Dinosaurs (1991-1993): Starring Stuart Pankin, Jessica Walker, Jason Willinger, Sally Struthers, Kevin Clash, Florence Stanley, Sam McMurray, Sherman Hemsley..Director Michael Jacobs, Bob Young.
Let's face it. Television for children or pre-teens during the 90's was a lot better. Dinosaurs, created by Michael Jacobs, was a hit on basic television and then moved on to cable (Disney channel I believe) and had a successful run on TV. Now, Seasons 1-2 are available on DVD starting May 2nd, Tuesday. This delightful series dealt with a family of working-class Jurassic Age Dinosaurs (think of the Flintstones without the humans and we have only highly intelligent, human-like dinosaurs instead). They are: Father Earl Sinclair (Stuart Pankin) an average guy, Homer-Simpson like, loves beer, hanging out with his buddy Roy, is constantly demanding respect which his children don't give him, and is completely owned by the company he works for, a totalitarian work environment whose aims are ruining forests, cutting down trees so as to build malls, houses, commercial buildings etc. His boss Mr. Richfield (Sherman Hemsley) is the boss from hell. He runs his company like a dictator. We only see his backside and he is immense, towering over his smaller employees. Earl's wife Fran (Jessica Walters) holds the family together and although she's a housewife and doesn't work for a living, is far more resourceful than her dim-witted husband. She solves her children's problems at school, maintains order in and out of the family and is a blend of 1950's sweet housefrau and 90's intelligent, liberated and skillful woman who could do well, if not better, on her own. Her son Robbie (Jason Willinger) is a hormonal, rebellious, tough teenager who loves wrestling, girls and is always fighting with his sister Charlene (Sally Struthers). Charlene is a smart, sassy girl who endures the typical teenage girl problems in high school. I had no idea she was voiced by Sally Struthers! Kevin Clash, the actor who does the voice for Elmo of Sesame Street plays the loud-mouthed, obnoxious, spoiled, bratty and destructive wild infant Baby Sinclair. "I'm the baby, Gotta Love Me!" was his mantra. He was even a talking doll at one point. The show had a lot of heart beneath all the hilarity and visual and written jokes. The family tackled issues that kids watching in the 90's could relate to - having to say no to drugs, using protection during sex or waiting till marriage for those who can, and was an earth-friendly show. In fact, at the very end of the show, it is Mr. Richfield's company, which has for so long destroyed the earth's surface, that brings about the end of the dinosaur age itself, creating a long winter that we are forced to believe the Sinclair family will not survive. Before that climatic ending, we get to see the Sinclairs face rivalries with other families, Charlene risks her life by proving to the ignorant Elders that the world is round, Robbie takes hormones and learns that it is a mistake, Earl learns to love his family uncondtionally and be a good dad even when the kids, like the Baby, are hell-raisers. During this time, the show spoofed various films, including The Exorcist in which Baby Sinclair hit his terrible Two's and acts possesssed. Florence Stanley provided the voice of the elderly, wheel-chair bound, seemingly Jewish grandmother Ethyl Phillips, Fran's mom. She was hilarious in a Cloris Leachman sort of way and in fact they could have easily cast Leachman for the part. This was not only a highly entertaining, creatively crafted show, but one that actually got kids into dinosaurs and pre-historic times. I remember that in school, several kids suddenly thought dinosaurs were cool based on the popularity of this show. I hope all the seasons and their episodes make it to DVD!!