Retro Recaps: Dinosaurs (Season 4, Episode 2) – Earl, Don’t Be a Hero
A television sitcom, about a family of dinosaurs
That was the idea that Jim Henson (creator of The Muppets) pitched for a TV series in the late 80’s. Some thought he was nuts at first, but eventually, the show got a green-light from ABC Television, and Dinosaurs was born.
From 1991-1994, the show chronicled the lives of the Sinclair family, who lived in Pangaea. Unlike traiditional interpretations of the massive creatures, the show (with the help of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop) would see dinosaurs living in a suburban environment, often delving into problems that modern humans could relate to.
One of the main members of the show was Earl Sinclair. A dopey father-figure, this megalosaurus would attempt to provide for his family, often having his ego get in the way, and quite often, end up being berated by his youngest child, Baby Sinclair.
Some of the time, Earl strove to be a good father figure, and in the second episode of the show’s fourth season, he got an unlikely assist in trying to earn his toddler’s respect.
Earl returns home with exciting news: he’s been promoted to Toxic Waste Supervisor at the WESAYSO Corporation!
Unfortunately, his teenage kids Robbie and Charlene show little interest in his promotion. Earl attempts to get some sympathy from Baby Sinclair, but all the little guy wants to do is watch Captain Action Figure and his Paramilitary Pals, claiming the (well-marketed) captain is his hero.
“And what does he got that I don’t?” asks Earl.
“A TV Show!” retorts the baby.
The next day Earl gets to work as the new Toxic Waste Supervisor…by dumping a number of the WESAYSO Corporation’s toxic waste into a public lake!
Earl also discusses with his co-worker Roy, how he’s created an ostentatious hat to make the baby realize how important the new job is.
“I don’t know pally-boy,” says Roy, “Seems to me, the love and respect of your child is cheapened somehow, if it’s based entirely upon the hat.”
Thinking Roy has a point, Earl tosses the hat into the lake.
“But, who am I to say?” rethinks Roy. “I don’t have any children.”
This causes Earl to dive into the (now-toxic) lake to retrieve the hat. However, once he comes out, he’s glowing green! the color fades away, but when Earl stretches towards the sky, he suddenly starts flying!
Once he comes back down to Earth, Roy tells Earl that the toxic waste must have given him superpowers. They check for additional powers, and find that Earl also has heat vision, and can guess someone’s weight!
Roy tells Earl that he should use his powers to become a superhero, and Earl becomes ecstatic, figuring that the baby will really like him now that he has superpowers. However, Roy explains that Earl can’t do that. Like a good superhero, he has to protect his secret identity, for the safety and well-being of his family.
Earl then adopts the moniker of Captain Impressive, and with a snazzy superhero suit, Earl flies all over Pangaea, foiling bank robberies, redirecting comets, and much more!
Pretty soon, the Sinclair family is enthralled by the superhero’s exploits that they see on TV news. One of the bigger upsides for Earl, is the baby now likes Captain Impressive more than Captain Action Figure.
Earl also hasn’t bathed since he fell into the toxic lake, and even though his wife questions his peculiar odor, Roy cautions him that a shower will surely wash away the chemicals that give him his powers.
Unfortunately, Earl’s boss Mr Richfield sees him use his heat vision during lunch, and calls Earl into his office. Richfield manages to trick Earl into revealing his superhero identity, and praises his superpowers.
“They could be very useful to a sinister, multi-national conglomerate such as this,” notes Richfield.
Earl claims that he won’t use his powers to help evil, but Richfield claims that he has no choice…because he’s contractually obligated to do so! Apparently, in the WESAYSO contract Earl signed long ago, if a dinosaur who works for the company ever obtains superpowers, they must use those powers for whatever the company wants! Richfield still allows Earl to stop crime and all, but only once he has completed his obligations to the company…such as opening WESAYSO shopping centers, and advertising WESAYSO brand products.
This shift in his agenda causes the majority of the Sinclair family to consider Captain Impressive as ‘a sell-out,’ but the baby is still impressed by the superhero.
This blind hero-worship comes into play when Richfield tells Earl, that the company has plans for a TV show called The Captain Impressive Action Fun Hour. Earl is at first excited, feeling he can teach kids plenty of important life-lessons, but his boss quickly tells him that the show is only to get the kids to convince their parents to buy over-priced (and often unsafe) merchandise! Some examples include a Captain Impressive doll that has a knife inside it, pajamas made out of newspaper, and even a trachea plug!
Earl attempts to use sound logic against big-business, but Richfield orders him to get to the TV station. Once there, Earl finds that the show is actually just an hour-long program on a home-shopping channel.
As the program goes on, Earl is surprised when Baby Sinclair calls, wanting to purchase a Captain Impressive trachea plug! When Earl hears the baby say he wants to buy the item because it has his face on it, Early finally has enough, and takes off his mask (shocking his family at home)!
Earl attempts to talk to the viewers about WESAYSO’s money-grubbing ways, but he is shoved aside, and relieved of his Captain Impressive costume.
Returning home, Earl finally showers, and washes off the toxic waste, nullifying his powers and superhero career.
He also gives the baby one of the Captain Impressive dolls (minus the dangerous knife inside it). However, the baby claims that he doesn’t like Captain Impressive anymore, since he’s got no superpowers.
“Well I’ll let you know a little secret,” says Earl. “If you take off the cape, and the mask and the funny costume, sometimes you fine a real hero underneath.”
“Looks like you,” says baby, looking at the costume-less figure.
“That’s the point,” continues Earl.” You see, Daddy’s are heroes too, and Mommies. We may not have heat vision, but we go to back-breaking, mind-numbing jobs so you can grow up comfortably and, have some nice things in your life. It may not be flashy, but it’s real.”
When the baby just demands Earl ‘guess his weight,’ he walks away, feeling like he’s wasted his time.
However, a few moments later, he hears the baby, and sees him playing with the action figure!
“I’m Captain Daddy,” proclaims the baby. “Going to work…a mind-numbing job! Honey, I’m home!”
As the baby laughs, Early smiles, happy that he did get through to his son.
And that was Earl, Don’t Be A Hero.
When it comes to some shows, it feels like the topic of superheroes eventually comes up, and Dinosaurs got to check that off their bingo card.
There also is some fun comedy with the Captain Action Figure TV show in the beginning, where the show tries to convince the kids at home, to guilt-trip their parents into buying merchandise.
This episode also shows how Earl is definitely not a perfect character, but still has some positive attributes (given the appropriate script). He quickly accepts that he has to do his job and dump toxic waste in a public lake, but also shows that he doesn’t wish to lead his young son astray with the wrong life-lessons (even if the baby can be annoying at times).
The show also seems to have some fun with the secret identity bit. Given that Captain Impressive and Earl have the same body-type, the family never puts two-and-two together, until he removes his mask.
There actually is a fun little bit of trivia regarding the action figure of Captain Impressive. It’s sculpt may not look like the Earl we know, but once upon a time, it was the original design for him. However, they found the original design looked a little too ‘stern.’ The features were softened, and Earl became more of the dopey Dad we see in the show.
For me, the highlight of the episode is it’s ending, where Earl tells the baby how parents are often the ‘unsung heroes’ of their families. Almost every episode of Dinosaurs usually has an interesting message to take away, and I found this was one that I feel is rarely ever touched upon.
While probably not one of the series’ best episodes, I did like what it did with it’s themes of being a parent, as well as trying to be a responsible superhero, in the face of the evils of the world (like greedy corporations).