The show was conceived by the Muppet masters at Jim Henson Productions, who wanted to do a sitcom-style show with puppets using the animatronics processes the company had developed. The brain trust settled on the idea of doing a straightforward show about a family that happened to be composed of dinosaurs. Henson Productions offshoot The Creature Shop developed huge, lifelike puppets that could be operated from inside by puppeteers, and Brian Henson, Jim's son, devised a process called ‘audio animatronics' to bring the facial expressions of these puppets to life.
The shows premise mixed elements of The Flintstones and The Simpsons, focusing on a blue-collar family of dinosaurs. Earl, the father, worked for the Wesayso Corporation and leveled trees to make way for tract homes. His blustery qualities were balanced out by his even-tempered wife Fran. The Dino clan had three children: rebellious teen Robbie, shopaholic preteen Charlene, and Baby, a smart-alecky infant. Rounding out the family was Grandma Ethyl, who always seemed to be locked in a battle of wills with Earl. Other characters included B. P. Richfield, Earl's fearsome boss, and Roy Hess, a prehistoric swinger buddy of Earl's.
Dinosaurs depicted dinosaur life as being very close to human life: they watched television, shopped at supermarkets, and held down nine-to-five jobs. This allowed the show to tackle relevant social concerns in their stories. For instance, in Steroids To Heaven Robbie tried to overcome feelings of inadequacy by building up his body with an artificial growth hormone called ‘thornoids.' You didn't expect a very special episode of Dinosaurs, now did you?
In making the dinosaurs human-like, the show allowed itself a unique opportunity to comment on our foibles as human beings. Much like modern homo sapiens, the shows prehistoric protagonists wasted their precious resources and allowed themselves to stay bound to outmoded ways of thinking when they could turn things around by trying out more progressive ways of thinking. The latter concern was usually voiced by Robbie, who questioned many of his dinosaur family's customs.
Dinosaurs managed to rack up 65 episodes before being cancelled in July of 1994. It is a memorable entry in the sitcom canon, not only for its use of technology but also for the social messages it passed on to its viewers...through a group of animatronic dinosaurs (who knew?).