If you’ve never seen the final episode of Dinosaurs, prepare to have your mindcage broken open.
If you were born in the mid-eighties like me, you absolutely know what I’m talking about when I type the following jingle’s lyrics:
It’s Friday night. Everything’s alright. We’re gonna have some fun. Show you how it’s done. T.G.I.F.
And if not, here’s a giant picture because I don’t have forever to wait while you guess.
I’m from the school of Full House, Family Matters, Step-By-Step, Boy Meets World and Dinosaurs. Each one of those shows helped craft my personality during my formative years, as they did with basically every member of my generation. Everyone watched T.G.I.F.
So, you probably know what Dinosaurs is. But, I’ll give you a brief rundown anyway.
Dinosaurs followed middle-class working-dinosaur Earl Sinclair and his well-mannered but often incident-prone family. There’s Robby, Earl’s teenage son who questions authority and (ever notice that he’s the only one that ever wore shoes?) is sarcastic and witty. Earl also has a young daughter, Charlene, who is the stereotypical vain teenager. Earl’s final child, and the source of most of the show’s comedy, is simply named “Baby”. Baby Sinclair is best known for telling Earl that he was not his mother and therefore undeserving of his respect. This usually culminated in the baby concussing Earl with a frying pan or another household implement. Rounding out the cast was Earl’s wife and her mother. Both of these characters were basically in the show to cast aspersions on the actions of others. They were the most boring characters, but this was a time when TV moms had to be the voice of reason and all in-laws had to be hellish monstrosities spawned in the darkest chasms of the underworld. The woman who voiced the mom (Fran) has gone on to play/voice such non-stereotypical characters as Lucille Bluth in Arrested Development (just six more days) and Mallory Archer on Archer.
So, that’s basically it. The show was wildly popular and often silly and spectacularly funny. It serves as a lasting tribute to the genius of Jim Henson and the lost art of large-scale puppetry. Most people remember that. What most people don’t remember is the series finale, titled “Changing Nature”. The rest of this blog is a discussion of that episode. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it for free on Youtube here:
(then scroll down, obvs…)
This was drawn by Jhonen Vasquez. He is really good.
Okay. You watched it right? Holy fucking shit, right?
Right now you’re probably thinking “Wow. I can’t believe that hilarious and heartwarming show ended in such a tragic and unexpected way.” and “I need to call all of the people who I know watched T.G.I.F. and tell them about this episode.” Both things are completely normal. Don’t be afraid. I think that’s why this episode has been forgotten by most.
The episode is important though. It’s important because we know the dinosaurs didn’t become extinct because of industrialization and nuclear winter. In fact, there’s only one animal on the planet that even has access to that form of self-destruction. And if you didn’t piece together throughout the episode that it was predicting our own inevitable downfall, the final scene really shoves it in your face that these are dinosaurs with human characteristics. It is a family, huddled together for warmth and safety, awaiting unavoidable death. They are not the invincible cartoons we thought they were, and their end is not only nigh but it’s actually in our past. When Baby Sinclair asks Earl what’s going to happen to them, and Earl looks at his wife, and can’t give an honest answer, I think we were all reminded that the advancement of our species through greed and willful ignorance will end poorly. Further, I think we were all reminded that the evidence that we’ve already taken this path toward doom is abundant.
It’s rare for a show that was such a cliched archetypical family-based sitcom like Dinosaurs to take such an uncharacteristic and brilliant stride to end its run on a meaningful note. Also, it should come as no surprise that a piece of art such as this that earnestly and sincerely addresses our flaws as a species is so often looked over in the annals of historically-relevant television shows.
Anyway, now you’ve got something to talk about with your friends.