Follow That Dinosaur!

For today’s blog, I’ll save you some time – if you are under 35 years old, stop reading now, because you are likely going to have no idea what I’m talking about.  You might even think I’ve been smoking something, which I assure you is not the case.

But I CAN tell you who was smoking something – Sid and Marty Krofft.  Everyone reading this who is under 35 just went “who?” and everyone roughly over 35 just went “Oh my gawd – yes!”

Sid and Marty Krofft were responsible for a procession of television shows during the mid-1970s that mixed live acting with animation / claymation.  These bastions of American pop culture included, HR Puff & Stuff (think talking McDonald’s Fry Guys that have had several espressos) , Lidsville (wtf – ruling a world that smacks of Candyland in flying hats?????), Wonderbug (a talking dunebuggy – really – c,mon…), Bigfoot & Wildboy (self explanatory), Electra Woman and Dyna Girl (shorts, capes and 70s girl hair, and I’m convinced that’s the same car used in Wonderbug……) and it all seemed perfectly normal at the time.  Yeah, I grew up on that stuff.  But Sid & Marty Krofft are oft remembered for one of their earlier shows that was a smash hit above all of the others put together (which wasn’t really much of an accomplishment).  The show was called the Land of the Lost.  And no, not the intentionally dumb Will Farrell movie of late that was nothing like the original. But I stumbled across the remastered original series on Netflix, and you know I had to get it.  I’m not shelling out the $90 for the complete set, but I was definitely up for the Netflix rental for a quick trip down memory lane.

From the first intro, you know you are in trouble, at least by today’s standards.  It becomes immediately clear that the Land of the Lost budget didn’t include science advisers.

…..and a one, and a two and a three – sing it with me!  …….”Marshall, Will, and Holly, on a routine expedition, met the greatest earthquake ever known, high on the rapids (ummmm…) it caught their tiny raft and plunged them down a thousand feet below (with an accompanying ‘aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh’ for dramatic effect) to the Laaaaaaaaaaand of the Lossssssst, (insert T-Rex roar) to the Laaaaaaaaaaand of the Lossssssst!!!”

Just think, only a thousand feet below the Colorado River there’s a portal to a land of dinosaurs, walking lizard men called Sleestak, some ape-like casting rejects from Bigfoot and Wildboy that end up being called Pakunis, and tinfoil-covered “pylons” that are controlling it all.  Will looks like he might be solely responsible for the porn industry, our buck-toothed Holly looks just slightly feral, and with one look at Marshall, it’s not hard to see why.  We are never told why someone who looks like he’s 26 is constantly arguing with a little girl that looks to be about ten, but maybe Will wasn’t blessed with a lot of gray matter.  Indeed, every time he gets scared, he starts throwing rocks – and even the Pakuni use spears.

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVED this little show.  And I remember how I would set my alarm and get up at 6 am every Saturday morning as a kid to watch the thing back in 1974.  One of the darkest days of my life was the day Land of the Lost was canceled, at the end of 1976.  Well, not really.  But I was definitely a fan. I actually am pretty sure this show is solely responsible for my lifelong fascination with dinosaurs.  It’s just that, looking back, this thing oozes cheese.  And, like a lot of Saturday morning kid shows back then, some of the content was more aimed at adults.

Case in point, the episode entitled, “Follow That Dinosaur.”  The whole episode is about the fact that the Marshall family suddenly realizes that the reason all of the dinosaurs (including “Grumpy” the claymation T-Rex and “Dopey” – a baby Brontosaurus that is more than a little slow on the uptake – are we starting to see a pattern here?) in the Land of the Lost are constantly gathered around their cave is not because they are the protagonists, but rather that the cave is surrounded by green leafy fern-like plants with little buds at the top.  Apparently, subtlety hadn’t yet been invented in 1974.   Even T-Rex is walking off with mouthfuls of the stuff, that  Holly calls “dinosaur nip.”  They get the bright idea to go pull all of the “weeds.”  In the process they find a scarecrow stuffed with the dinosaur nip, and a notebook instructing them how to get out of the Land of the Lost.  The instructions lead them through the sleeping Sleestak hordes in the “Lost City” and straight to a molten pit that rises up and wakes up the Sleestak.  Doh.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, all of the dinosaurs come down with an incurable case of the munchies, and Grumpy does a balancing act to cross a narrow foot bridge and confront Alice – the other big carnivore (an Allosaurus – get it?) around.  They end up in a fight over the dinosaur nip, allowing the Feral, um I mean the Marshall family to escape safely back to the cave, by which time they’re all famished.

Sigh, the good old days.

In 2012, television has become complex, thought provoking, and rich with astonishing special effects.  Well, sometimes anyway. (I’m a TOTAL fan of The Walking Dead, for instance.) Television is so good these days that with a minimal investment in a good home entertainment system, there’s no reason to ever go to the movies. And yet, as bad as those old shows were, there’s a certain sense of something lost from those more simple times, even if it isn’t necessarily our innocence that was lost.  Today, an episode like “Follow That Dinosaur” might well be seen as corruptive to young minds, stifling their imaginations.  Sitting a few feet away from me right now is the gag gift I bought myself one Christmas several years ago, an animatronic robot dinosaur with advanced AI (artificial intelligence) that I named Ally.  Sort of a tribute to ol’ Alice, I guess. As I think back on those days and how Land of the Lost sparked a lifetime of imagination in me, I’m not so sure if those shows were all that corrupting, or just a sign of the times.

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