TV Review: Dinosaur, BBC One & iPlayer

TV Review: Dinosaur, BBC One & iPlayer

The second sitcom to launch this week that's named after an extinct beasts – see also Mammoth – is Dinosaur. It is also the second sitcom in recent weeks following Big Mood that tackles a mental health issue. Bipolar in Big Mood, Autism here. But never mind the comparisons and the coincidences of scheduling and titling, Dinosaur is easily witty and distinctive enough to be a bona fide hit in its own right.

Comedian Ashley Storrie, who co-created this with Matilda Curtis, plays Nina, a Glaswegian paleontologist who is autistic. She has worked out a way of functioning in the world, from buying coffee to working with colleagues, but everything changes when her sister comes up from London and announces that she is getting married. Nina is shocked: "You’ve only known this man for six weeks. You’ve had thrush that lasted longer.”

And the thing about autistic people is that one thing they often don't like is change. They need to know the score in advance and if things deviate from the script, such as there being a new barista serving coffee, this will be a problem that has to be dealt with. Nina has coping mechanisms but struggles with verbal and visual clues - and has a fear of both holes and wearing other people's shoes, so when she tries to be sociable a night out bowling presents a world of pain for her.

And Evie (played by Kat Ronney) is not just her sister, she is Nina's best friend. But Evie is now marrying the comically woke Ranesh (Danny Ashok), which changes the whole family dynamic. Even something basic like dinner with them presents a series of issues. Nina can't really have a 'normal' small talk conversation, doesn't know the 'normal' way of responding. When she tastes his gourmet Italian dish the only compliment she can  think of saying is how much she likes pasta and tomato sauce. 

But while there is comedy to be had from Nina's inappropriateness Dinosaur quickly goes deeper, probing the nature of relationships. Nina and Evie's parents want to spend their nest egg on Evie's wedding - how does permasingle Nina handle that? She wants an exactly equivalent amount of money spent marking her achievements such as her three degrees. 

The scene is set for a comedy that's funny, touching and sympathetic. Can Evie and Nina maintain their close bonds? Will Nina ever be able to settle down herself? Actually I think I spotted some hints that there might be the possibility of romance for her too in the first episode, but I could of course be picking up the wrong cues. Storrie, who is autistic herself, is particularly good at conveying her predicament.

One very minor niggle. While it's great to see a series set outside London Evie and Nina's sparky back-and-forth banter is so fast it took me a few minutes to tune into the accents. But that may just be me. If it's you too stick with it - Dinosaur is well worth the effort.

Read an interview with Dinosaur star Ashley Storrie here.

Dinosaur, BBC One from Friday 19th April. All episodes available now on BBC Three/iPlayer.

Picture: Mark Mainz/BBC/Two Brothers Pictures



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