DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | New and Upcoming DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

"3rd Rock from the Sun" The Complete Season One DVD Review (Mill Creek Release)

3rd Rock from the Sun: The Complete Season One DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com 3rd Rock from the Sun: Season One (1996)
Show & DVD Details

Creators: Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner / Executive Producers: Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner, Caryn Mandabach, Linwood Boomer

Writers: Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner, Michael Glouberman, Andrew Orenstein, Bill Martin, Mike Schiff, Christine Zander, Bob Kushell, Linwood Boomer, Joe Fisch, Andy Cowan, David Sacks / Regular Director: Robert Berlinger / Pilot and Season Finale Director: James Burrows

Regular Cast: John Lithgow (Dr. Dick Solomon), Kristen Johnston (Sally Solomon), French Stewart (Harry Solomon), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Tommy Solomon), Jane Curtin (Dr. Mary Albright)

Recurring Characters: Simbi Khali (Nina Campbell), Elmarie Wendel (Mrs. Dubcek), Shay Astar (August Leffler), Ian Lithgow (Leon), David DeLuise (Bug Pollone), Chris Hogan (Aubrey Pitman), Danielle Nicolet (Caryn), John D'Aquino (Mr. Kevin Randell), James Earl Jones (Opening Narrator - uncredited), Michael Milhoan (Coach Strickland), Ileen Getz (Judith Draper), Bruce Morrow (Father Rice), Jennifer Rhodes (Mrs. Sumner)

Notable Guest Stars: Marnette Patterson (Volleyball Girl), Marla Sokoloff (Dina), Martha Stewart (Herself), Lauren Graham (Laurie Harris), Jane Lynch (Ms. Koppel), Kathryn Joosten (Cafeteria Lady), Ed Begley, Jr. (Jeff), Kathryn LaNasa (Kate), Phil Hartman (Phillip), John Mahoney (Dr. Leonard Hanlin), Bronson Pinchot (Roy Albright), Richard Roat (Dr. Byron), Kimberly Scott (Emily), Lorna Scott (Mrs. Walters), Rex Linn (Chuck), John Raitt (Trucker Gil), Mike Starr (Frank Muller), Lois Foraker (Patty Muller), Jane Galloway (Dr. Blumfeld), Wayne Knight (Officer Don), Naomi Judd (Frances Randell), Richard McGonagle (Head Doctor Howard), Harry Morgan (Professor Suter)

Running Time: 451 Minutes (20 episodes) / Rating: TV-PG
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio) / Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned; Extras Not Captioned
Season 1 Airdates: January 9, 1996 - May 21, 1996
DVD Release Date: September 13, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $9.98
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s) / Black Keepcase

Buy 3rd Rock from the Sun: Season One on DVD from Amazon.com

NBC was king of the hill in 1995-96. Six years in, "Seinfeld" was as popular as ever. The young "ER" and "Friends" were trendy television you had to catch. Heck, even "Caroline in the City" drew more viewers in its first season than every other show on every other network.
And that was just Thursday, a night that earned big ratings for anything the peacock aired (including the short-lived "The Single Guy" and "Boston Common"). Elsewhere, NBC had "Frasier" winning awards and gaining momentum. Its Tuesday night company was outranked by ABC's own comedy block (featuring "Roseanne", "Home Improvement", and "Coach"), but included sitcoms still regarded highly today, "Wings" and "NewsRadio". In January 1996, "NewsRadio" moved to Sunday night to make way for the new "Frasier" lead-in, "3rd Rock from the Sun".

"3rd Rock" was the creation of Bonnie and Terry Turner, a husband and wife who were staff writers on "Saturday Night Live" from 1986 to 1992 and had graduated to scripting some of the highest-profile comedy films of the '90s, including the "SNL" spin-offs Wayne's World and Coneheads, Chris Farley's breakout film vehicle Tommy Boy, and The Brady Bunch Movie. "3rd Rock" returned the couple to television, their first time creating and executive producing a sitcom.

