In the irreverent tradition of My Favorite Martian
and Mork and Mindy
, Bonnie and Terry Turner (That 70s Show
) created 3rd Rock From the Sun
. Launched in 1996 as a midseason replacement, the alien comedy ran for six seasons, garnering 31 Emmy nominations and eight wins, including three for John Lithgow and two for Kristen Johnston.
In the pilot ("Brains and Eggs"), four extra-terrestrials suddenly materialize in the college town of Rutherford, Ohio. Disguised as humans, they dub themselves the Solomons. They are Dick (Lithgow), Sally (Johnston), Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and Harry (French Stewart). On the surface, Dick is a physics professor and Tommy is his hormonally challenged 14-year-old son. In reality, Dick is the high commander, Tommy (who's actually the oldest) is the senior information officer, Sally (who's actually a man) is the lieutenant, and squinty-eyed Harry is the transmitter/receiver. The humans in their lives include Dick's colleague--and object of his affections--Mary (Jane Curtin, Kate and Allie), secretary Nina (Simbi Khali), and landlady Mrs. Dubcek (Elmarie Wendel). The first season also introduces Officer Don (Wayne Knight, Seinfeld), who will appear more often in future seasons.
There were 20 episodes in the first year. In each, the Solomons learn something new about the human condition. In the debut, its feelings. Dick finds them silly, until he realizes how essential they are--you can't be fully human without them. Then there's sportsmanship ("Green-Eyed Dick"), mortality ("Body & Soul & Dick"), and so on. Guest stars include Harry's dream girl, Martha Stewart ("Post-Nasal Dick"), The Gilmore Girls Lauren Graham ("Dick's First Birthday"), and Newsradios Phil Hartman ("Lonely Dick"). After the shows demise, the cast would move on to other ventures, most notably Broadway hit Dirty Rotten Scoundrels for the versatile Lithgow and independent drama Mysterious Skin for the grown-up Gordon-Levitt. --Kathleen C. Fennessy