The idea isn’t actually that bad: A hidden land where dinosaurs and humans speak English and live in total harmony. If you go in a restaurant, a dinosaur will wait on you. If the time comes to fight, the humans will ride on the flying prehistoric mammals and save the city. ABC calls it “Dinotopia.” After watching it, you might call it “A huge waste of money and time.”
This show is a strange cross between “Swiss Family Robinson” and “Jurassic Park” featuring a father, Frank, (Michael Brandon) who has stumbled upon Dinotopia with his two sons, the honorable David (Shiloh Strong) and the dashing Karl (Erik Von Detten). Dinotopia is protected by sunstones that scare off foreign dinosaurs, and a group of outsiders are hunting them when they find a jewel that disables the sunstones. With dangerous T-Rexes (of course the bad guy dinosaurs would be T-Rexes) on the loose, Frank immediately wants to leave this island, and spends his time trying to conjure up an escape route. Karl decides to go with him, despite his attachment to Marion (Georgina Rylance), who is the daughter of the mayor (Jonathan Hyde). Marion eventually decides to accompany them on their tumultuous voyage across the sea. David, meanwhile, is trying to defend the country from the evil outsiders who decide to align with the T-Rexes. The excitement is waiting to shine forth, but it is presented with all the drama of watching a tree grow.
Many elements of the show are inconceivable. In addition to everyone speaking with snobbish European accents, the show only features one speaking dinosaur (named Zipeau), while the other dinosaurs respond with stereotypical growls. Also, the acting isn’t that good. When Marion is trying to stop Karl from leaving with his father, she bursts out with a “Titanic”-esque “I’m not leaving here without you.” In addition, when David meets up with Karl and Frank after their failed escape attempt, Karl, who thought he would never see him again, welcomed David with a measly “I can’t believe you’re here.”
Despite the huge investment ABC made in the earlier mini-series and current series, there are still countless production flaws that plague the show. The dinosaurs and humans seem like they are in two completely different shows and are not integrated smoothly. The voyage at sea looks like something copied from “The Perfect Storm.” Also, the breaks for commercials are not clearly defined, and it’s almost as if they forgot there had to be commercials in this show, as scenes end abruptly with no warning.
“Dinotopia” is a weak attempt by ABC to counter the other strong Thursday night lineups of other networks. The setting will result in some very similar episodes (how many times can dinosaurs attack one town?) and the actors are difficult to get behind and root for. When all angles are considered, look for “Dinotopia” to be extinct in the very near future. And unlike our friend from the Mesozoic Era, there will be no doubt why this one disappeared from our midst.