The Fourth 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. The strongest aspect of this show is its cast. They are remarkable together. Within minutes of any episode, it is apparent how well they interact and play off of each other. The show's writing is also top notch and delivers one great joke after another. For more details about this series and its cast, please refer to DVD Talk's reviews of season one, season two, and season three.
In the closing of season three, Harry was kidnapped by Vicki's enraged ex-boyfriend (played by Phil Hartman). In the aftermath "Dr. Solomon's Traveling Alien Show", the Solomon family is saddened by their loss and determined to find Harry again. And of all places, they find Harry in a county fair as the alien freak show. It is a fun way to begin the season with the cast acting as goofy as ever.
In the following episode "Power Mad Dick", Mary is promoted to the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Dick believes Mary's promotion is his promotion. He takes it upon himself to act with full power and privileges as dean. Dick misuses his newfound power to fire employees he doesn't like, give raises, and authorize other such things he probably shouldn't have. Of course, it blows up in his face when Mary cuts him off. This leads to his arch-rival in the cafeteria becoming Mary's secretary. Another fun part about this episode is that Sally decides to lose her virginity to Don. While the act is not so funny in itself, how the cast reacts to the decision is. Dick, Tommy, and Harry treat the event like a birthday.
In the episode "Feelin' Albright" the realization of Mary's new position kicks in for Dick when he is referred to as Mrs. Albright, which is of course a damaging thrust to his ego. Sally also realizes Don had previous relationships and like a jealous girlfriend, she tracks them all down. In the episodes "What's Love Got To, Got To Do With Dick?", "I Am Dick Pentameter!", and "DIII: Judgment Day" Laurie Metcalf guest stars as Dr. Jennifer Ravelli. Metcalf temporarily joins the cast as a new officemate and love interest for Dick. Mary's new duties have kept her busy and Dick finds himself in the middle of a new relationship that takes a turn for the worse. Metcalf gives a riotous performance and is a blast to see across Lithgow.
"Two-Faced Dick" is a chance for both Lithgow and Johnston to try different roles, each other's. In this episode, the Big Giant Head grants a request Sally made three years ago to be given a man's body. She didn't want to be the woman on the mission, but after three years, she has grown to like being the woman. Unfortunately, the Big Giant Head grants the request and does it by switching Dick and Sally's bodies. This mucks up their lives as they are forced to try to pretend to be each other. Both Lithgow and Johnston give some tremendous performances playing each other in terms of dialogue delivery, physical comedy, and other little quirks that make them so darn funny.
The next episode "Dick Solomon of the Indiana Solomons" is a great episode. Dick is mistaken for someone else and receives an invitation to a family reunion. No one has seen "Richard" since he was a baby, so Dick believes the Ohio Solomons will fit in perfectly. And it turns out, they do. The fun from this episode comes from everyone trying to fit in and having no problem. "Sally Forth" is an episode about relationships. Don proposes to Sally and it doesn't end with a happy note. Vicki also returns to date Harry once again. In "Paranoid Dick" Mary loses her job as the dean after listening to one of Dick's crazed ideas. The other side of the episode has Sally recovering from her breakup with Don. Vicki takes her out for a girl's night.
"The House That Dick Built" has a bunch of big and fun changes for the cast. After an odd dream, Vicki decides she and Harry should have a baby together. Sally also decides she should move out and takes a room above the garage. Dick reacts in a bad way because he feels like everyone is leaving him. In "Dick 'The Mouth' Solomon" the two happy couples of the season, Dick and Mary and Harry and Vicki go on a couples' retreat to learn to communicate better. Of course, Dick being Dick and Harry being Harry, it never turns out quite right. "Dick v Strudwick" puts Dick against a new rival, who happens to be Tommy's new girlfriend's father. It ends with the two duking it out on live television.
The two-part season finale "Dick's Giant Headache" is a great way to finish the season. In this two-part episode, the mission gets a poor evaluation from the Big Giant Head. Dick is revoked of command and Sally is made high commander. William Shatner guest stars as the Big Giant Head, who is even more bizarre and wacko than Dick, Harry, Tommy, and Sally combined. It is a fun way to end the season with a few goofy surprises.
Overall this season was a lot of fun. Like past seasons, the cast gives great performances in their respective roles. The delivery of dialogue and physical comedy all add up to some hilarious fun. The stories in this season were especially riotous with some great tales about Dick, Sally, Harry, and Tommy get into a lot of crazy situations. If you have enjoyed past seasons, then season four should be a blast.
1. Dr. Solomon's Traveling Alien Show
2. Power Mad Dick
3. Feelin' Albright
4. Collect Call for Dick
5. What's Love Got To Do, Got To Do With Dick?
6. I Am Dick Pentameter!
7. DIII: Judgment Day
8. Indecent Dick
9. Happy New Dick!
10. Two-Faced Dick
11. Dick Solomon of the Indiana Solomons
12. Dick and Taxes
13. Sally Forth
14. Paranoid Dick
15. The House That Dick Built
16. Superstitious Dick
18. Dick 'The Mouth' Solomon
19. Citizen Solomon
20. Alien Hunter
21. Dick v. Strudwick
22. Near Dick Experience
23. Dick's Giant Headache - Part I
24. Dick's Giant Headache - Part II
This DVD box set comes with 4 discs in a standard cardboard foldout case. Unlike the previous season releases, the outer cardboard shell does not have a pressure sensor that when activated plays a message with Dick's voice. The result is a thinner package. 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 heavy 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.
This season release is fairly light on extras. This is disappointing because season three came with four audio commentaries in addition to the other stuff. Regardless, what this set comes with are two featurettes, a bloopers reel, and the booklet. The first featurette is "Season Four Highlights". It is your average montage with funny clips from season four. It's worth a quick laugh. The second featurette is "Jane Curtin Interview: Mary Is Just Albright With Me". In this interview Curtin discusses her character Mary, Mary and Dick's relationship, and a few other aspects of the show. Lastly there is "Bloopers", which features some hilarious goofs during the season four filming.
There is also a 16 page booklet with excerpts from 3rd Rock From the Sun - The Official Report on Earth by High Commander Dick Solomon and episode synopsis's, and trailers for Roseanne and Grounded For Life.
As I have said in past reviews, I love this show. 3rd Rock From the Sun has an awesome cast who continue to be great together on screen. The writing also continues to be quite good by taking everyday situations (we take for granted) and having Dick, Tommy, Harry, and Sally blow them out of proportion. There are also some fun and crazy situations introduced, like the Big Giant Head showing up! In the end, if you enjoy a good laugh, than season four of 3rd Rock From the Sun is a must own.