The First Season
3rd Rock From the Sun is one of the richest and hilarious television comedies to air. The series first aired in 1996 and lasted for a total of six seasons. The show molds science fiction into a sitcom and the results are a blast. A team of aliens from Mars take on human form in Rutherford, Ohio and integrate themselves into the local populace. Their goal is to learn everything they can about humans in a couple of days. Of course, it turns out humans are much more complex than expected and the team of aliens decide to stay a while longer. This first season is a great start to the series and with each episode, it only gets better.
The strongest aspect of this show is its cast. They are remarkable together. From the very first episode, it is apparent how well they interact and play off of each other. Also as individuals they bring something special. The main attraction comes from John Lithgow's role as Dr. Dick Solomon. Dick is the high commander and in charge of the other aliens. As a human, he assumes a role as a college professor of physics. Lithgow does his character well by providing great body language and delivering dialogue in a manner that just makes you smile. His lieutenant and second in command is Sally Solomon (Kristen Johnston). Sally can be an absolute riot, especially in the earlier episodes when she is coming to terms with being a female and all of the "things" that come with it. Harry Solomon (French Stewart), the transmitter/receiver, is another great character. He fills the oblivious to the obvious role for the show. Harry can be dumb, but it is always funny and never annoying like some characters in other series get because of overacting. In Harry's case, Stewart fulfills his character to a tee. The last of the aliens is Tommy Solomon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the senior information officer and oldest alien of the group. Oddly enough, he ends up the young teenage boy with raging hormones. The struggle he endures as a wise old alien and a young teenage makes for a very interesting character.
Dr. Mary Albright (Jane Curtin). She is a professor of anthropology and shares an office with Dick. I wouldn't count Curtin as a particularly funny person, but when she goes toe to toe with Lithgow, the outcome is always hilarious. The two have a wonderful chemistry together and they turn some of the lightest material into something wonderful. Nina Campbell (Simbi Khali) is also a fun character. She is Dick and Mary's secretary and adds a tough personality to keep Dick in and his neurotic behavior in check when at the office. Additionally this season has Mamie Dubcek (Elmarie Wendel), the Solomon's cigarette smoking landlord and a couple appearances from Officer Don (Wayne Knight), who turns out to be an odd love interest for Sally in future seasons.
These characters are the true strength of this series and their development as both individuals and as a group really make this first season shine. Since the four alien characters are relatively new and have no experience with human society, there is a lot of different material and directions for the characters to take. The initial episodes are really a handful, because none of the aliens are prepared or really understand the emotional states that come with their human bodies.
For instance, watching Sally take on a feminine role and lifestyle is great. The alien has the personality to be more masculine than feminine, which makes for a funny result and Johnston carries the character well. Similarly, Tommy is a teenage boy going through puberty, but his alien personality wants him to be an old and wise man. Harry's focus is also a riot. Unlike Dick, Sally, and Tommy, he doesn't seem to have a real purpose. There are some hilarious events with him doing some pretty pointless (but funny) things with the hope to find out who he is.
All of the alien characters are quite fun to watch in the early stages of the season. Since they have no experience with anything, their reaction to some of the simplest things is fun. In most cases it's because they overreact. This especially goes for Dick. He turns some pretty dull situations into a laugh fest as he tries to understand and seeks guidance from Mary, Nina, and even some of his students from his physics class. There is also plenty of character development with the human characters and it can be a lot of fun. It is mainly watching both Mary and Nina slowly learn to understand Dick and his neurotic behavior.
As for individual episodes, it's hard to pick out the best, because they are all quite good. The season premiere episode "Brains and Eggs" is worth noting. Obviously, it's an important episode because it features when the Solomon's first appeared in Rutherford, Ohio. The characters are introduced and the hilarious tone is set for the remainder of the season. The next episode "Post-Nasal Dick" is also a blast. The Solomon's catch a common cold and being new to the human form, they fail to realize it is not fatal. "Dick Is From Mars, Sally Is From Venus" is another solid episode where the beautiful Sally goes out on her first date and gets the devastating "I'll call you". The episode "Lonely Dick" guest stars Phil Hartman and he does not fail to produce laughs. The "The Dicks They Are A Changin'" is simply ingenious. Mary comes to believe Dick is a man she knew in the 60s. The fun part about this episode is how her attitude towards Dick takes a 180. In "I Enjoy Being A Dick", Dick dresses in drag, enough said. "Dick Like Me" is also a pretty remarkable episode that covers racial diversity. It tackles such a serious issue in a fun light hearted manner. Dick believes you can pick your ethnicity at will. Under such an assumption, the Solomon's try out just about every ethnicity possible and their attempts aren't well received, but it should still make you laugh.
