Coming soon to your screens: Dinosaur Hyperbole

Yes this is the official release of my awesome concept for a new dinosaur series for TV. Like pretty much all other shows it relies on massive amounts of dramatic hypotheses presented as facts or theories that are only vaguely supported by the loosest of interpretations of evidence, but unlike the rest it’ll be totally up front about it. In fact the basis of the show is to produce the most dramatic and hyperbolic ideas possible from the least amount of evidence.

The idea is you start with a rubbish bit of bone – an indeterminate midshaft, skull fragment, distorted track or similar and then have to build up from there top the most extreme extrapolation of ecology, evolution or behaviour. So an isolated condyle could be posited as being the distal end of a giant digit one on a monstrous theropod, which would be a late surviving ceolophysoid, which having knocked around for 100 million years longer that it should must have specialised enormously and thus must have a massively elongate neck used to strike at pterosaurs. The various answers given by a panel are then voted for by the public to find a winner.

It’s great. It’ll be high profile, present the vast majority of the public with even more outrageous dinosaurs than they get already, and with probably no overall loss of accuracy compared to what normally gets on screen. Plus the phone votes would probably bring in a fair bit of cash for research. I’m sure it’ll work and I’m look forward to hearing from the TV companies who’ll be queuing up to make this. Possibly. Still, it can’t be worse than some of the stuff that’s been up there on the screen supposedly backed by ‘evidence’.

21 Responses to “Coming soon to your screens: Dinosaur Hyperbole”

  1. 1 Andrea Cau 07/09/2011 at 9:33 am

    Great post!
    And don’t forget to (ab)use massively on mammalian behavioural analogies.

  2. 2 Julia 07/09/2011 at 12:31 pm

    Okay, we should definitely watch Planet Dinosaur together next week! This will be fun – we’ll have gin.

  3. 5 Mark Wildman 07/09/2011 at 12:37 pm

    All I can say Dave is – spot on!

  4. 6 Heinrich Mallison 07/09/2011 at 1:01 pm

    ah, I love the smell of sarcasm in the morning!

  5. 8 Your Name's not Bruce? 07/09/2011 at 2:47 pm

    You could turn it into a drinking game! Set up a table of unsupported claims or dinosaur cliches (predator roars in the midst of hunting prey!) and take a shot as each one is used by the show you’re watching. Of course you might die of alcohol poisoning before the first commercial break. Turning it into a game of “Bingo” might be safer for long term liver function (if not mental health).

  6. 10 Zhen 07/09/2011 at 4:18 pm

    I take it you didn’t like Dinosaur Revolution then?

    Dave, you should live stream an episode for us all to join you and watch while we riff the shows.

    I was going to turn Walking With Dinosaurs into a drinking game myself. I drink every time a scientific fact is uttered, then I remember I would end up being sober through it all.

    • 11 David Hone 07/09/2011 at 4:20 pm

      I’ve not seen Dinosaur Revolution. This was a more general statement about how these shows are generally made and pitched.

      • 12 Zhen 08/09/2011 at 2:08 am

        Well, I figured this post can’t be a coincidence since this week was the premiere of Dinosaur Revolution with Planet Dinosaur coming next week. Did someone contact you for a new show?

        I wonder if Dr. Holtz feels the same way as you. He was one of the main paleontologists featured in DR and I hear sometimes experts opinions aren’t followed despite them being hired to serve as a consultants.

  7. 13 Mark Robinson 08/09/2011 at 4:40 am

    Ha ha. So this will do for palaeontology what [i]Time Team[/i] does for archaeology?

    Don’t forget you’ll need to include a couple of genuine dinosaur experts to lend gravitas to your doco and, when they make a passing comment acknowledging and then dismissing some populist nonsense, edit the footage so that it looks like they’re saying that it’s true.

  8. 14 Sheila Chambers 08/09/2011 at 4:41 am

    Your new Dino show should be spectacular!!

    T-rex leaping over logs as it roars after a herd of Triceratops!
    Don’t get concerned about that heavy landing.

    Giant sauropods standing up on their hind legs to stomp a theropod lifeless, never mind it’s blood pressure and that it’s already been done in “Dinosaur revolution”.
    Do it again, it looks bloody good!

    Have Archeopteryx fly across the English channel, don’t be concerned that it doesn’t have a keeled breast bone and has weak flight muscles.

    To please the “believers”, have some humans fighting it out with velociraraptor and winning!

    Looking forward to your new dino show, perhaps you can out gaff the “scientist” that provided the information to the producers of the “true” story of how dinosaurs lived and died 65 million plus years ago.

