A recent article from Variety featured multiple writers offering their opinions on the worst TV series finales of all time, a concept which inherently draws controversy among readers, though one of the more unexpected and lively discussions centered around the inclusion of the ABC series Dinosaurs and its sendoff. More than merely disagreement, many people on Twitter chastised the inclusion for entirely missing the point of the finale, which included producer Tim Doyle and series finale writer Kirk Thatcher attempting to explain their intentions behind the final episode. Enough backlash to the Dinosaurs finale was earned that Doyle and Thatcher were interviewed to offer more insight into that final episode.
Dinosaurs airing alongside other '90s staples like Full House and Family Matters, as well as starring anthropomorphic dinosaurs, lumped the program in with other formulaic family sitcoms, down to its merchandising and signature catchphrases. In the series finale, patriarch Earl Sinclair was responsible for disrupting an ecosystem that caused such a cascading ripple effect, it ignited an ice age that would lead to the extinction of all dinosaurs. Given that much of the series felt like a family-friendly sitcom, to tease the deaths of every single character with an incoming extinction event was surely a bold choice from the creatives.
"There was a certain amount of pushback initially, and then, because we were a children's show, both Disney and ABC kind of lost interest in bothering us," Doyle recalled to the outlet. "The third-tier executives were the ones who were giving us notes on the scripts, and nobody was really giving us too hard a time."
Even though it appeared as a traditional family sitcom, the goal was always to subvert expectations in sometimes subtle and other times blatant ways.
"Everything bad about humanity, as Jim [Henson, who developed the show] put it, dinosaurs are thinking, 'Oh, we are the apex predator. We can do whatever the hell we want and the planet will adapt to us because we're the biggest, meanest, baddest mofos on the planet,'" Thatcher detailed. "The idea was that kind of blinkered thinking and to satirize the 'Ugly American' or 'Ugly Western' culture where you're not living for your descendants: 'Our ancestors built us up here, we can do whatever the hell we want.'"
The pair noted that, while they would include episodes about the environment and other topical issues, the number of episodes each season would allow them to include broader installments that were more lighthearted to placate the network. Even when they ended up pitching the devastating series finale, the gravity of the implication didn't surprise the network.
"They were like, 'Great, you figured out how to wrap [the series] up,'" Thatcher revealed. "I don't remember any eyebrows raised or anyone going, 'Well, you can't.'"
Doyle added, "There might have been a little bit of pushback from somebody saying, 'Well, what if we can maneuver another season or something?' ... But I think one of us said, 'Well, they got frozen and then they get thawed.'"
The pair both pointed out that, while the implication is that not only will all of the main characters die soon, as will every other creature on Earth, those deaths are never actually shown.
"[Fans say] it devastated them, and how it was so ballsy," Thatcher confessed. "They usually say, 'They ruined it!' and then they're smiling and laughing... 'Oh, my God, I can't believe you did that.' And I always respond with, 'Well, we didn't kill them. They're just chilly, you know? We didn't actually show them dying, we let the other shoe drop in your mind.'"
Doyle continued, "We did easily a dozen episodes about the environment in one form or another, and they were all kind of toothless because by the end of 22 minutes we kind of fixed it. And here is one where the consequences are not fixable, we've f-cked up the environment and we're going to have to deal with the fallout of that. I would like to think six- or seven-year-olds might have been upset, but it also might have made an impression on them."
All four seasons of Dinosaurs are streaming on Disney+.
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