3rd Rock from the Sun
Genre
Created by
Directed by
Starring
Theme music composer
Composers
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons6
No. of episodes139 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producers
Producers
Camera setupFilm; Multi-camera
Running time22 minutes
Production companyThe Carsey-Werner Company
Original release
NetworkNBC
ReleaseJanuary 9, 1996 (1996-01-09) –
May 22, 2001 (2001-05-22)

3rd Rock from the Sun is an American television sitcom created by Bonnie and Terry Turner, which originally aired from January 9, 1996, to May 22, 2001, on NBC. The show is about four extraterrestrials who are on an expedition to Earth, the third planet from the Sun, which they consider to be a very insignificant planet. The extraterrestrials pose as a human family to observe the behavior of human beings.

The show premiered three years after the film Coneheads, which was also written by the couple and featured a similar premise of aliens arriving on Earth and assimilating into American society. Coneheads also starred Jane Curtin as one of the titular alien Coneheads and featured a supporting cast including Jan Hooks, Phil Hartman, Julia Sweeney and Laraine Newman, all of whom appeared as guest stars on 3rd Rock from the Sun.

Overview

The premise of the show revolves around an extraterrestrial research expedition hailing from a planet in a barred spiral galaxy on the Cepheus-Draco border attempting to live as a normal human family in the fictional city of Rutherford, Ohio, said to be 52 mi (84 km) outside of Cleveland where they live in an attic apartment. The show's humor is principally derived from the aliens' attempts to study human society and understand the human condition, while living as humans on Earth, reflecting on human life from the perspective of aliens. Most of the episodes are named after the protagonist, Dick. In later episodes, they have become more accustomed to Earth and are often 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 approximately like joyriders as they get drawn increasingly further into human life.

Dick Solomon (John Lithgow), the High Commander and leader of the expedition, is the family provider and a physics professor at Pendelton (with Lithgow's eldest son Ian playing Leon, 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, is played by 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!"

Cast

Main article: List of 3rd Rock from the Sun characters

Main characters

From left to right: John Lithgow as Dick, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (top) as Tommy, Jane Curtin (bottom) as Mary, Kristen Johnston as Sally, and French Stewart as Harry

Recurring characters

Production

Theme music

The show's opening theme music, composed by Ben Vaughn, was originally a 1950s-style rock-and-roll instrumental piece for the first four seasons; 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. During season one, James Earl Jones provided a voice introduction describing the crew. For Christmas episodes, jingle bells were added to the theme. The only major change to the theme was in season 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. For the sixth and final season, the original theme returned and a modern jazz underline version of the theme was used for two episodes.

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.

Episodes

Main article: List of 3rd Rock from the Sun episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRating
First airedLast aired
120January 9, 1996 (1996-01-09)May 21, 1996 (1996-05-21)2212.1
226September 22, 1996 (1996-09-22)May 18, 1997 (1997-05-18)2710.8
327September 24, 1997 (1997-09-24)May 20, 1998 (1998-05-20)448.5
424September 23, 1998 (1998-09-23)May 25, 1999 (1999-05-25)746.9
522September 21, 1999 (1999-09-21)May 23, 2000 (2000-05-23)756.0
620October 24, 2000 (2000-10-24)May 22, 2001 (2001-05-22)875.6

Broadcast

Syndication

In the United States, the series is distributed for syndication by Carsey-Werner Distribution, and entered broadcast syndication in September 1999, where it continued until the fall of 2004, when the show moved into limited-run barter syndication, where it remained until 2016; The Program Exchange handled distribution for Carsey-Werner.[1] 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. The series made its debut on digital broadcast network Laff on July 16, 2018, until May 16, 2021, when it moved to IFC as well on Cozi TV beginning July 18.

In Italy, this series aired on Italia 1 under the name Una famiglia del terzo tipo (A family of the third kind) in 1999.