  9. 15 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. 08/09/2011 at 3:13 pm

    “I hear sometimes experts opinions aren’t followed despite them being hired to serve as a consultants.”

    Too true. After all, we are consultants, not directors or producers or writers. Yes, they take our advice once in awhile (for example, that is why episode 2 of DinoDino Revolution was set in the Lourinha Fm rather than the Morrison), but sometimes they don’t.

    Add on to this the long production schedules for special effects-centered show vs. the duration of network executives (Discovery Communications went through THREE different bosses during the time it took to make DR, each wanting tweaks and cuts and modifications).

    And then there is marketing. DR was originally planned as Reign of the Dinosaurs, and never intended to be a documentary as such. It was supposed to have zero narration, only a few captions to explain settings. (Think Richard Delgado’s Age of Reptiles comic book, only on TV). It was always thought of as a series of fictional narratives. There was supposed to be an accompanying series, Science of Reign of the Dinosaurs which would air right after each episode, where talking heads would talk about what in each show was based on direct physical evidence, what was inferred, what is reasonable speculation, and what was just imagination. They had even filmed part of SoRotD.

    Then a new executive, a new round of cuts, and the show went from six hours of animation and six hours of science programming to four hours of animation with narration and talking heads. And the name got changed. And the marketeers decided to emphasize the “new science” part of it in the press releases.

    In an age of multiple 24 hour cable science/nature-oriented channels (or at least supposedly “science/nature” oriented channels) there should be a place for a wide array of ways of telling stories and science. Sadly, the business-folks are afraid of difference, so everything gets beaten down into the same mold. And that mold is hyperbole. It is just as true for the astronomy programming or history programming or wildlife programming as for paleo programming.

    Sure, neither DR nor Planet Dinosaur nor the other big special effects, no-talking-heads show that is on the way are what I or most other scientists would put together. (If someone were to give me $15M and a couple of years, for example, I would do something much more closely following the approach of the original Cosmos series, but focusing on paleontology, evolution, and earth history.) But TV shows aren’t made by the consultants.

    So if you can get even some tidbits of new discoveries in there, at least some information that the public doesn’t already know (or reinforce ideas that need reinforcing!), I think it isn’t a loss.

    • 16 Brian Choo 09/09/2011 at 6:05 am

      >If someone were to give me $15M and a couple of years, for example, I would do something much more closely following the approach of the original Cosmos series.

      So the paleontologist journeys back in time in a giant dandelion spaceship, warns bird-precursors that “the you-mans are gonna eat you!”, unravels a toilet roll through a hall of dinosaur skeletons and imitates the songs of sauropods (“Whooooop! KHOOOOR! KHOOOOOR!”)

      Seriously though, Cosmos was a true landmark that I enjoy watching to this day – I credit Cosmos + Life on Earth for kindling my interest in natural history. RIP Carl Sagan.

      I’ve just sat through the 1st 2 episodes of DR at IVPP (don’t ask me how I got them) and on balance I was highly entertained. I found “The Watering Hole” an absolute masterpiece if the original intent of the series was taken into account (“Delgado’s Age of Reptiles on the small screen”). As for “Evolution’s Winners”… sorry but mosasaurs (bracketed by mute monitors and snakes) chirping like birds, opening and closing their mouths to apparently ventilate avian syringes *while they’re underwater* kinda left a bitter taste in my mouth.

      Seriously though, the title should have been “Reign of the Saurischia/Saurischian Revolution”. When you make a second season, I want an episode with nothing but ornithopod protagonists. Fruitadens laughing at mired Cleveland Lloyd allosaurs, Shantungosaurus pulping Z.magnus, or maybe just once have the tenontosaur win against the deinonych horde.

      • 17 Albertonykus 09/09/2011 at 7:09 am

        “Fruitadens laughing at mired Cleveland Lloyd allosaurs, Shantungosaurus pulping Z.magnus, or maybe just once have the tenontosaur win against the deinonych horde.” Oh, yes! 😀

  10. 18 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. 09/09/2011 at 2:26 pm

    This just in: they will delay episodes 3 and 4 from this Sunday, as the network felt it the wrong type of show for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Agree 100% as for the mosasaur story on all sorts of levels (although the shark color patterns were nice).

    There were some ornithopod-centered stories in the original 6 hour plan, but they got trimmed. Draconyx did show up in “The Watering Hole” for about 2 seconds… So Iguanodon and Agilisaurus won’t get their time in the light, and the Prenocephale story got cut (although the model gets used for a surprisingly short-snouted Lancian pachycephalosaur in the Hell Creek episode). But Ankylosaurus, Triceratops, and a few others make it through.

    There is a forthcoming documentary that is very ornithischian-centric, however.

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