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3rd Rock From The Sun
cast: John Lithgow, Kirsten Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, French Stewart, and Jane Curtin

creators: Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner

567 minutes (PG) 1998
Network DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 10/10
reviewed by Emily Webb
As far as sitcoms go, 3rd Rock From The Sun is a trip for both the sitcom characters and viewer; the premise of the show revolves around aliens coming to Earth to study the peculiarities of the human race. These intergalactic beings take human form and farcically deal with the human condition in the fictional city of Rutherford, Ohio.

The show moves at a frenetic pace largely due to the cast; the brilliant John Lithgow takes the helm of the 'family' as High Commander alias Professor Dick Solomon, and Kristen Johnston, French Stewart and Joseph Gordon-Levitt who make up the rest of the Solomons - Sally, Harry and Tommy - stylishly support him. Jane Curtin, one of the original cast members from the seminal comedy show Saturday Night Live, plays Dick's girlfriend Dr Mary Albright. (Lithgow also has an association with Saturday Night Live going back to the mid 1980s.)

The beauty of this sitcom lies in the comic framework; the Solomons have a bizarre vantage point of 'innocents' seeing and experiencing everything for the first time and it provides a hugely funny and successful satire of the human condition and American society.

In this third season (3rd Rock ran on US television from 1996 to 2001), Roseanne Barr makes a guest appearance as, ironically, an alien sent to Earth in the form of a 'perfect' wife for Dick. (Very funny scenes ensue with Barr's character wanting to test out all the positions from The Joy Of Sex, as she believes that is one of the 'duties' that a human wife is expected by society to perform.)

The creators of this very popular series, Bonnie and Terry Turner have been writers and cast members for Saturday Night Live and also created That 70's Show, the US sitcom that launched the careers of hot young actors Ashton Kutcher (The Butterfly Effect) and Topher Grace (In Good Company) - although the term 'hot' could be used loosely in Kutcher's case. The couple also wrote Wayne's World, the movie inspired by the comic sketches on Saturday Night Live acted by Dana Carvey, and Mike Myers (creator of the Austin Powers movies).

I really enjoyed this series. Over the years I had sporadically tuned into episodes in my native Australia where the show was given a prime timeslot but never really hooked on to it; viewing this whole series was a real pleasure. The writing is taut and the performances quick. Lithgow's physicality is a joy to watch and he is more than ably supported by the cast. What I enjoyed most was that the 'alien, sci-fi' storyline was conveyed through the dialogue and performances rather than special effects.

In the quagmire that can be sitcom quality 3rd Rock is on solid ground.
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