This series rerun is now also aired on Malaysia's national broadcast TV channel RTM's TV2 in the 12:30 am time slot on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

In the United Kingdom, the series originally aired on BBC Two from 1996 to 2002,[2] and ITV2 later reran the entire series from 2005 to 2006. It has since rerun on Comedy Central, Channel 4,[3] and 5Star.

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

Streaming

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,[4] and was removed again exactly two years later. The series also was available to stream on Hulu.[5]

The series was available to stream in the United States on Amazon Prime Video, FilmRise, Tubi,[6] Pluto TV, Crackle,[7] Vudu,[8] IMDb TV[9] and Peacock,[10] but as of late 2023 is only available on Hoopla and Philo.[11]

In the UK, as of 2022, the full series is available on Sky Go and Channel 4.[12]

Home media

Anchor Bay Entertainment released all six seasons of 3rd Rock from the Sun on DVD for the first time in 2005–2006.[13][14][15][16][17][18] 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.[19] They have subsequently re-released seasons 1–4. These releases contain the unedited, original broadcast versions of the episodes.[20][21] Seasons 5 and 6 were re-released on January 8, 2013.[22][23][24]

On May 14, 2013, Mill Creek released 3rd Rock from the Sun – The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.[25]

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

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. Beyond Home Entertainment re-released the entire series in 2010.

Original sets
Season Release date Features
Region 1
(Anchor Bay)
Region 2
(Network)
Region 4
(Magna)
Season 1 July 26, 2005[26] May 17, 2004 November 9, 2005[27]


  • 20 episodes
  • 4 discs (Region 1 & 2)
  • 3 discs (Region 4)
  • 4:3 aspect ratio
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • BBFC rating: 12
  • ACB rating: PG
  • Special features:
    • blooper reel
    • behind-the-scenes
    • cast interviews:
      John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston,
      French Stewart,
      Joseph Gordon-Levitt,
      Jane Curtain, Simbi Khali,
      Elmarie Wendel, Wayne Knight
      • (John Lithgow and Simbi Khali feature only in the interviews on the Region 2 release)
    • Season One highlights (Region 1 & 2 only)
    • TV spots (Region 1 only)
    • 16-page collectable booklet (Region 1 only)
    • DVD-ROM: Teleplays (Region 1 only)
    • Episodic promos (Region 2 only)
  • (no subtitles)
Season 2 October 25, 2005[28] June 21, 2004 November 9, 2005[29]


  • 26 episodes
  • 4 discs
  • 4:3 aspect ratio
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • BBFC rating: PG
  • ACB rating: PG
  • Special features:
    • Bloopers
    • Season Two Highlights (Region 1 & 4 only)
    • John Lithgow interview (Region 1 & 4 only)
    • TV Spots
    • 1 pair of 3D glasses (Region 1 only)
    • 2 pairs of 3D glasses (Region 2 & 4 only)
  • Alternate season ending
  • Behind the scenes of 3D episode
  • 3D episode bloopers
  • Booklet (not listed on cover)
  • Episodic promos (Region 2 only)
  • Best of Sally (Region 4 only)
  • (no subtitles)
Season 3 February 21, 2006[30] August 30, 2004 February 9, 2006[31]


  • 27 episodes
  • 4 discs
  • 4:3 aspect ratio
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • BBFC rating: PG
  • ACB rating: PG
  • Special features:
    • Bloopers (Region 1 & 2 only)
    • French Stewart interview (Region 1 & 2 only)
    • "Wild About Harry" – favorite Harry moments (Region 1 & 2 only)
    • Interviews with cast – The Superest 2-Part Episode Ever! (Region 1 & 2 only)
    • Audio Commentaries (Region 1 & 2 only)
    • Season Three highlights (Region 1 & 2 only)
    • TV Spots (Region 1 & 2 only)
    • 16-page booklet (Region 1 & 4 only)
  • Episodic promos (Region 2 only)
  • (no subtitles)
Season 4 May 2, 2006[32] October 25, 2004 July 5, 2006[33]


