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Television Reviews : PBS on the Trail of the Dinosaurs

Quick: What is hotter than Nintendo, bigger than a Smurf, a never-ending source of fascination for young and old alike, and the subject of an excellent PBS show airing tonight?

The answer could only be dinosaurs, images of which can be found on everything from clothing to briefcases these days. The fashionable creatures can be seen on “The Great Dinosaur Hunt” (airing at 8 tonight on Channel 50 and at 9 on Channels 28 and 15, and again Monday on Channel 11 at 8 p.m.).

A solid addition to the PBS’ series “The Infinite Voyage,” “Hunt,” written and produced by Lionel Friedberg, is an appealing look at these giant prehistoric emperors of the Earth.

An appealing but revisionist look: “Hunt” paints a picture of dinosaurs that differs dramatically from the conventional view, taking an in-depth look at the work of a group of scientists who argue that dinosaurs were warm-blooded, social creatures who lived on land and were capable of swift movement. Little mention--and no time--is given to scientists who question some or all of the revisionist views.

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Nevertheless, “Hunt” is very absorbing, particularly during interviews with Jack Horner--a reticent, self-taught paleontologist whose startling digs at Egg Mountain in Montana suggest that at least one species of dinosaur nested and nurtured their offspring--and the flamboyant Robert Bakker, a bearded, fast-talking scientist who calls dinosaurs “nature’s special effects” and who makes a case that dinosaurs were energetic, fast-moving and warm-blooded.

One final revisionist point: “Hunt” ends with the argument that birds are descended from dinosaurs. Ponder that the next time you go to San Juan Capistrano to watch the swallows return.


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