Interestingly, the Turners' concept most resembled that of their lowest-peforming movie. In fact, "3rd Rock" had essentially the same premise as Coneheads and the recurring "SNL" sketch that inspired it: aliens trying to blend in on our planet. In this case, the aliens did not have large pointy heads and they were not a real nuclear family, but otherwise the joke was the same. Even Jane Curtin, portrayer of Conehead matriarch Prymaat, was onboard as a series regular.

This animated "Greetings from Earth" postcard of the Solomons appears near the beginning of most of the early "3rd Rock" episodes. Parked in a popular makeout spot, the Solomons adjust to their new human bodies in the "3rd Rock" pilot episode.

The pilot episode finds four intelligent extra-terrestrials getting accustomed to their human bodies as the Solomons of suburban Ohio. They're visiting Earth to research the planet, but the mission quickly moves from scientific to sitcomic. Dick (John Lithgow, channeling John Cleese) is the high commander and assumes the position of patriarch in the group's new attic apartment. He somehow lands a job as a physics professor at the local state university, which has him sharing an office (and his heart) with human educator Dr. Mary Albright (Curtin).

Dick's fellow aliens include Sally (Kristen Johnston), who has been assigned a tall, blonde female body. Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is older than Dick, but reduced to looking and acting like a 14-year-old boy, complete with raging hormones. Finally, there is Harry (French Stewart, barely opening his eyes the whole season), the oddball fur-coated homebody of the group.

Characters take a back seat to the culture shock premise. Dick and his professional/romantic pursuits typically claim the "A" storylines (reflected in the double entendre episode titles), while his housemates/"family members" make do with supporting threads and jokes. Comedically, the show is okay. It is breezily diverting, without ever earning the guffaws offered up by the generous studio audience. Most of the laughs are variations on that premise, of aliens trying to adapt to human living without being entirely familiar with societal intricacies.

The design lends itself to satire and commentary, but that is restrained and casual in nature, taking the form of stray, benign observations. The show tries to ground the comedy just a touch with scenes of the aliens pondering the universe on their rooftop or in a parked car.

Harry Solomon (French Stewart) appreciates a brown turtleneck sweater and an apple, but isn't the biggest fan of sight. Dick's (John Lithgow) romantic pursuit of colleague Mary Albright (Jane Curtin) pervades the series and seems to hold at least one bar patron captive.

"3rd Rock" feels like a show that could have been made any era and you could say that it was made in multiple eras with comparable sitcoms like "Mork & Mindy" and "ALF." Whereas both of those signed off after four seasons, "3rd Rock" ran six, extending beyond a novelty and winning eight Emmys in its first four years, including three Lead Actor awards for Lithgow and two Supporting Actress honors for Johnston.

The show moved to Sunday night for its second season, then spent the next two years on Wednesday, and finished up on Tuesday nights.
It never got to be a part of NBC's dominant Must See TV Thursday and the initially above average Nielsen ratings began a sharp decline after Season 2. By the end, the show was running on fumes, no doubt protected by the fact that its producers, Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner, had been behind "The Cosby Show" and "A Different World", shows that helped make NBC such a Thursday night powerhouse in the 1980s. In its final season, "3rd Rock" drew fewer viewers than its lead-in "The Michael Richards Show", whose infamous tanking became the foundation of the supposed "Seinfeld" curse. By that point, "3rd Rock" had already been sold into syndication. One gathers that its reruns were not the biggest draw, because they disappeared shortly thereafter and have only occasionally turned up since, with stints on ABC Family and TV Land being relatively short-lived.

