3rd Rock from the Sun

3rd Rock from the Sun


The premise of the show revolves around an extraterrestrial research expedition attempting to live as a normal human family in the fictional city of Wrutherford, Ohio, said to be 52 mi (84 km) outside of Cleveland, where they live in an attic 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. This show reflects human life from the perspective of aliens and many sources of humor are from the learning experiences the alien characters have. Most of the episodes are named after the protagonist "Dick". In later episodes, they are more accustomed to Earth and often are more interested in their human lives than in their mission.

The show also takes humor from its mirroring of all human anthropological expeditions and their assumptions of superiority to the "natives", as well as their inability to distinguish themselves from the natives. Dr. Mary Albright (Jane Curtin) is a professor of anthropology at (fictional) Pendelton State University, and many of the issues with which the four aliens struggle appear in her conversation and work. Furthermore, these four alien researchers end up looking more or less like joyriders as they get drawn further and further into human life.

Dick Solomon (John Lithgow), the High Commander and leader of the expedition, is the family provider as a physics professor at Pendelton (with Ian Lithgow, John Lithgow's eldest son, playing one of his less successful students). Information officer and oldest member of the crew 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 "the one with the transmitter in his head", Harry (French Stewart) to spend their lives as 20-somethings hanging out at home and bouncing through short-term jobs. The show also involves their relationships with humans, mostly their love interests.

The family often communicates through Harry with their off-world (and usually unseen) boss, the Big Giant Head, who when he finally visits Earth, appears in the body of William Shatner. Harry unexpectedly (and often in inconvenient circumstances) stands up, his arms stiff (acting as the antenna), and proclaims: "Incoming message from the Big Giant Head."

3rd Rock from the Sun

Recurring characters

  • David DeLuise as Bug Pollone, one of Dick's students
  • Ian Lithgow, John Lithgow's eldest son, as Leon, one of Dick's students
  • Danielle Nicolet as Caryn, one of Dick's students
  • Chris Hogan as Aubrey Pitman, one of Dick's students
  • Ileen Getz as Dr. Judith Draper, professor at Pendelton and colleague of Mary
  • Shay Astar as August Leffler, Tommy's first girlfriend (seasons 1-3, sparsely appears in seasons 3 and 4)
  • Larisa Oleynik as Alissa Strudwick, Tommy's second girlfriend (seasons 4-6)
  • Ron West as Dr. Vincent Strudwick, Alissa's father and rival to Dick (seasons 2-6)
  • William Shatner as The Big Giant Head, the aliens' boss
  • Jan Hooks as Vicki Dubcek, daughter of Ms. Dubcek and Harry's on-and-off girlfriend
  • John Cleese as Dr. Liam Neesam, a professor who briefly has a relationship with Mary, and is later revealed to be an evil alien (seasons 3 and 6)
  • Chyna as Janice, a muscular female police officer who is briefly Harry's girlfriend
  • Michael Milhoan as Coach Strickland, a high school physical education teacher at Tommy's high school

Theme music

The show's opening theme music was composed by Ben Vaughn, and for the first three seasons, it was originally 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. For Christmas episodes, jingle bells were added to the theme. For the sixth and final season, a modern jazz underline version of the theme was used during that season. The only major change to the theme was in season four through 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. During season one, James Earl Jones provided a voice introduction describing the crew.

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 sixth and final season only, the typeface of the cast and creators' names was altered.


The six seasons had 139 episodes in the series.

Of 139 episodes of the series, 108 contained "Dick" in the title (in reference to John Lithgow's character). While some of the episode titles with "Dick" in them 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.

During the show's sixth and final season, John Lithgow commented to several media outlets that "3rd Rock" had been moved to more than fifteen different time slots in six years, causing its ratings to decrease substantially.


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. In 2004, the show moved into limited-run barter syndication, where it remains; The Program Exchange handles distribution for Carsey-Werner. 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 rerun 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 United Kingdom, the series originally aired on BBC Two from 1996 to 2001 and ITV2 later reran the entire series from 2005 to 2006. Cable network Virgin Media currently has 40 episodes from seasons 1 and 2 available 'on demand' from the Comedy Central menu option. The series began airing from the beginning on Channel 4 from May 12, 2014. A repeat of Channel 4's episodes are broadcast on 4seven.

In the Republic of Ireland, 3e run reruns of the show during the late night slot after Conan at 12:30 am.

Netflix made the complete series available online in March 2011. It was removed several months later in the fall of 2011 but returned on March 15, 2015, but was removed again exactly two years later.

In the fall of 2011, Canada's TVTropolis cable channel began airing the show, and featured a long weekend marathon run of episodes.

The entire series also set to air on Laff.

DVD releases

Region 1
Anchor Bay Entertainment released all six seasons of 3rd Rock from the Sun on DVD for the 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 the series may have been filmed in 16:9 format.

On May 4, 2011, Mill Creek Entertainment announced 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 and 6 were re-released on January 8, 2013.

On May 14, 2013, Mill Creek released 3rd Rock from the Sun - The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.

Region 2
Network DVD released all six seasons on DVD in the UK. While seasons 1-4 feature unedited versions of the episodes, seasons 5 and 6 feature syndicated, edited episodes. Network re-released the series in 2008 in individual set and a complete collection.

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

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

As of January 2012, all seasons are available through Netflix. On February 4, the series was removed, although returned to availability on March 15, 2015. The series has since been removed.

Seasons 1 and 2 were available to download in the UK through iTunes, but are no longer and no episodes or seasons have been made available digitally since.

The entire series is currently available to Amazon Prime users through Amazon Video in the US.

Awards and nominations

In 1997, 3rd Rock won the most Primetime 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 dear 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, a foreword written by John Lithgow himself is included in which he explains how he was abducted by the 3rd Rock producers and forced to work on their production. A Post-it note is attached to the foreword, apparently written by Dick Solomon, stating he does not know why the foreword is there, but that Lithgow is an Earth actor who appeared in "some helicopter movie".

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