3rd Rock from the Sun

3rd Rock from the Sun Information

3rd Rock from the Sun (sometimes referred to as simply 3rd Rock) is an American sitcom that aired from 1996 to 2001 on NBC. The show is about four extraterrestrials who are on an expedition to Earth, which they consider to be a very insignificant planet. The extraterrestrials pose as a human family in order to observe the behavior of human beings.


Basic premise

The premise of the show revolves around an extraterrestrial research expedition attempting to live as a normal human family in the fictional city of Rutherford, Ohio, said to be outside of Cleveland, where they live in a loft apartment. Humor was principally derived from the aliens' attempts to study human society and, because of their living as humans themselves while on Earth, to understand the human condition. In later episodes, they became more accustomed to Earth and often became more interested in their human lives than in their mission.

Dick Solomon (John Lithgow), the High Commander and leader of the expedition, is the family provider, and takes a position as a physics professor at Pendelton State University. Information officer Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has been given the body of a teenager and is forced to enroll in high school (later college), leaving security officer Sally (Kristen Johnston) and communications officer Harry (French Stewart) to spend their lives as thirty somethings hanging out at home and bouncing through short-term jobs.

The family often communicates with their off-world (and usually unseen) boss, the Big Giant Head (William Shatner). His orders are received through Harry, who unexpectedly (and often in inconvenient circumstances) stands up, his arms stiff (acting as the antenna), and proclaims: "Incoming message from the Big Giant Head."

Typical episode themes

Almost all the episodes revolve around the Solomons' difficulty integrating themselves into Earth culture and understanding human customs "? often their view of Earth realities is distorted by the fact that much of their understanding of Earth comes through the media, especially television, rather than firsthand experience.

Details about their alien nature are rarely given and inconsistent, except to reinforce the idea that their former lives were almost barren of emotion and most of the relationships humans have with each other. Their original forms, for example, are described as nonsexual, with reproduction a matter of sending packets of genetic material to each other in the mail. Leaders like The Big Giant Head are unelected and assumed infallible (in fact, it is stated that politicians on their planet are chosen by seeing which one can outrun the giant fireball). The upshot is that living in an Earth culture provides the Solomons with an almost intolerable degree of emotional stimulation and conflict, which they are very ill-equipped to handle.

Several episodes feature send-ups of TV and films. For example, in the episode "Father Knows Dick", when Harry finds out he is a transmitter, he "goes off the rails" (complete with red jacket as worn by Jim in Rebel Without a Cause), yells "You're tearing me apart!" and goes off to play "chicken" with a tough guy in a bar (but ends up buying fried chicken from KFC instead). In the episode "Dick's Big Giant Headache", both Dick and the Big Giant Head mention seeing something on the wing of the plane after having traveled by airline, a nod to both John Lithgow and William Shatner having played the same role (one in the original story, and one in a remake) of the passenger who sees a gremlin on the wing in The Twilight Zone. In another episode, a face-slapping session with Dick and Sally pastiches the Chinatown sequence: "She's my daughter; my sister; my daughter." In "When Aliens Camp", the Solomons and Mary go on a disastrous camping trip. Dick is captured by a bunch of boy scouts and instantly turns "native", painting his face and sighing "The horror" in a spoof of Marlon Brando's character in Apocalypse Now. In a tribute to silent movies, one episode shows Sally holding a plank on her shoulder and turning from side to side as Tommy ducks, and Harry gets hit, in reference to The Plank, starring Tommy Cooper. In "Eleven Angry Men and One Dick" (a tribute to 12 Angry Men), Dick is a jury member and while arguing with other members he says "You want the truth? Well, I can't handle the truth", which is a tribute to Jack Nicholson's dialogue in A Few Good Men.

Common mythology

Occasionally references would be made to specific features of the aliens' abilities and of their experiences on their own world, which built up a common mythology for the show. The theme of the idiot savant repeatedly resurfaces, since each member of the family makes up for their extreme naïveté with some special skill owing to their alien nature.

Though Dick's understanding of physics is far weaker than his "son" Tommy's, it is implied that even his basic scientific knowledge makes advanced Earth physics appear rudimentary, leading to his becoming respected in his field despite his childish behavior. A segment from an episode has him reading a passage from A Brief History of Time and laughing hysterically at Stephen Hawking's description of virtual particles. Even so, Dick is often shown as the member of the family with the least to recommend in terms of his ability, leading them to question his right to command. Sally, for instance, is depicted as not only having an attractive body (she is sometimes described as being Amazonian), but being amazingly physically strong and fit, able to fight and defeat large groups of men much larger than her (even when doing so is unnecessary and culturally inappropriate).

