Saturday, April 12, 2014

Geek TV: 3rd Rock From the Sun!

3rd-rock-from-the-sunConcept: Four aliens come to earth, taking human identities as a family, to study our civilization. Hilarity ensues.

Total Episodes: 139

Original Air Dates: January 9, 1996 – May 22, 2001

Original Network: NBC


Dick Solomon (John Lithgow): High Commander and head of the expedition. He is actually the youngest member of the expedition, although his earth identity is the oldest. He tends to act very juvenile. During the course of the show, he falls in love with Dr. Mary Albright.

Sally Solomon (Kristen Johnston): Security officer and second-in-command. Her pose in the “family” is as Dick's sister, and sometimes as Tommy's mother. She was chosen to be female despite her species being asexual. She has a harder time playing a female than the other aliens have playing male. Despite this, she ends up becoming involved with Officer Don Leslie Orville.

Harry Solomon (French Stewart): The Communicator or Transmitter of the group, Harry just came along for the ride, not having been originally assigned. He fits in better than the rest, although it's implied because he's not as intelligent as the others. He poses as Dick and Sally's brother, and Tommy's uncle. When an incoming message arrives from the Big Giant Head (their species' leader) he shakes violently and squats down, declaring “Incoming Message from the Big Giant Head” before delivering the message. Impulsive and prone to misfortune. He has an on-again off-again relationship with Vicki Dubcek, the daughter of their landlady.

Tommy Solomon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt): Second in command and Information Officer. He's actually the oldest and smartest of the group, and poses as Dick's son.

Dr. Mary Albright (Jane Curtain): Dick's colleague and sometimes girlfriend. While she sees Dick as an insensitive idiot, she can't avoid being infatuated with his quirkiness.

Nina Campbell (Simbi Khali): Dick and Mary's administrative assistant. Dick tends to demand her to do things that aren't part of her job assistant, and she considers Dick to be an idiot, a sexist, and a jerk.

Mrs. Mamie Dubcek (Emarie Wendel): The Solomon's landlady, rather loose, clueless and carefree. She usually appears holding a cigarette and a Bloody Mary.

Officer Don Leslie Orville (Wayne Knight): A police officer for the city of Rutherford, and Sally's boyfriend. Excels at bowling, and easily manipulated by Sally.

Geek Pedigree:

Terry Turner, who directed 100 episodes of the show and wrote a few of them, was previously a writer for Saturday Night Live from 1986 to 1993. He also wrote Wayne's World and Coneheads. Series co-creator Bonnie Turner shares the same writing credits, as well as writing Wayne's World 2. The Turners also co-created That '70s Show.

John Lithgow had previously played Wally in the 1980 TV Movie Mom, the Werewolf and Me, and of course played John Valentine in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also played Joe Huxley in The Day After, Lord John Whorfin/Dr. Emilio Lizardo in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Dr. Walter Curnow in 2010, John Walters in “The Doll” episode of Amazing Stories, George Henderson in Harry and the Hendersons, Dr. Oscar Charles in the “You, Murderer” episode of Tales From the Crypt, voiced Lord Farquaad in Shrek, and later played Charles Rodman in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The White Rabbit in Once Upon A Time in Wonderland.

Jane Curtain, of course, is best remembered for being in the original 1975-1980 cast of Saturday Night Live, returning to her role as Prymatt Conehead from that show in Coneheads. And then provided the voice of Hippolyte in the 1998 Hercules TV series. Later, she played Judge Claire Whittaker in the remake of The Shaggy Dog, and Charlene in The Librarian TV movie series.

While Kristen Johnson didn't have any geek creds prior to 3rd Rock, she did concurrently play Ivana Humpalot in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Wilma Slaghoople (the future Wilma Flintstone) in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.

French Stewart, on the other hand, played Lieutenant Ferretti in Stargate, guested on an episode of Space: Above and Beyond, played Icarus in 33 episodes of the 1998-1999 Hercules, did the voice for Rentwistle Swack in three episodes of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and also later provided the voice of Bob Allman on the all-too-shortlived God, the Devil and Bob, and guested on an episode of Psych.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt played David and Daniel Collins in the 1991 Dark Shadows, guested in a 1991 episode of Quantum Leap, played Jimmy Howell in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, and guested in a 2000 episode of The Outer Limits. Later, he played The Doctor in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and played Blake in The Dark Knight Rises. He will shortly be seen in 2014's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For paying Johnny.

Wayne Knight may be best known for playing Newman in Seinfeld, but he also played Stan Podolak in Space Jam, was the voice of Microwave in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars, Igor in Toonsylvania, Tantor in Tarzan (1999), Al the Toy Collector in Toy Story 2, Emperor Zurg in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and of course played Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park. Later, he gueste din a 2003 episode of The Twilight Zone, voiced Abnegazar in “The Balance” episode of Justice League, played Micro in Punisher: War Zone, voiced Egghead in three episodes of Super Hero Squad, as well as Captain Goray in an episode of Green Lantern: The Animated Series.