Overall the first season of 3rd Rock From the Sun is so funny it's classic. This first season mixes together a great cast and puts them into one hilarious situation after another. The characters, their interaction and development, are incorporated into the stories quite well. If you enjoy great sitcoms, 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 1 is a must own DVD box set.
1. Brian and Eggs
2. Post-Nasal Dick
3. Dick's First Birthday
4. Dick Is From Mars, Sally Is From Venus
5. Dick, Smoker
6. Green-Eyed Dick
7. Lonely Dick
8. Body & Soul & Dick
10. Truth Or Dick
11. The Art Of Dick
12. Frozen Dick
13. Angry Dick
14. The Dicks They Are A Changin'
15. I Enjoy Being A Dick
16. Dick Like Me
17. Assault With A Deadly Dick
18. Father Knows Dick
19. Selfish Dick
20. See Dick Run
This DVD box set comes with 4 discs in a standard cardboard foldout case. The outer cardboard shell has a pressure sensor that when activated plays a message with Dick's voice. Each disc comes with a play all command and also allows you to access the episodes individually. If you do access the episodes individually, you can read an episode synopsis and even watch an optional 32 second preview before playing the actual episode.
The video format is given in its original aspect ratio 1.33:1 full frame color. The overall quality is fairly good. There are some noticeable of compression artifacts and ghosting during high movement. In addition there is also a slight roughness in the picture as a result of edge enhancement. As for colors, the picture tends to represent them well. However darker tones tend to highlight the picture's imperfections. Overall, while not outstanding, the visual representation is still quite good.
The audio track is given in English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. The sound quality is good and like most TV on DVD releases, it is dialogue driven and incorporates a laugh track during the funnier moments. The laugh track does not interfere with the audibility of spoken dialogue. As for channel separation, there is very little distinction between left and right channels, but on occasion a sound effect will utilize it.
The bulk of the extras included are Interview Featurettes with John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston, French Stewart, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jane Curtin, Simbi Khali, Elmarie Wendel, and Wayne Knight. The interviews follow a standard format where a question is proposed and a response is given. Some of the questions covered include "Tell us about the show and how your character fits in...", "Why do viewers relate so well to the humor of this show?", "What is your favorite part of the process?", "What do you think is the international appeal of the show?", "What is your favorite episode?", and more. The total runtime of the interviews is approximately fifty-four minutes. The interviews can be interesting to learn more about the show from the perspective of the actors and actresses, but it offers very little replay value.
The next two extras are pretty fun. Season One Highlights is ten and a half minutes of clips from the first season. The clips included are definitely some of the season's funniest moments. Bloopers is almost seven minutes of behind the scenes screw-ups, which is worth a laugh. Next there is a two and a half minute behind the scenes clip. Finally, each disc contains teleplays for each episode in Adobe PDF format and a 16 page booklet that has excerpts from 3rd Rock From the Sun - The Official Report on Earth by High Commander Dick Solomon and episode synopsis's. Overall the extras can be entertaining, but besides the season highlights and the bloopers reel, there is not much replay value.
3rd Rock From the Sun is a show that is hard not to love. It loosely mixes science fiction with comedy and makes for a hilarious sitcom. Of course, this is mostly due to a tremendous cast. The characters are played out well and they interact together with excellent chemistry. The twenty episodes in this first season have some pretty ordinary situations turned into something out of the ordinary, which is a blast. The bottom line, whether you are new to the series or familiar with it, 3rd Rock From the Sun: Season 1 is worth every penny.