“Dinosaurs”: The Most Traumatizing Series Finale Ever
Dinosaurs, produced by Jim Henson Productions, was a show that aired from 1991–1994, as part of ABC’s “TGIF” lineup.
The show, set in 60,000,003 B.C. in Pangaea, was a family-friendly blend of The Flintstones and The Simpsons. It revolved around the misadventures of the Sinclair family: Earl Sinclair, the father; Fran Sinclair, the mother; Robbie Sinclair, the son; Charlene Sinclair, the daughter; and Baby “Not the Mama” Sinclair, the baby.
Although the show was lighthearted and geared toward younger viewers, it sometimes visited heavy themes, like sexual harassment, objectification of women, civil rights, steroid use, masturbation, drug abuse, racism, peer pressure, religion, and women’s rights.
In the memorable but very dark series finale, it touched on the themes of environmentalism and mortality — with an ending that left all of the characters facing their imminent death.
The series finale, “Changing Nature,” aired on July 20, 1994, and the episode began with the Sinclair family gathered at a picnic awaiting the annual return of the bunch beetles. The beetles, much to the disappointment of the family, never show.
We learn, in a bit of foreshadowing, that the reason the beetles never returned was because they had been eradicated after the dinosaurs had, irresponsibly, built a plastic fruit factory over their swamp breeding ground.
The beetles played an important role in the ecosystem of Pangaea, by feeding on a type of climbing vine. Without the beetles, the vines began growing out of control.
Of course, Earl was put in charge of an environmental task force responsible for solving the vine problem.
The environmental task force’s solution to deal with the vines is to spray the planet with defoliant. The mass poisoning, however, not only kills the vines, but all plant life on Pangaea.
In an effort to revive the dying plant life, Mr. Richfield, Earl’s boss, orders the environmental task force to make rain. They execute a plan to drop bombs into the planet’s volcanoes, which, in turn, they hope will create rain clouds.
The plan backfires — and instead of rain, the clouds bring snow, causing global cooling and the beginning of the Ice Age.
In the final scene, the family is gathered together inside their home trying to keep warm.
Realizing that the world is coming to an end, Earl apologizes to his family and admits that he shouldn’t have “taken nature for granted.”
In a touching moment, the Sinclair family accept their fate and promise to stick together (until the end).
The final line of the episode is delivered by Howard Handupme (the Walter Cronkite of Dinosaurs), eerily saying, “Good night. Good-bye.”
To really drive home that this is the end of the Sinclair family, the episode closes with an image of snow piling onto their home while a depressing score plays.