1 9 9 6 – 2 0 0 1 (USA)
A surprise hit of the 1996-1997 season, 3rd Rock From The Sun surprised most of the critics who had made sport of its improbable premise when it became an audience favourite and made it into the top-30 Nielsen rated shows in its first year.
Four aliens had arrived on Earth to observe the behaviour of the inhabitants of the planet they called “the 3rd rock”.
Pretending to be typical Earthlings, the aliens changed their unearthly appearances to look like a typical human family they called the Solomons.
The alien High Commander (John Lithgow) assumed the identity of Dr Dick Solomon, a professor of physics at Pendleton University, located in Rutherford, Ohio.
The High Commander’s 2IC – a male lieutenant played by Kirsten Johnston – assumed the identity of Sally Solomon, and the other two aliens (French Stewart and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) assumed the identities of the nerdy doofus Harry Solomon and the young teenager, Tommy.
The alien who became Tommy was actually older than the High Commander which made for amusing reactions from Tommy the teenager.
Much of the humour stemmed from the fact that the four aliens knew nothing about how they were supposed to behave as humans, causing people around them to believe they were eccentric oddballs.
Also starring in the series were the stuffy Dr Mary Albright (Jane Curtin) – on whom Dick had a crush, Nina Campbell (the spirited secretary Dick shared with Dr Albright), Alissa Strudwick (the daughter of a faculty member), Mrs Mamie Dubcek (the Solomons landlady), her daughter Vicki, and – appearing in the 1997 season – Officer Don, Sally’s dumb, overweight cop boyfriend (Wayne Knight) who consistently failed to detect her alien nature.
Liam Neesam (John Cleese) was Dick’s occasionally seen malevolent alien nemesis.
In the 1999 season finale the Solomons were visited by the aliens’ Supreme Leader, the Big Giant Head (William Shatner), a drunken reprobate who took the Earth name ‘Stone Phillips’, promoted Sally to High Commander because she looked sexy, and impregnated Vicki.
Vicki’s pregnancy came to term in a matter of moments and the gang rushed her to the hospital, where the nurse proclaimed “I can see the head . . . boy is that a big head!”. Big Giant Head fled leaving Dick in charge once more.
The 2001 finale brought much closure. Don quit the police force and Mary learned the aliens’ secret when she saw Dick turn another alien into a monkey (after the alien tried to turn the Solomons into chimps).
Because Dick had used a weapon against another alien the Big Giant Head cancelled their mission and ordered them to return home. First though, they threw a party (at which Elvis Costello sang Fly Me To The Moon) using credit cards they knew they would never have to pay off, and Dick invited Mary to go with them.
She almost did, but chickened out at the last minute.
The Solomons then climbed into their red Rambler, drove to a ridge above the city and began singing (badly) their group song – whereupon they were zapped into space.
Dr Dick Solomon/High Commander
Dr Mary Albright
Mrs Mamie Dubcek
Officer Don Orville
Big Giant Head