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As a series, dinosaur drama is worthy of extinction

Unlike last season's miniseries, this 'Dinotopia' offers few thrills.

November 28, 2002|Howard Rosenberg | Times Staff Writer

It's no wonder that ABC took so long getting its new "Dinotopia" series on the air. Watching it is dinotorture, especially compared with the fun of last season's "Dinotopia" the miniseries, from which this low-action drama was spun.

The weekly series has a different cast and a drag of a double-sized premiere that creeps forward laboriously for two hours. By the time those lumbering carnivores, the Tyrannosaurus rexes, advance en masse on the Dinotopian capital of Waterfall City, you may be fleeing along with the residents.

This is really bad, from low-tech special effects to an opening script that could have been written by one of the show's own theropods.

The inspiration here is the art and juvenile books of James Gurney, the setting a utopian paradise where veggie-eating humans and animals co-exist benevolently. It's on this lost continent that teenage Scott brothers Karl (Erik von Detten) and David (Shiloh Strong) were stranded after the plane carrying them and their dad, Frank (Michael Brandon), crashed into the Caribbean. Now Frank, too, is a castaway and antsy to leave.

He is also more than a little thick. This is not cerebral Patrick McGoohan hatching ingenious escape plans in "The Prisoner." You know immediately that Frank's cockamamie attempt to get off the island will sink. Why doesn't he?

Meanwhile, Le Sage (Lisa Zane) and her fellow renegades are up to no good, and Dinotopia's protective sunstones are mysteriously on the fritz, making it vulnerable to attack by the T. rexes.

But forget suspense. Although the T. rexes snack on a few humans, it's obvious that the Scotts will survive, along with Dinotopia's leader-in-training, Marion (Georgina Rylance) and her parents, Mayor Waldo (Jonathan Hyde) and Rosemary (Sophie Ward).

A rule of thumb here: If it roars and has tiny front legs and long sharp teeth, it's trouble. But enough about the producers.



"Dinotopia" will be shown at 8 p.m. Thursdays on ABC. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children).

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