Tommy, similarly, has been trained with the ability of near-instant recall and has an encyclopedic knowledge about Earth society, which unfortunately seems useless in terms of helping him make appropriate decisions, but ensures that he remains a straight-A student.

Harry's behavior is bizarre. He is unstable and borderline mentally disabled even for a Solomon (a condition, it is implied, engendered by the chip in his brain that allows him to communicate with the home planet), yet somehow this mental condition gives him an inexplicable sex appeal for women and makes him the only Solomon with any talent in the arts "? Harry often seems to have a knack for all fine arts, including music and theater, and is consistently shown as being a very talented painter, especially as a portraitist and caricaturist, though his inability to verbally articulate his artistic ideas in an intelligent fashion sinks his efforts at making a living through his talent.

One of Dick's driving motivations becomes his desire to master drawing, acting, music, or other pursuits "? all of which he fails at miserably because of his lack of understanding of how the clearly less intelligent Harry could possibly possess talents Dick does not.

Relationships with humans

Each alien became involved in various relationships with humans throughout the course of the series, primarily focusing on Dick's infatuation " at first met with disgust and then, finally, reciprocation " with anthropology professor Dr. Mary Albright (Jane Curtin), who shares an office with him. Much is often made of Mary's angst, insecurity, and neuroses brought on by a lifetime of studying the human condition as well as an unstable relationship with her parents, and the cheerful, childlike naïveté displayed by Dick, the primary factor in him that attracts her.

Sally similarly acquires a long-term boyfriend, Officer Don Orville (Wayne Knight), an overweight and incompetent police officer who becomes attracted to her after several incidents in which he is forced to confront or arrest the Solomons for various crimes. The two generally have conversations while speaking in a manner similar to an old 1930s crime drama.

Tommy manages an on-again/off-again relationship with August Leffler (Shay Astar), a reserved ice queen teenager and later the more bubbly Alissa Strudwick (Larisa Oleynik).

Harry has a relationship with his landlord Mrs. Dubcek's (Elmarie Wendel) daughter Vicki (played by Jan Hooks), in an on-screen relationship that often features overly melodramatic scenes. Harry, despite no apparent skills in the art of seduction, also manages to foil a plot to dissolve the Earth by seducing Mascha (Cindy Crawford), one of a coven of strikingly beautiful Venusians who tried to overthrow the Earth by seducing its men into giving them everything of value.

Some humor comes from the fact that at some point in the show most of the character relationships have been mixed up "? a strange attraction is briefly shown between Mary and Tommy because of their similar passion for the social sciences and the study of humanity, in which Tommy chooses to step aside and let Dick pursue her instead. Nina (Simbi Khali), Dick's assistant who primarily serves as his straight man and comic foil, is seen briefly having a fling with Harry. Mrs. Dubcek also, who is at first merely a source of comic relief, her own bizarre foibles and imperceptibly causing her to be a terrible role model for proper human behavior to the Solomons, is revealed to have had a fling with Harry.

Plot twists

Initially, the only reference to the aliens' true forms is a comment made in the first episode, when upon discovering that human heads cannot swivel to 180 degrees, Dick queries: "How do they lick their backs?". As time went on, the show began to intersperse concrete references to the aliens' nature and their home world which played a role in affecting the show's plot. They usually described their original bodies as "gelatinous purple tubes" that lacked sex organs or most of the forms of physical definition that humans possess. In fact, when Sally asks why she had to be the woman, Dick reminds her why, telling her "it's because you lost."

Evidently, individuals in their species are so near-identical to each other that the Solomons were unaware of the concept of race or ethnicity, and had never invented one for themselves, leading them to attempt to choose one (a source of humor since the Solomons all appear quite white), eventually deciding that they are Jewish because of their surname (the Solomons took their name from Solomon Trucking; a Solomon truck was the first thing they saw while on Earth), which was implied to them by Mrs. Dubcek referring to her third husband as "one of your people ... you know, Jewish!"; and in one episode, they said that they come from Peru in South America.

Occasionally, the Solomons would encounter or think they encountered other extraterrestrials "? the most long-lasting such gag being the Solomons' belief that Jell-O is an offshoot of a hostile, amorphous, carnivorous species they have often encountered, prompting them to go into hysterics whenever they see it served and attempt to destroy it. Their first brief encounter with snow was believed to have been attacks from a swarm of albino brain chiggers.

