Flashback February - 3rd Rock from the Sun

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If you grew up in the nineties, there are three shows you probably saw as a kid: a TV adaption of a comic or movie, a show made to sell toys and, of course, at least one sitcom. From The Simpsons to Everyone Loves Raymond the sitcom was inescapable. Even now sitcoms are still running rampant on every channel and it’s really no surprise why; with every decade the modern lifestyle needs to be revisited and explored at all new angles.

One sitcom from this era that I loved as a kid was a quirky little production about aliens trying to research human life. It launched the career of one of my favourite comedy actors and to this day can still get a chuckle out of me.

No, I’m not talking about Mork and Mindy. The show I’m talking about is the story about a band of four explorers.

3rd Rock from the Sun is your typical sitcom romp with the added twist of science fiction and an all-star cast. Today, this show is likely notable for being the most memorable role that Joseph Gordon-Levitt had during his time as a child actor; it was bizarre watching a teenager play an old man play a teenager, but it was definitely entertaining. We also have comedy legends John Lithgow and Wayne Knight on the team playing Commander Dick Solomon and Officer Don Orville respectively. Both these men give great performances. Although these are the names you might be more likely to remember, they are far from the best performers in the show (although Don and Sally’s relationship has always been one of my favourite parts).

French Stewart’s portrayal of Harry Solomon is…unique to say the least. While ditzy, too-dumb-to-live characters have been around since the stone age of television, I doubt even Ralph Wiggum would gather all the liquids in his kitchen and taste test them for toxicity. As I’ve mentioned before I’m also a huge fan of Kristen Johnston as Sally; her character was a male alien who was forced into the role of the woman because they ‘lost’. The result: a sexually dominating amazon that combines the traits or men and women in a beautiful harmony.

The closest thing we had to Sally at the time was Xena the Warrior Princess.

To be honest, it would be easier for me to list what characters I don’t like on 3rd Rock from the Sun. There are a few clich├ęd, not so memorable characters, but they are so few that I often forget they exist.

Each episode is usually based around an aspect of human culture and state of being, but as the series went on the meat of the show became Dick pursuing a relationship with Mary and everyone else growing comfortable in their role as humans. This culminates in one of the sadder finales I’ve seen. As a kid, I had just assumed everything will carry on as it always had and things will turn out alright for the protagonists.

Then I saw the series finale. It isn’t as depressing as, say, The Dinosaurs was, but it was definitely something that could make your eyes mist up. As mentioned before these four explorers were scientists on a research mission; all missions come to an end. Sure, everything gets tied up nicely, they go out with the loudest bang a maxed credit card can afford and we get some closure for the two main couples, but that doesn’t change the bittersweet nature of the departure. It’s a comedy so you still get all the laughs you’ve come to expect (Don and Sally’s farewell is the standout here) but something about the family of four leaving everything behind after six years…well, it was a pretty sad ending.

True, there is a scene that boosts the spirits as quickly as the episode lowered them, but it was still a pretty sad ending.

Overall, even if you’re tired of the sitcom, 3rd Rock from the Sun’s crew of characters is bound to tempt a laugh or two from your throat. It might seem dated at first due to the visual look of the series, but in my opinion it’s still a strong contender for the best sitcom even today. It might seem a little silly at first but you might find yourself, like I did, getting more emotional pay off than you bargained for.

Review by  Greta Rehak

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