TROUBLE CITY

DVD REVIEW: DINOSAURS - SEASONS 3 AND 4

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Dinosaurs BUY IT AT AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
MSRP: $39.99
RATED: NR
RUNNING TIME: 835 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
• "I'm the Baby!" featurette
• Commentary on selected episodes
• Easter eggs
• Making-of featurette
• Seven unaired episodes

The Pitch


"It's The Muppet Show meets the quintessence of the patriarchal sitcom."

The Humans

Stuart Pankin, Jessica Walter, Kevin Clash, Jason Willinger, with welcome guests spots from Tim Curry.

The Nutshell

I reviewed the first two seasons of this show for CHUD right here. These final two seasons, one of which was horribly truncated by cancellation, continue in the same vein. A nuclear family of dinosaurs stands at the cusp of enlightenment, experiencing their own evolution through menial events such as potty-training the baby,

The Lowdown

I'm having a little trouble coming up with a new angle by which to criticize these last two seasons of this show. Compared to their predecessors, there's not much in the way of variation: the humor is the same, the characters are the same, the subjects are (thankfully) full of the same irreverence and needle-sharp, sidelong jabs at modern society. There are times when "more of the same" is a hurtful thing to say. In bed, for example. But here, I'm just pleased as can be with another two seasons' worth of reliable comedy. The way I see it, it's kind of a compliment for me to judge these last two seasons as more of the same; at least they didn't deteriorate in quality, as you might encounter with, say, any series ever written by a science fiction or fantasy author. It's just that much easier to submerge yourself in the entertainment, since you've been there before.


"Take it easy, Dr. Grant. We just need the girl. Our Unix farm crashed."


Just to refresh my own memory, I'll mention that I wrote in the previous review that this show is remarkable in that it can get away with the Archie Bunker humor -- dad's so ignorant, he makes poor, selfish choices, hur hur -- because of two things: 1) Puppets, man. Puppets can do anything. Just wait until you see 11 Colonels. 2) Having it set in the time of the dinosaurs. The period isn't just an abstract choice made because dinosaurs were popular; the show hangs the specter of natural selection above every one of Earl's bumbling plans. His stupidity is a trait, here, with evolution dead set against it (as is made clear in the series finale.) Though the setting is milked for its comedic potential, it nevertheless sets up an end-point that the creator's were smart enough to exploit.

Aside from the family criticism, these episodes also tend to be concerned with other weighty issues, from violence to television censorship to the show's running theme of environmental change. There's something on its mind, always a bit under the surface. Rarely does the moral get preachy, though it does, on occasion, get a bit simplified. Instead of feeling like attending lessons, the show reminds me more of a conversation with an intelligent friend. Jokes and good humor flow back and forth, but the dialogue (monologue, in this case) is peppered with items of serious interest and valid opinions worth examining. The goal of Dinosaurs, first and foremost, is to entertain, but when you're entertained by clever, thoughtful people, it's hard not to feel a touch edified by the end.


Damn skippy, it does.


Speaking of endings, the show's finale deserves a paragraph of its own. If you're the type who tears up at "Jurassic Bark," then you probably want to steer clear of the Dinosaurs finale. I don't know if it was because the show's creators realized that their truncated run was coming too quickly upon them, but the last aired episode has the feel of everything crammed into a small package. Earl's incompetence reaches a new height, as he, at the behest of the villainous boss of the Wesayso corporation, progresses through a series of man-made disasters, which eventually leave the Earth a smoldering ruin, with an atmosphere of heavy ash. Now we know what happened to the dinosaurs; it wasn't a meteor, nor a shift in the ocean's currents. It was hubris.

The last few moments of the episode are clearly designed to play tug-of-war with your heartstrings. The result is far from a satisfying argument against industrialization, but does manage to crystallize the running theme of the whole show in twenty-odd minutes, plus proselytizing.


This is how I imagine all my games of Spore will end.


Subtle or blatant, Dinosaurs was a true family show. The writing held on to that quality of inoffensive, occasionally edgy parody that the Muppets had ground away at, and the stories held the note of compassion essential to hooking a broad audience. Combine that with a sly intelligence and incredible puppetry and you have what turned out to be four solid seasons of reliable entertainment.

The Package

It's not really mentioned as a bonus, but there are seven whole episodes -- one disc's worth -- that you're getting for the first time in this set. They never aired, thanks to the show's shorted fourth season.

Also on board the bonus truck are a couple of episode commentaries, provided by the show's creators. These take on a feel like the Futurama "all-in" commentaries, where the folks just seem to have a blast revisiting their creations.

You get a featurette about everyone's favorite stinker, Baby Sinclaire, and a short discussion of why the Dinosaurs formula of wry entertainment actually worked.

8 out of 10