  • 24 episodes
  • 4 discs
  • 4:3 aspect ratio
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • BBFC rating: PG
  • ACB rating: PG
  • Special features:
    • Bloopers
    • Season Four highlights
    • Jane Curtin interview: Mary is Just Albright With Me (Region 1 only)
    • 16-page collectible booklet
    • Cast interviews: Kristen Johnston,
      Wayne Knight and Jane Curtin (Region 2 only)
  • Episodic promos (Region 2 only)
  • (No subtitles)
  • (No special features on Region 4)
Season 5 August 15, 2006[34] January 24, 2005 February 7, 2007[35]


  • 22 episodes
  • 4 discs
  • 4:3 aspect ratio
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • BBFC rating: PG
  • ACB rating: PG
  • Special features:
    • Bloopers
    • 16-page collectable booklet (Region 1 only)
    • Cast interviews: French Stewart,
      Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Elmarie Wendel (Region 2 only)
    • Episodic promos (Region 2 only)
  • Episodic promos (Region 2 only)
  • (No subtitles)
  • (No special features on Region 4)
Season 6 November 14, 2006[36] January 24, 2005 February 7, 2007[37]


  • 20 episodes
  • 4 discs (Region 1)
  • 2 discs (Region 2)
  • 3 discs (Region 4)
  • 4:3 aspect ratio
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • BBFC rating: 12
  • ACB rating: PG
  • Special features:
    • 3rd Rock: Six Season of Memories (Region 1 only)
    • Final episode alternate ending
    • Alternate show ending introduction (2 parts) (Region 1 only)
    • Cast interviews (Region 2 only)
    • Stills galleries (Region 2 only)
    • Episodic promos, TV spots and radio spots (Region 2 only)
  • Episodic promos (Region 2 only)
  • (No subtitles)
  • (No special features on Region 4)
Seasons 1–6 October 25, 2004[38]


  • 139 episodes
  • 18 discs
  • 4:3 aspect ratio
  • English: Dolby Digital 2.0
  • BBFC rating: 12
  • (See individual sets for special features)
  • (No subtitles)
Redistribution sets
Season Release date
Region 1
(Mill Creek)
Region 2
(Network)
Region 4
(Beyond Home)
Season 1 September 13, 2011[39] November 3, 2008 November 15, 2010[40]
Season 2 September 13, 2011[39] November 3, 2008 November 15, 2010[41]
Season 3 April 3, 2012[39] November 3, 2008 November 15, 2010[42]
Season 4 April 3, 2012[39] November 3, 2008 November 15, 2010[43]
Season 5 January 8, 2013[39] November 3, 2008 November 15, 2010[44]
Season 6 January 8, 2013[39] November 3, 2008 November 15, 2010[45]
Seasons 1–6 May 14, 2013[39] November 3, 2008 November 18, 2010[46]
8 June 2012[47]()
April 1, 2015[48]()

– denotes a reissued set
– denotes a limited edition set

Reception

Nielsen rankings

Further information: Nielsen ratings

Season TV season Rank
1 1995–1996 22[49]
2 1996–1997 28[50]
3 1997–1998 44[51]
4 1998–1999 77[52]
5 1999–2000 82[53]
6 2000–2001 89[54]

Awards and nominations

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by 3rd Rock from the Sun

John Lithgow

In 1997, 3rd Rock won the most Primetime Emmy Awards (five from eight nominations) for a television 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."[55]

Golden Globe Awards

Screen Actors Guild Awards

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 Solomons' 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".

