Review: ‘Dinosaurs If You Were a Tree’

Voices: Stuart Pankin, Jessica Walter, Jason Willinger, Sally Struthers, Florence Stanley, Sam McMurray, Sherman Hemsley, Michael McKean, Kevin Clash, David Warner.

Voices: Stuart Pankin, Jessica Walter, Jason Willinger, Sally Struthers, Florence Stanley, Sam McMurray, Sherman Hemsley, Michael McKean, Kevin Clash, David Warner.

Disney’s scaly sitcom returns with a solid blend of wry humor and heavy-footed environmental dogma for a test run behind “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Renewed for next season, the show deserves a wider audience than it’s earned thus far.

Although most successful with toddlers and their mothers as part of ABC’s Friday lineup, “Dinosaurs” is actually quite sophisticated — at times moreso than “The Simpsons”– in skewering modern mores and television conventions, a fact missed by adults who can’t get past the concept of prime time puppets.

This latest episode provides a good example of the show’s stronger elements, with the crotchety grandmother reading a fable to the ever-quotable baby.

In the bedtime story, patriarch Earl (Stuart Pankin) is struck by lightning and swaps consciousness with a tree — the plant entity (guest voice David Warner) waxing poetic to his confused family while the suddenly rooted Earl learns to cavort with the animals who inhabit his trunk.

Writer Andy Goodman eschews a saccharine ending and the dialogue is frequently a hoot.

With the show’s clever social satire — and the youth-laden “Home Videos” lead-in, the series may actually have discovered its most logical modern-day home.

Dinosaurs If You Were a Tree

(Sun. (18), 7:30-8 p.m., ABC-TV)

Production

Filmed by Michael Jacobs Prods. and Jim Henson Prods. in association with Walt Disney TV. Exec producers, Michael Jacobs, Brian Henson; co-exec producer, Bob Young; supervising producer, Mark Brull; producers, Dava Savel, David A. Caplan, Brian Lapan; co-producers, Kirk Thatcher, Jeff McCracken, Adam Barr, Peter Ocko; director, Bruce Bilson; writer, Andy Goodman.

Crew

Camera, Tony Cutrono; editor, Marco Zappia; production designer, John C. Mula; art direction, Kevin Pfeiffer; music, Ray Colcord; theme, Bruce Broughton.
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