The name of the Solomons' home planet (if they indeed have one) is never revealed throughout the course of the series; in the show's dialogue, it is referred to as simply "The Home Planet". It is located in a barred spiral galaxy on the Cepheus-Draco border. Major twists in the plot, often shown in the various season finales, tended to involve contact with the home planet, involving their superiors' ongoing disapproval at the Solomons' antics and their becoming a laughingstock among their peers.


See List of characters in 3rd Rock from the Sun for more information

3rd Rock maintained a constant ensemble cast, the four main characters: Dick, Sally, Tommy, Harry. Several other main characters who left or joined the show through its original run supplemented these four, and numerous guest stars and one-time characters supplemented all of them. The three male aliens' names are a play on the phrase "Tom, Dick and Harry" which is a placeholder for multiple unspecified people. (When Don eventually notices this, they look uncomfortable and Tommy says "Well, it's not like it's a deliberate attempt on our part to seem average," which is of course exactly what it is.)

Main characters

  • John Lithgow as Dick Solomon: The High Commander and head of the expedition to Earth. Is often the most childlike member of the group, being, ironically, the youngest of the crew, despite being the oldest family member. Much of the behavioral or societal-based troubles faced by the crew in their mission while on Earth frequently arise from some juvenile act perpetrated by Dick, troubles which in turn are forced to be overcome by the entire troupe with a great deal of reluctance.
  • Kristen Johnston as Sally Solomon: With a rank of Lieutenant, she is the security officer and second-in-command. She has been called Dick's sister, but was sometimes introduced as Tommy's sister earlier in the series, and, on one occasion, claimed to be his mother, although never Dick's daughter and certainly not his spouse; failure to clarify the exact relationship between Tommy, Harry, and Sally led to humorous confusion whenever either Harry or Sally attempted to act as Tommy's guardian. Sally was chosen to be the woman because she apparently lost some sort of contest and was not too thrilled about it; while the alien species is described as asexual, Sally seems to have a harder time trying to figure out womanhood than the others do manhood. She files a request to be made male early in the mission, though later decides she liked being a woman.
  • French Stewart as Harry Solomon: Originally he was not part of the mission, but just happened to go for the ride because an extra seat was available. Later, it becomes known that a chip is in his head, and he becomes the Communicator or Transmitter. Occasionally, he gets a message from the Solomons' leader, the Big Giant Head, and shakes violently in the middle of a sentence and squats down, with his arms at 90-degree angles, declaring "Incoming message from the Big Giant Head!", before going through the motions of delivering the message. He poses as Dick and Sally's brother, and Tommy's uncle. Harry is often known to be the simplest family member, is occasionally impulsive and misunderstands people. He is also sometimes prone to misfortune.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tommy Solomon: Information Officer and next-in-command. Tommy plays the role of Dick's adolescent son, yet he is the oldest and smartest of all the aliens. Throughout the series, Tommy continually reminds the others of his superior intelligence and greater age. Gordon-Levitt left the series (after the fifth season concluded) as a primary character, only appearing as a recurring character in just over half the episodes of season six.
  • Jane Curtin as Dr. Mary Albright: Dick's colleague and on-and-off girlfriend. Mary sees Dick as an insensitive idiot, but cannot avoid the infatuation of his quirkiness or childlike actions. Reference is often made to the insecurity caused by her bad parenting, and the fact that before Dick arrived, she was known for sleeping around, and had even been nicknamed "Dr. Slutbunny". It is also shown on some occasions that though Mary isn't necessarily an alcoholic she does resort to alcohol to escape from her problems.
  • Simbi Khali as Nina Campbell (Seasons 3-6, recurring previously): Dick's and Mary's administrative assistant, who often has to put up with Dick demanding things of her that she isn't paid to do (such as taking his car to have its tires rotated) to which she takes a no-nonsense stance. Nina is very assertive and often has a sarcastic sense of humour usually aimed in Dick's direction. Generally, Nina considers Dick to be an idiot, sexist, and a jerk, and sometimes wonders why Mary dates him. However, there are moments when this pair does appear to actually get along.
  • Elmarie Wendel as Mrs. Mamie Dubcek (Seasons 3-6, recurring previously): The Solomon's loose, clueless, and carefree landlady who has a very active love life and often makes reference to her sexual escapades (once bringing the Solomons a letter that "the mailman accidentally left in [her] bedroom"). Miss Dubcek has been married several times and has cheated on some of her husbands (in one episode she mentioned that her boyfriend was beaten up in her living room by her husband). She is usually seen smoking and is sometimes seen holding a Bloody Mary. Despite being the Solomon's landlady, she has a friend-like relationship with them, and she often appears in their apartment.
  • Wayne Knight as Officer Don Leslie Orville (Seasons 3-6, recurring previously): Works for Rutherford's police department. He isn't very good at his job as a police officer. Don maintains an on-again"off-again relationship with Sally throughout the series. Don is a very innocent character whose true talent lies in bowling as it's shown in some episodes and is often manipulated by Sally who is often shown charming him in order to get her own way, this almost always works but on one occasion Don steps up to Sally when realizing how much she controls him, and Sally actually seems to respect him for this.

