Dinosaurs On The Small Screen

When I saw the new series Terra Nova on Fox I couldn’t help wondering about how many dinosaur-based TV shows there have been. It turns out there aren’t many, which isn’t surprising for the obvious budgetary reason. Here’s a brief rundown of such shows but for brevity’s sake cartoons, documentaries and shows that only had an episode or two featuring the extinct reptiles won’t be included.

Terra Nova — Currently airing on Fox after numerous delays. The show follows the adventures of a 22nd century family who time travel 85 million years into an alternate past to escape a dying future. They are part of a human colony called Terra Nova and contend with predatory dinosaurs, dumb teenage drama and renegade humans.

Primeval–A BBC program that first aired in 2007 and was recently resurrected. Taking place in Britain, time portals called anomalies appear more and more often throughout the land and deposit confused and rampaging dinosaurs, prehistoric animals and even future animals. The Arc, a research and security facility, is set up with misfits and soldiers who deal with temporal incursions. It was recently announced that a spinoff taking place in Vancouver called Primeval: New World will go into production.

Prehistoric Park–This was a six-part series that aired in 2007 on ITV and Animal Planet was more of a mockumentary that starred Nigel Marvin who played himself. The premise is that a prehistoric wildlife preserve has been set up on an island. Think of it as a successful Jurassic Park. In the show, Nigel time travels to prehistoric periods and rescues animals about to perish and brings them to the present. More often than not he wound bringing unexpected animals.

Dinotopia–Based on the series of books, it was originally a four-hour mini-series that became a show and aired on ABC in 2002. The network pulled the plug after six episodes, which was a mercy killing. In this show, two brothers crash their plane in an uncharted continent where humans and dinosaurs (some are sentient and able to speak) live in harmony.

 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World–This syndicated show ran for three seasons from 1999 to 2002. Loosely based on Doyle’s classic, it featured Professor Challenger and a group of people who are stranded on a South America plateau that is inhabited by dinosaurs, natives and people in latex makeup. It ended with an unresolved cliffhanger.

Dinosaurs–ABC aired this comedy, produced by Jim Henson Television, from 1991 to 1994. Coming off as a knock off of The Simpsons and The Flintstones, it was your standard nuclear family sitcom complete with the goofball dad, patient mom, wise children and a precocious little baby that kept screaming “Not the momma!” Only these were talking dinosaurs wearing clothes and complaining about humdrum problems. The series ended on a downer as a global catastrophe dooms the dinosaurs.

Land of the LostA personal favorite that first aired on NBC Saturday mornings from 1974 to 1976 and it set the standard. Rick, Will and Holly Marshall are out whitewater rafting and fall through a portal that transports them into an alternate dimension populated by stop-motion and puppet dinosaurs, hairy hominids called Pakuni and evil reptilian Sleestaks. Despite its juvenile trappings and budget the show really shone thanks to high-concept scripts penned by the likes of David Gerrold, Norman Spinrad, Larry Niven and D.C. Fontana. A remake aired in 1991 in syndication for two seasons but it had a lighter tone and wasn’t as memorable. And let’s not get into that Will Ferrell movie.

José Soto