the day when the dinosaurs invented the fridge, so they could maintain food without hunting, and in some cases, they fast for 2 days prior the holiday to honor their ancestors’ hardship.

"And taking a look at the long-range forecast: continued snow, darkness, and extreme cold. This is Howard Handupme. Good night... Good-bye."


Video Example(s):


Baby Sinclair

He knows the audience expects him to do it again.

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