The boy has abruptly shifted his educational TV priorities in the last few days, suddenly becoming an ardent devotee of PBS Kids’ Dinosaur Train. I can’t say I mind; I’ve seen every episode of Sesame Street aired since 2008 fifteen times by now and something new is hella welcome.
If you’re child free, like a sensible person, or your kids are older than toddler age, you might not be familiar with the premise of this show. It’s a fascinating mix of science and nonsense; the idea is that the orange tyrannosaur in the middle there, whose name is Buddy, because of course it is, was randomly discovered in the pteranodon nest along with the three baby pteranodons behind him, and when they all hatched at the same time Mama pteranodon just sorta shrugged and decided she had four kids.
One of whom is supposed to eat the other three. Plus her. And daddy pteranodon. There is an episode where Buddy discovers he’s a T-Rex, right? He discovers that he’s supposed to be a carnivore (he eats “carrion,” which is an undifferentiated lump of meat-lookin’ stuff not unlike what Chicken McNuggets are made of, which begs the question of what the hell he’s been eating since hatching) and that he’s eventually going to be very very big. Left alone is the fact that he eats other dinosaurs. The episode we just watched featured the kids talking to an ankylosaurus who declared that his heavy armored plates were to keep him safe from other carnivorous dinosaurs “who might want to hurt me,” and the phrase, “…like you” was conspicuously omitted from the end.
Also, there is the titular “dinosaur train,” which is full of all sorts of dinosaurs and travels around to “T-Rex Town” and “Triceratops Town” (probably not their actual names but you get the idea) and apparently travels through time as well– they actually acknowledge that they’re heading to the “Cretaceous Age” or the “Jurassic Age” from time to time– technology that I’d love to have access to.
The thing, though, is that everything else is awesome, and it ain’t like I’m enough of a dick to actually be offended by the show using Buddy as a non-homicidal protagonist; it just entertains me. They don’t skimp on the complicated names of the dinosaurs (there’s a funny bit at the end of each show where they show four or five kids trying to pronounce the names of things) and they manage to pack a legitimately impressive amount of scientific information into every episode. Plus there’s a guy who calls himself Dr. Scott who shows up at the end of every episode who is either an actual paleontologist or an actor portraying one who gives two or three minutes of detailed information about the dinosaurs that were portrayed in the episode.
And then there’s “Point of Fact!” guy, who wins the show. Sometimes “Point of Fact!” guy walks through a drawing of a door on Dr. Scott’s stage and declares that, as a Point of Fact, no, hadrosaurs did not actually arrange concerts where they played their fluted crests, as portrayed in the episode you just watched. This always terribly disappoints the children listening to Dr. Scott, and then he follows up with a related actual fact and makes them happy again.
And then– and I swear this isn’t a joke– PoF Guy goose-steps his way back off the screen. It’s ridiculous. And hilarious.
Dinosaurs, science, goose-stepping Nazi pedants. Everything I want in a children’s show.