Recurring characters

  • Bug Pollone (David DeLuise) "? One of Dick's students. (DeLuise's father Dom appears as Bug's father in one episode.)
  • Leon (Ian Lithgow) "? One of Dick's students, played by John Lithgow's oldest son.
  • Caryn (Danielle Nicolet) "? One of Dick's students.
  • Aubrey Pitman (Chris Hogan) "? One of Dick's students.
  • Dr. Judith Draper (Ileen Getz) "? Professor at Pendelton and colleague of Mary.
  • August Leffler (Shay Astar) "? Tommy's first girlfriend (in seasons 1"3, sparsely appears in seasons 3 and 4).
  • Alissa Strudwick (Larisa Oleynik) "? Tommy's second girlfriend (in seasons 4"6).
  • Dr. Vincent Strudwick (Ron West) "? Alissa's father and rival to Dick (in seasons 2"6).
  • The Big Giant Head (William Shatner) "? The aliens' boss. He goes by the name Stone Philips on the Earth (in seasons 4 & 5).
  • Victoria Marie "Vicki" Dubcek (Jan Hooks) " Daughter of Ms. Dubcek, Harry's on-off girlfriend who ends up having a child with the Big Giant Head (in seasons 2"5).
  • Dr. Liam Neesam (John Cleese) "? A professor who briefly has a relationship with Mary, and is later revealed to be an evil alien (in seasons 3 & 6).
  • Janice (Chyna) - A police officer

Guest stars

See List of guest stars in 3rd Rock from the Sun for more information


Theme music

The show's opening theme music was composed by Ben Vaughn, and is a 1950s-style rock-and-roll instrumental piece; the theme was extended slightly in season three, when Simbi Khali, Elmarie Wendel and Wayne Knight were officially made series regulars and added to the opening credits. Alternate versions of the theme were used during the course of the show's run. For Christmas episodes, jingle bells were added to the theme. For the season six two-part episode "Dick'll Take Manhattan", a modern jazz underline version of the theme was used. The only major change to the theme was in season five, when the original Ben Vaughn version was replaced by a big band cover of the theme, performed by the group Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and was only used during that season.

Title sequence

The opening title sequence, which was produced by the London graphic design firm SVC Television, opens with computerized shots of planets and celestial bodies, some either with the planets dancing or moving in warp speed. It opens and closes with a shot of Earth (which at the open is where the show's title logo appears, after a sunburst appears on the side of Earth). For the episode "Dick'll Take Manhattan" only, the typeface of the cast and creators' names was altered.



Main article: List of 3rd Rock from the Sun episodes
There were a total of six seasons and 139 episodes in the series. The first and last seasons were 20 episodes each, and the second through fifth seasons had between 22 and 27 episodes each.

Out of 139 episodes of the series, 108 episodes contain "Dick" in the title (in reference to John Lithgow's character). While some of the episode titles with "Dick" in it are innocent (i.e., "Tom, Dick and Mary", "Dick Is From Mars, Sally Is From Venus"), others are more risque and often are double entendres (i.e., "Sensitive Dick", "A Dick Replacement", "Frozen Dick", "Shall We Dick"), due to the fact that the word "Dick" is both a short form of Richard and a slang term for penis. One episode from season six used an abbreviation for a title, "B.D.O.C.", since the full title ("Big Dick on Campus") was deemed too risque.


In the United States, the series is distributed for syndication by Carsey-Warner Distribution, and entered broadcast syndication in September 1999 where it continued until the fall of 2004. The series continues to air in select large markets, but is not in wide distribution. ABC Family aired reruns between 2002 and 2006. Reruns of the series aired on TV Land from 2008 through 2010. In the fall of 2010, ReelzChannel began airing the series. This series re-run is now also aired on Malaysia's national broadcast TV channel RTM's TV2 in the 12:30am time slot on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. In the UK, cable network Virgin Media currently has 40 episodes from seasons 1 and 2 available 'on demand' from the Comedy Central menu option. In Ireland, 3e run re-runs of the show during the late night slot after Conan at 12.30 am. In March 2011 Netflix made the complete series available on their "Instant Watch", then removed it several months later. In the fall of 2011, Canada's TVTROPOLIS cable channel began airing the show, and featured a long weekend marathon run of episodes.

