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Dinosaurs Debuted 30 Years Ago Today

  • On April 26, 1991, ABC debuted the live-action animatronic puppet sitcom Dinosaurs, one of the last brainchildren of Muppet mastermind Jim Henson before his tragic death in 1990, brought to fruition by Michael Jacobs (Boy Meets World, Charles in Charge) and Bob Young (The Facts of Life, My Two Dads), with Jim's son Brian Henson executive producing.

    The show focused on a working class family of anthropomorphic thunder lizards headed by Earl (Stuart Pankin, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Fran (Jessica Walter, Arrested Development, Archer), with their children Robbie (Jason Willinger), Charlene (Sally Struthers, All in the Family), and Baby (Kevin Clash), along with Fran's mother Ethyl (Florence Stanley, My Two Dads, Barney Miller). Other notable voices included Sherman Hemsley (The Jeffersons) as Earl's boss B.P. Richfield and Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: Organized Crime) as Robbie's best friend Spike.

    Dinosaurs ran for four seasons on ABC, winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction, but the creators knew the writing was on the wall during Season 4. So they crafted a startlingly dark final episode that aired in 1994, where the WeSaySo Corporation's prioritizing corporate profits over environmental safety resulted in the Ice Age that eventually caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, and Earl was accidentally complicit. The series ended with snowfall over the family home, basically implying that everybody that's ever been on the show is about to die. 

    Hell of an ending for a show generally aimed at kids, but also an ending that remains depressingly relevant to this day.

    Andy Hunsaker has a head full of sitcom gags and nerd-genre lore, and can be followed @AndyHunsaker if you're into that sort of thing.

    TOPICS: Dinosaurs, ABC, Christopher Meloni, Florence Stanley, Jessica Walter, Jim Henson, Sally Struthers, Sherman Hemsley, Stuart Pankin