Review By: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Preacher

‘Third Rock From The Sun’ is an absolute gem of a comedy series! Created by the brilliant Bonnie and Terry Turner, this show originally aired on NBC from 1996 to 2001, and it remains a timeless classic to this day. The premise of the show is both hilarious and fascinating: four aliens arrive on Earth from a planet in a barred spiral galaxy on the Cepheus-Draco border, to observe human behaviour, and they pose as a ‘normal’ human family to blend in. The aliens are utterly convinced that Earth is insignificant, and this leads to some hilarious misunderstandings as they try to make sense of human society.

One of the things that makes ‘Third Rock From The Sun’ so special is its amazing cast. John Lithgow is simply incredible as Dick Solomon, the leader of the alien expedition who poses as a physics professor. His interactions with the rest of the cast are always hilarious, and he brings an incredible energy and charisma to every scene. Jane Curtin is also fantastic as Dr Mary Albright, a professor of anthropology who often finds herself at odds with the aliens. Kristen Johnston is hilarious as the security officer Sally, while French Stewart is an absolute riot as Harry, the alien with a transmitter in his head. Information officer and oldest member of the crew Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has (in an act of cruel irony) been given the body of a teenager and is forced to enrol in high school (later college) and to be the child of this wholly abnormal ‘family’.

Aside from the main four actors, the rest of the cast is nothing short of genius. William Shatner’s gloriously silly portrayal of their world’s leader ‘The Big Giant Head’ is always belly-achingly funny during his repeated guest appearances. Jan Hooks brings a sense of demented overt sexuality with her role as Vicki Dubcek and Elmarie Wendelis continuously scene-stealing as her mother, and the aliens’ landlady Mrs Dubcek. Wayne Knight provides endless laughs as the inept and bumbling local police officer Don Orville, while the stunning Simbi Khali is both endlessly funny and fabulously glamorous as Dr Mary and Dick’s long-suffering secretary Nina. One of the big ‘special guests’ was John Cleese, who played the villainous alien Dr Liam Neesam with a deliciously sadistic manner – as literally only John Cleese could ever do. 

The guest stars came thick and fast: George ‘Mr Sulu’ Takei, Rosanne Barr, Harry ‘Colonel Potter’ Morgan, Ed Begley Jnr, Dennis Rodman, Greg Proops, Phil Hartman, Bronson Pinchot, Randy Newman, Cindy Crawford, Elaine Stritch, Dom DeLuise, Kathy Bates, Bryan ‘Breaking Bad’ Cranston, Ian Lithgow, David DeLuise, Billy Connolly, Jonathan ‘STNG’ Frakes, Elvis Costello, and even David Hasselhoff! Everybody wanted to be a part of ‘Third Rock…’ lore.

But what really sets ‘Third Rock From The Sun’ apart is its uniquely ridiculous humour. The show manages to be both clever and silly at the same time, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments throughout every episode. The aliens’ attempts to understand human behaviour are always hilarious, and the show often takes a satirical look at human society as a whole. Here is a perfect razor-sharp exchange between Dick and Sally from the first episode: 

Dick: – “Sally, I want you to observe her, find out what women on this planet do”

Sally: – “well, why can’t Harry do it?”

Dick: – “Because you’re the woman”

Sally: – “That brings up a very good question: Why am I the woman?”

Dick: – “Because You lost”.

This innocently ignorant yet very funny exchange caused outrage at the time – despite its very obvious ridiculous nature – and maybe that is why it works even now. Has humanity got any smarter?

The observational humour throughout is simply joyous, whether it’s the family trying to work out what colour they are – or as to whether it’s okay not to be thin: 

Dick: “Why should I be concerned about gaining weight? My body is just the vehicle that carries my brain around – and my brain deserves a smooth, luxurious ride”

Dick: “I think we’ve underestimated the life on this planet. The people have so much courage. Here they are hurling through space on a molten rock at 67000 miles an hour and the only thing that keeps them from flying out of their shoes is their misplaced faith in gravity”.

Sometimes the humour was gentle and quote profound:

Dick: “Why. Do they call it the human race? Who do they think is going to win?”

For 139 joyful episodes, which never faltered, for which there was never a single bad programme, the Solomon family taught us what it means to be human, learning about love, sex, taxes, and death … and making Rambler Convertibles cool again! I could wax lyrical forever about the brilliance of the individual and ensemble performances, there are moments when you laugh so hard you feel tears coming – the ‘thanksgiving turkey dance of lust’ scene between Harry and Vicki remains one of the funniest things ever filmed, I am laughing even now as I write it.

Unfortunately, the network executives clumsily moved its time slot no less than eighteen times during its six seasons, guaranteeing its eventual demise – acts of catastrophic programming stupidity. What is left, is a wonderful collection of hilarious and sometimes deeply moving recordings, that 25 years on, are still fresh and entirely relevant. Whether you’re a fan of science fiction, comedy, or just great TV in general, ‘Third Rock From The Sun’ is an absolute must-watch. So, gather the family, sit back, and get ready for some intergalactic hilarity!

One last thing … ‘Stand By For An Incoming Message From The Big Giant Head!”