I still remember the first time I saw 3rd Rock from the Sun: I laughed until I nearly cried. That’s not exaggeration there – my sides hurt and my eyes were watering. I was hoarse and exhausted from giggling.
Until that point, John Lithgow – who plays alien mission commander Dick Solomon – was chiefly famous as a b-movie baddie. He and his intergalactic crew land on Earth to study humanity, and adopt the guise of an All-American family: Dick, his teenaged son Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), brother Harry (French Stewart) and sister Sally (Kristen Johnston).
Sally: Why am I the woman?
Dick: Because you lost.
As much as the principal cast’s fish-out-of-water’s antics make for fantastically broad comedy – everything from spot-on slapstick to tart one-liners – it’s Jane Curtain and Simbi Khali, who perform the “straight women” roles, who really make the show. Wayne Knight’s recurring turn as the bungling cop with whom Sally inexplicably falls in love is particularly funny.
Dick: Mary, there’s something I have to tell you. I come from another world.
Mary: And this is news?
Minister: We are gathered here, before God….
Dick: Now, which one of those guys is God?
Mary: Will you be quiet?
Dick: Okay, but be sure to introduce me later, because I want some answers.
Nina: I knew you had a thing for her.
Dick: Yes, but I understand I’m not allowed to show it to her without her permission.
Dick: Women always act so adult, but just like that they’ll sink all the way down to your level.
Sally: Don’t listen to him, he’s just a kid.
Salesman: Oh, don’t worry. I used to be a kid myself… a long time ago. [laughs] Say there, sport, you like girls?
Tommy: Yeah. Sorry.