Danielle Nicolet doesn't have any prior geek creds from before her 42 episodes as Caryn, one of the students at the university in the show, but I can't let it pass without noting that she voiced Storm in the 2011 X-Men animated series.

Geek Guests:

William Shatner appeared in five episodes playing the Big Giant Head... do I really need to point out that he was Captain Kirk on Star Trek? Another big guest star was John Cleese, who appeared in four episodes playing Dr. Liam Neesam.

Richard McGonagle appeared in five episodes as Dr. Howard, he'd appeared in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation prior to that, as well as an Adventures of Brisco County Jr., but he may be better known for his voice work, voicing Dr. Franklin Storm in an episode of the 1996 The Fantastic Four, various voices in Samurai Jack, Star Wars: Clone Wars, Duck Dodgers, Ben 10, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Legion of Super Heroes, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and many other programs.

John D'Aquino appeared in four episodes as Kevin Randell, he'd previously played Lt. Benjamin Krieg in SeaQuest 2032 and guested in three episodes of Quantum Leap. Laurie Metcalf, who played Jennifer Ravelli in three episodes, is best known for playing Jackie on Roseanne, but she also provided the voice of Mrs. Davis (Andy's mom) in Toy Story and the sequels Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, voiced Donna in God, the Devil and Bob, and is known these days to geeks for playing Sheldon's mom on The Big Bang Theory.

Harry Morgan appeared in a trio of episodes playing Professor Suter, and is probably best known for playing Col. Sherman T. Potter on M*A*S*H, or Officer Bill Gannon in Dragnet 1967, but he'd also guested on an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery in 1972, but his geekier credits include playing General Stilton in The Cat From Outer Space, and Robert T. “Skinny” Malone in The Wild Wild West Revisited and More Wild Wild West.

Beverly Johnson appeared in two episodes of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman playing Mrs. Cox prior to playing Prell in two episodes of 3rd Rock.

The sorely missed Phil Hartman appeared in two episodes of 3rd Rock, playing a different character each time. You no doubt know him from Saturday Night Live and NewsRadio, but did you know he did voices on Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, The Dukes, Challenge of the Go-Bots, The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, and the 1986 animated Dennis the Menace, as well as playing Captain Carl on Pee-Wee's Playhouse? You can also hear him in episodes of many other animated shows if you listen carefully, such as on The Ren & Stimpy Show. He was also known for providing the voice of Troy McClure and other characters in 52 episodes of The Simpsons, but you probably knew that already.

Star Trek's Mr. Sulu, George Takei, appeared in an episode playing himself! But did you know that among his animation voice work he also voiced Galactus in The super Hero Squad Show, or that he did some of the voice dubbing for Godzilla Raids Again and Rodan? Star Trek: The Next Generation's William Riker, Jonathan Frakes, guested in an episode as well, but not playing himself.

Tara Strong appeared in a 1996 episode as the Exercise Lady, a rare opportunity to see her on-screen, as her career is mostly in voice work (at least, her geek credits tend to be). Her prior voice roles included characters in Beetlejuice, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures, Captain N and the New Super Mario World, Bubbles in The Powerpuff Girls, the 1993-1997 X-Men, Barbara Gordon/Batgirl in The New Batman Adventures as well as other characters, and later provided voices on Clerks, Gotham Girls, Samurai Jack, King of the Hill, What's New, Scooby-Doo?, Duck Dodgers, Raven on Teen Titans (as well as Gizmo and others), Batman: The Brave and the Bold, The Super Hero Squad Show, and way, way too many others to list here!

Olivia d'Abo guested in a 2000 episode, she had previously been in Conan the Destroyer, guested in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, and later voiced a number of characters in Justice League, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Ultimate Avengers: The Movie. Miguel Ferrer guested in a 2000 episode, he'd previously appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, played Bob Morton in the original Robocop, Snyder in DeepStar Six, Lloyd Henreid in The Stand, guested on three episodes of Tales From the Crypt, played The Weather Man in the TV Movie Justice League of America, voiced Aquaman, De'Cine and Weather Wizard in Superman: The Animated Series, and later voiced Tarakudo and others in Jackie Chan Adventures, played Jonas Bledsoe in the 2007 Bionic Woman TV series, voiced Sinestro on The Batman, J'onn J'onzz in Justice League: The New Frontier, Vandal Savage and others in Young Justice, played Vice President Rodriguez in Iron Man 3, and will be seen this year as Vallon in the new version of RoboCop.

David Hasselhoff guested as Dr. Lasker in one episode, and of course he's best known for playing Michael Knight on Knight Rider. Mark Hamill played himself in a 1997 episode, and of course you know him as Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as voicing the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and the various spin-offs of that... and he's done a whole mess of other voicework as well! James Earl Jones was the Narrator on two episodes, but he'll always be remembered as the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars.

DVD Release: All six seasons have been released on DVD, with a Complete Series boed set released in 2014.

Website: is a fan site that is worth checking out!

Notes: I came kind of late to this show, probably in the third season or so. My first wife, Barbara, introduced me to it, and although I initially dismissed it as being Mork and Mindy with four Morks, I soon became a fan!

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