‘Jurassic Fight Club'
9 tonight, History ***
How to perk up an exhausted entertainment genre? A little cannibalism, it turns out, does the trick.
We are not, alas, talking about reality TV or the morning shows, though some bone-munching would certainly make either more interesting. We're talking about dinosaurs.
Back in the early 1990s, thanks largely to the unlikely combination of “Jurassic Park” and “Barney & Friends,” dinosaur fever swept the land, especially afflicting the young. But after a while the sight of 8-year-olds rattling off the names of all known sauropods went from being cute to being annoying, and dinomania – the nature programs, the animated shows and movies, the museum exhibitions – lost some of its cachet.
“Jurassic Fight Club,” which premiered last week on History and continues tonight, makes dinosaurs entertaining again, thanks to convincing computer-generated beasts and an over-the-top frontman. The premise of the series is to use paleontological and other evidence to imagine what it must have been like when various kinds of dinosaurs did battle, and the opening fight on the card, as it were, is a doozy.
The program travels to Madagascar to examine fossil evidence that one huge Majungatholus – who names these things, anyway? – killed and ate another Majungatholus. Sex was involved, in case that adds interest for you.
A deep-voiced narrator sets the scene, describing the discovery of bite marks on Majungatholus bones that seemed to match the teeth of another Majungatholus. “Were paleontologists looking at a 70-million-year-old crime scene?” he asks ominously.
Gleefully providing the answer is a dinosaur aficionado named George Blasing, the show's main talking head, who tosses in sassy comments while a computer-generated male Majungatholus comes looking for love in a female's territory.
“Mating can be a pretty dangerous thing if the object of your desire has 3-inch-long serrated teeth and a bad attitude,” says Blasing, who goes by the moniker Dinosaur George.
And then comes a ripsnorting fight to the death, with plenty of actual ripping and snorting. Quite a lot has been extrapolated from some old bones, but a smattering of science is thrown in to back up the reconstructed sequence of events.
And it's awfully engaging.
Majungatholus may look a lot like Barney, but he's much less irritating (and, in case it's not obvious, much too violent for very young viewers).
As spunky as the first episode of “Jurassic Fight Club” was, I was left wondering what this series could possibly do in subsequent installments. Different dinosaurs, sure, but how many ways are there for prehistoric beasts to kill one another? We'll find out tonight.