"3rd Rock" made its DVD debut during the last few years of that format's great boom, having all six of its seasons released by Anchor Bay Entertainment from 2005 to 2006. In 2010, Anchor Bay's DVDs of this and other Carsey-Werner shows went out of print. The first two seasons recently returned to DVD from value distributor Mill Creek Entertainment. You'd suspect errors in completely accurate online store listings for The Complete Season One. The list price really is just $9.98. And the twenty episodes of Season 1 really do fit on just two discs. The cover boasts that these are "The Complete, Uncut Original Broadcast Edits" as opposed to the syndicated ones supplied to Anchor Bay for their first two seasons' release. These episodes run 25 to 55 seconds longer than they did in their previous DVD incarnation, the difference being partly attributable to the restoration of the original title sequence, which features narration from James Earl Jones that varies from one episode to the next.

Season One briefly features plenty of recognizable licensed songs, from The Kingsmen, James Brown, Eddy Grant, Wham!, and Jefferson Airplane, to name just a few. How they are all cleared here at the low list price is a mystery. Season One also boasts a healthy volume of guest stars from current NBC stars ("NewsRadio"'s Phil Hartman, "Frasier"'s John Mahoney) to future TV stars ("Glee"'s Jane Lynch, Lauren Graham of "Gilmore Girls") to past TV stars ("Perfect Strangers"' Bronson Pinchot, "M*A*S*H"'s Harry Morgan). One member of the first class -- Wayne Knight, forever identifiable as "Seinfeld" postman Newman -- would recur and eventually make series regular as Sally's love interest Officer Don.

Synopses of the twenty featured episodes follow.

Obnoxiously high on cough syrup, Dick (John Lithgow) accompanies Mary (Jane Curtin) at a wedding in "Post Nasal Dick." Dick tries to fight aging with hair dye and tight leather pants. Smoking leaves Dick alone, hungry, and a tad insane.

Disc 1

1. Pilot: Brain and Eggs (22:39) (Originally aired January 9, 1996)
Compelled by the notion of feelings, Dick decides the gang should stick around longer.

2. Post Nasal Dick (22:18) (Originally aired January 16, 1996)
All of the Solomons get sick with the flu, but Dick fights through it with cold medicine to accompany Mary to a wedding.

3. Dick's First Birthday (22:41) (Originally aired January 23, 1996)
Dick feels old and tries to fight signs of aging as he celebrates his first birthday on Earth.

4. Dick is From Mars, Sally is From Venus (22:43) (Originally aired January 30, 1996)
Sally is encouraged to try dating, but she is devastated after the guy never calls her.

5. Dick, Smoker (22:39) (Originally aired February 6, 1996)
Shortly after taking up smoking, Dick goes missing.

The one and only Phil Hartman gives Harry a scalp massage in "Lonely Dick." Bronson Pinchot pulls off a flawless American accent as Mary's brother Roy in "Ab-Dick-ted." Sally and full-squint Harry apply for their driving permits in "Truth or Dick."

6. Green-Eyed Dick (22:40) (Originally aired February 13, 1996)
Dick thinks Mary has feelings for her old writer friend (Ed Begley Jr.), making him jealous and competitive. The Solomons take in a dog.

7. Lonely Dick (22:31) (Originally aired February 20, 1996)
Dick presses Mary's secretary Nina (Simbi Khali) for details on her vacation whereabouts. Tommy starts to date August (Shay Astar).

8. Body & Soul & Dick (22:35) (Originally aired February 27, 1996)
Dick has to eulogize a hated colleague (John Mahoney), whose death gives everyone a chance to ponder their bodies' mortality.

9. Ab-Dick-ted (22:25) (Originally aired March 4, 1996)
Mary's brother (Bronson Pinchot) visits with embarrassing stories, including an alien encounter the Solomons take seriously.

10. Truth or Dick (22:06) (Originally aired March 12, 1996)
Dick tries to understand the concept of lying. Sally and Harry get driver's permits.

Harry's painting skills are put to the test by Dick's nude modeling in "The Art of Dick." John Lithgow pays homage to his segment in "Twilight Zone: The Movie" by seeing something on the wing of a plane in "Frozen Dick." Dick's friendship with next-door neighbor Frank Muller (Mike Starr) is short-lived.

Disc 2

11. The Art of Dick (22:40) (Originally aired March 19, 1996)
Dick is troubled to find that art doesn't come easily to him, as it does to Harry. Sally takes over a school bake sale.

