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ABC's 1990s sitcom Dinosaurs feels even more relevant in 2020

  • The four-season 1991-94 comedy featuring animatronic dinosaurs "combines the perfectly normal and low-stakes suburban problems we’re all used to with a jarring resignation to death. That juxtaposition resonates differently at a time when a locked-down America is baking sourdough bread while tens of thousands die," says Lili Loofbourow. "Dinosaurs started in 1991, a couple of years after The Simpsons. It wasn’t subtle in its humor or its messaging. The baby bashed its father on the head with a frying pan while the show tackled everything from the evils of television to the Gulf War to the stigma against homosexuality, the latter coded as vegetarianism and pacifism in the series. (The episode in question has Robbie, the teenage son, discovering he might like vegetables and cavorting with hippies who advocate “giving peas a chance” despite his father’s lectures on the carnivorous natural order of things.) The analogies were as leaden as the puppets were unwieldy and waggly and expressive. But because the basic setup was so conventional—stressed-out dad, smart mom stagnating in her own lost potential, bratty kids—I didn’t realize, as a child, how much the sadness I felt after watching a Dinosaurs episode wasn’t accidental but deliberately engineered. Dinosaurs is often regarded as dark because of its quietly apocalyptic ending: The series finale has the family preparing to go extinct thanks to a new ice age brought on by corporate greed. But the show exposed the ugly undercurrents of American sitcoms long before its bleak end. It did so by combining the genre’s low-stakes concerns with high-stakes questions of life and death that Dinosaurs’ characters take casually in stride."

    TOPICS: Dinosaurs, Coronavirus, Retro TV