Remembering Dinosaurs: The Most Progressive TV Series of the 90's
The early 90's were a BIG deal for Dinosaurs. With millions of VHS copies of The Land Before Time making the rounds, Barney’s I Love You song infecting your ears, and a little science fantasy movie called Jurassic Park, global fascination with these prehistoric beasts was boomin’.
But I want to talk about a piece of pop culture that many of us have forgotten about. It was a sitcom that aired on ABC from 1991-1994 and it was the very last project that Jim Henson oversaw before his untimely death. I’m talking, of course, about Dinosaurs.
The concept of Dinosaurs, arguably one of the most progressive shows of the 90's, involves prehistoric beasts emulating traditional human life. They’d get married, have kids, go to work - and that’s what makes them go extinct.
The focus here is on one particular family – The Sinclairs.
There’s Earl, the patriarch of the family and a painfully average, often overweight, blue collar worker employed with the WESAYSO Development Corp., which regularly implements schemes to screw over their workers and destroy the world for marginal profit increment.
Then there’s Fran, the matriarch, a stay-at-home mom and the most sensible member of the family, rebellious teenager Robbie, superficial middle child Charlene, and hilariously malicious newborn baby named Baby.
In the midst of the great boom of Computer Generated Imagery of its time, this series decided to go practical by fitting actors in remote-controlled anthropomorphic dinosaur rubber suits, using the same technology as employed in the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles film series.
But it’s more than just a prehistoric puppet show. It was a cultural spoof taking jabs at corporate America, oil companies, healthcare, and even its own television affiliate. Many of the episodes tackled issues such as environmentalism, endangered species, women's rights, censorship, LGBTQ rights, and drug abuse.
I’ll admit, I was way too young to really enjoy Dinosaurs to its full extent during its original television run. A lot of the jokes and social commentary totally went over my head. But what’s most impressive about Dinosaurs is that it doesn’t just hold up – it has somehow gotten better over time. The issues it explores and the messages it delivers are even more relevant today than ever before.
In 30 years, we still haven’t seen anything like it.
And so here I am trying to figure out how I can bring more awareness to Dinosaurs, especially among young people who didn’t have the privilege of growing up with this show.
My Halloween costumes in the past have been a subtler, more fashion-forward way to show my love for certain fictional characters. Instead of wearing full-on costumes as cosplayers do, I like to dress up in stylish, everyday outfits that are simply inspired by a particular character.
This Halloween, I’ll be going as Robbie Sinclair, the teenaged Hypsilophodon and the oldest child in the Sinclair family. He's a bit of a rebel, questioning authority and often playing a part in episodes focusing on environmental issues and human rights. I won’t be going full dinosaur here but I think this ensemble respectfully captures Robbie’s overall style.
If you grew up loving dinosaurs, the living creatures, I highly recommend Dinosaurs the sitcom.