12. Frozen Dick (22:40) (Originally aired March 26, 1996)
Dick and Mary are kicked off a plane and end up at a truck stop. Harry reorganizes the video store.

13. Angry Dick (22:27) (Originally aired April 2, 1996)
The Solomons befriend their neighbors, but the relationship soon sours.

14. The Dicks, They Are A Changin' (22:40) (Originally aired April 9, 1996)
Needing to fill in the gaps in his 1960s record, Dick lets Mary think he's an activist she knew in college. Harry gets bombarded by a CD club.

15. I Enjoy Being a Dick (22:30) (Originally aired April 21, 1996)
Dick dresses in drag to infiltrate a women's club. Tommy considers telling his girlfriend his secret. Sally and Harry work in a diner.

Hello, Newman! Wayne Knight begins his series-long stint as Sally's love interest Officer Don in "Assault with a Deadly Dick." Tommy, Harry, and Sally are worn out by their day of doctoring in "Selfish Dick." The season finale doubles the Lithgows, but does it double the fun?

16. Dick Like Me (22:41) (Originally aired April 23, 1996)
Dick tries to learn about race and figure out which he belongs to. While Tommy tries identifying with different races, Sally takes an interest in Tommy's teacher (John D'Aquino).

17. Assault with a Deadly Dick (22:39) (Originally aired April 30, 1996)
After the car radio is stolen and he is robbed, Dick pursues home security. Tommy joins the basketball team.

18. Father Knows Dick (22:34) (Originally aired May 7, 1996)
Dick worries about Harry being out on his own after they fight. Sally meets Kevin's mother (Naomi Judd).

19. Selfish Dick (22:40) (Originally aired May 14, 1996)
Dick takes action to prevent Mary from moving to a new office. After Sally gets sick, she, Harry, and Tommy start working in a hospital as doctors.

20. See Dick Run (22:38) (Originally aired May 21, 1996)
The Solomons get word from The Big Giant Head that they might have to leave Earth.

Dick Solomon's teaching style can be described as unconventional. Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) charms his first season girlfriend August (Shay Astar) in a beret.

VIDEO and AUDIO

With over and close to four hours of content squeezed per disc, the effects of compression are unsurprisingly evident. They render the 1.33:1 presentation (which thankfully suffered from no aspect ratio anomalies) closer to a low-res YouTube viewing than standard DVD, with ringing and mosquito noise punctuating every change in the frame. From a reasonable viewing distance on a fairly average screen, the show looks fine. But one wonders if the quality gains of adding a disc wouldn't have cancelled out the modest costs of it.

The Dolby Stereo soundtracks are adequate, meeting one's mild expectations for a '90s sitcom. No subtitles are offered, but you might be able to access closed captions.

Elmarie Wendel, who plays the Solomons' landlord Mrs. Mamie Dubcek, is the seventh of eight cast members whose interviews appear on Disc 1. John Lithgow has got the whole world in his hands (plus a French Stewart sitting on top) in this green screen promo shoot seen in "A Glimpse Behind-the-Scenes."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Between the set's low price and low discount, you might expect the barebones presentation that is typical for retired TV series, but Mill Creek actually delivers almost all of the bonus features that appeared on Anchor Bay's 2005 DVD release of Season 1.

Disc 1's unassuming "Cast Interviews" listing yields 53 minutes and 50 seconds of actor comments from 1998, a few years into the show's run. Heard from here: John Lithgow (9:50), Kristen Johnston (9:25),
French Stewart (7:18), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (4:48), Jane Curtin (6:16), Simbi Khali (5:08), Elmarie Wendel (4:37), and Wayne Knight (6:28). Text screens prompt their replies, no doubt intended for the press. They offer good notes about the series, its British influences, the creative atmosphere, characters, favorite episodes, and fans. The piece could use chapter stops to get straight to a specific actor, but fans will want to watch the whole thing and DVD's fast-forwarding gets you where you want to be quickly enough.