DVD releases

In Region 1, Anchor Bay Entertainment released all 6 seasons of 3rd Rock from the Sun on DVD for the very first time in 2005-2006. Seasons 1 & 2 contain the edited, syndicated versions of the episodes instead of the original broadcast versions. As of 2010, these releases have been discontinued and are out of print. On these DVDs, the bloopers segments (on the last disc of each season) are in 16:9 format, indicating that the series may have been filmed in 16:9 format.

On May 4, 2011, Mill Creek Entertainment announced that they had acquired the rights to re-release the series on DVD in Region 1. They have subsequently re-released seasons 1-4. These releases contain the unedited, original broadcast versions of the episodes. Seasons 5 & 6 were re-released on January 8, 2013 containing the same edited versions of episodes seen on the Anchor Bay release.

In Region 2, Network DVD released all 6 seasons on DVD in the UK. All 6 releases contain unedited versions of the episodes.

In Region 4, Magna Home Entertainment released all 6 seasons on DVD in Australia between 2005-2007. These releases have been discontinued and are now out of print.

On November 15, 2010, Beyond Home Entertainment re-released all 6 six seasons on DVD in Region 4. The complete collection was also released three days later, on November 18.

As of January 2012 all 6 seasons are available through Netflix Instant service. On February 4 the series was removed from Netflix Instant service.

Seasons 1 and 2 are available to download in the UK through iTunes.


Nielsen rankings

Season Rank
1 22
2 28
3 44
4 77
5 82
6 89

Awards and nominations

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by 3rd Rock from the Sun
In 1997, 3rd Rock won the most Emmy Awards (five from eight nominations) for a television series:

  • 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 "? Outstanding Lead Actor "? Comedy Series "? John Lithgow
  • 1997, 1998, 1999 "? Outstanding Supporting Actress "? Comedy Series "? Kristen Johnston
  • 1996, 1997 "? Outstanding Hairstyling For A Series "? Pixie Schwartz
  • 1996 "? Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series "? James Burrows
  • 1998 "? Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series "? Terry Hughes
  • 1997 "? Outstanding Special Visual Effects "? Glen Bennett, Visual Effects Artists; Patrick Shearn, Visual Effects Supervisor; Chris Staves, Visual Effects Artists
  • 1997, 1999, 2000 "? Outstanding Sound Mixing "? Comedy Series
  • 1998 "? Outstanding Sound Mixing "? Comedy Series "? "A Nightmare on Dick Street"
  • 1997, 1998 "? Outstanding Costume Design "? Series "? Melina Root
  • 1997, 1998 "? Outstanding Comedy Series
  • 1997 "? Outstanding Choreography "? Marguerite Derricks
  • 1998 "? Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series "? Jan Hooks as Vicki Dubcek
  • 1998 "? Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series "? John Cleese as Dr. Neesam
  • 1999, 2000 "? Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing For A Series
  • 1999 "? Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series "? Kathy Bates as Charlotte Everly; and Laurie Metcalf as Jennifer
  • 1999 "? Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series "? William Shatner as The Big Giant Head
  • 2000 "? Outstanding Cinematography For A Multi-Camera Series
John Lithgow received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for each year the show was broadcast, winning the Emmy in 1996, 1997, and 1999. Accepting the 1999 award he said "Many wonderful things have happened to me in my life, but the two best are 3rd Rock and my family."

Golden Globe Awards

  • 1997 "? Best Actor in a Television Comedy or Musical "? John Lithgow
Screen Actors Guild Awards

  • 1996, 1997 "? Best Male Actor "? Comedy Series "? John Lithgow

Other media

A tie-in book, 3rd Rock from the Sun: The Official Report On Earth, was released in 1997. It is essentially a report of the Solomon's findings during their stay on Earth. Primarily a source of humor, the book includes such features as "What to do if you encounter Jell-O", a fan biography of Katie Couric written by Harry, and Sally's version of a Cosmo quiz. Portions of the book are included in the booklets inside each season set of the series.

Despite the report's being set within the fictional world of 3rd Rock, there is a foreword written by John Lithgow himself in which he explains how he was abducted by the 3rd Rock producers and forced to work on their production. There is a Post-it note attached to the foreword, apparently written by Dick Solomon, stating that he doesn't know why the foreword is there, but that Lithgow is an Earth actor who appeared in "some helicopter movie".

See also

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "3rd_Rock_from_the_Sun" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



Page generated in 0.28723812103271 seconds