Also on Disc 1, "Season One Highlights" (10:25) simply strings together clips from the season. It seems like a waste of space on a disc already overpacked. At the very least, it could have gone on Disc 2.

On Disc 2, "A Glimpse Behind-the-Scenes" (2:26) lives up to its name with its fleeting looks at script reads, rehearsals, taping, and photo shoot/green screen cast member tomfoolery. This too seems to hail from 1998.

The actors portraying the Solomon family crack up in a corn field in the Bloopers reel. Clips play on rotating planets on each DVD's main menu.

The second disc also supplies a Bloopers reel (6:46) for the season. The outtakes have the quality of a '90s bootleg VHS but entertain nonetheless.

Items from the Anchor Bay DVD no longer offered here: DVD-ROM episode teleplays, a 16-page collectible booklet, TV spots previewing each episode, and episode synopses.

The main menus play clips on rotating planets while the theme song is looped. The episode selection screens also loop the theme song while recycling the cover's cast shot. Episodes are divided into an appropriate number of chapter stops (as they were not by Anchor Bay), which are timed to commercial breaks.

One nice thing about the low disc count is that Mill Creek has treated the set to standard DVD case, placing a disc on either side. The downside to that is it's not as sturdy. In transit to me, one hub broke and the case cracked on my review copy. It's worth noting that the distinct smell of cheap plastic surrounds the inside of the case, which may keep you from wanting to read the episode titles printed on each disc.

The Solomon Family (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, French Stewart, John Lithgow, and Kristen Johnston) consider Earth's life mysteries from the rooftop outside their third floor apartment.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

"3rd Rock from the Sun" is an average 1990s sitcom, good enough to remember and still be talking about fifteen years later, but not good enough to want to see every episode again and again. While that kind of quality normally wouldn't lend itself to a purchase of any kind, Mill Creek's Season One DVD is magnetically low-priced, low enough to buy, merely sample, and not feel guilty.
Think of the effort it would have taken back in 1996 to record every first season episode on VHS without commercials. It hardly seems fair that you can now click a button and for under $10 have a better version of that delivered to you. When you think about it that way and how far we've come, it almost seems wrong not to buy this DVD.

The super low price does come with a catch, in that the overpacked discs are lacking in picture quality. I suspect the majority of customers would choose to pay a few dollars more to cover the cost of adding a disc. But at the same time, Mill Creek is probably right to assume that so many people will take notice of the set priced under $10 than over. (This release has gone as low as $5 at Target.)

This new edition improves upon Anchor Bay's by delivering the uncut original broadcast versions of episodes, but the gains are minor and possibly cancelled out by the loss of a booklet, episode previews, and scripts. That casts some doubt on fans buying this season again but everyone else with a fond memory of the show could stand to buy this and be pleased.

Support this site when you buy 3rd Rock from the Sun: Season One from Amazon.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews
John Lithgow: Santa Claus: The Movie Dreamgirls Confessions of a Shopaholic 30 Rock: Season 3
Joseph Gordon-Levitt: 10 Things I Hate About You Angels in the Outfield The Lookout Stop-Loss
French Stewart: Glory Daze Inspector Gadget 2 | Jane Curtin: The Shaggy Dog (2006) I Love You, Man
Created by Bonnie and Terry Turner: That '70s Show: Season One | Carsey-Werner: Roseanne: The Complete First Season
'90s Sitcoms: Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Season 2 NewsRadio: The Complete Series Home Improvement: Season 5
New: Beavis and Butt-head: Mike Judge's Most Wanted Dumbo (70th Anniversary) Jake and the Never Land Pirates: Yo Ho, Mateys Away!

DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | DVD & Blu-ray Release Schedule | Upcoming Cover Art | Search This Site

Search This Site:

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed September 28, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1996-97 YBYL Productions, The Carsey-Werner Co., 2011 Mill Creek Entertainment and Carsey-Werner Distribution.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.