References

  1. ^ 3rd Rock from the Sun Archived July 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine at The Program Exchange. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  2. ^ "BBC - Comedy - Guide - 3rd Rock From The Sun". January 14, 2005. Archived from the original on January 14, 2005.
  3. ^ "3rd Rock from the Sun". channel4.com. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  4. ^ "New To Netflix March 2015: Patch Adams, Mad Men, Archer". Geeks of Doom. February 28, 2015.
  5. ^ "3rd Rock from the Sun". Hulu. Archived from the original on November 21, 2011. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  6. ^ "3rd Rock From the Sun". Tubi. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  7. ^ "3rd Rock from the Sub". Crackle. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  8. ^ "3rd Rock from the Sun". Vudu. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  9. ^ 3rd Rock from the Sun, retrieved January 4, 2021
  10. ^ "3rd Rock from the Sun". Peacock. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  11. ^ "3rd Rock From the Sun". Philo. Retrieved September 8, 2023.
  12. ^ 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996) Just Watch
  13. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun: Season 1 DVD @ DVD Empire". Dvdempire.com. July 26, 2005. Retrieved December 15, 2011.
  14. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun: Season 2 DVD @ DVD Empire". Dvdempire.com. October 25, 2005. Retrieved December 15, 2011.
  15. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun: Season 3 DVD @ DVD Empire". Dvdempire.com. February 21, 2006. Retrieved December 15, 2011.
  16. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun: Season 4 DVD @ DVD Empire". Dvdempire.com. February 5, 2006. Retrieved December 15, 2011.
  17. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun: Season 5 DVD @ DVD Empire". Dvdempire.com. August 15, 2006. Retrieved December 15, 2011.
  18. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun: Season 6 DVD @ DVD Empire". Dvdempire.com. November 14, 2006. Retrieved December 15, 2011.
  19. ^ "Carsey Werner Press Release" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 28, 2013. Retrieved October 7, 2013.
  20. ^ "3rd Rock from the Sun DVD news: Announcement for 3rd Rock from the Sun – The Complete Season 1 and 3rd Rock from the Sun – The Complete Season 2". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  21. ^ "3rd Rock from the Sun DVD news: Announcement for The Complete Season 3 and The Complete Season 4". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on December 19, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  22. ^ "3rd Rock from the Sun – The Complete Season Five (Mill Creek) DVD Review – Sitcoms Online". sitcomsonline.com. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  23. ^ "3rd Rock from the Sun DVD news: Announcement for 3rd Rock from the Sun – Season 5 AND Season 6". TVShowsOnDVD.com. May 25, 2007. Archived from the original on December 13, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  24. ^ "3rd Rock from the Sun – The Complete Season Six (Mill Creek) DVD Review – Sitcoms Online". sitcomsonline.com. Retrieved November 12, 2017.
  25. ^ "3rd Rock from the Sun DVD news: Announcement for 3rd Rock from the Sun - The Complete Series - TVShowsOnDVD.com". tvshowsondvd.com. Archived from the original on March 20, 2013.
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  28. ^ "3rd Rock From the Sun Season 2". dvdtalk.com. Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  29. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun Season 2 [4 Discs] [Region 4]". fishpond.com.au. Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  30. ^ "3rd Rock from the Sun: Season 3". dvdtalk.com. Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  31. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun Season 3 [3 Discs] [Region 4]". fishpond.com.au. Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  32. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun: Season 4". dvdtalk.com. Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  33. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun Season 4 [3 Discs] [Region 4]". fishpond.com.au. Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  34. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun: Season 5". Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  35. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun Season 5 [3 Discs] [Region 4]". fishpond.com.au. Retrieved August 31, 2023.
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  37. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun Season 6 [3 Discs] [Region 4]". fishpond.com.au. Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  38. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun - Complete [DVD]". amazon.co.uk. Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  39. ^ a b c d e f g "3rd Rock from the Sun (TV Series) DVDs and Blu-rays". dvdreleasedates.com. Archived from the original on August 31, 2023. Retrieved August 21, 2023.
  40. ^ 3rd Rock From The Sun Season 1. Retrieved August 31, 2023. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  41. ^ 3rd Rock From The Sun Season 2. Retrieved August 31, 2023. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  42. ^ 3rd Rock From The Sun Season 3. Retrieved August 31, 2023. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  43. ^ 3rd Rock From The Sun Season 4. Retrieved August 31, 2023. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  44. ^ 3rd Rock From The Sun Season 5. Retrieved August 31, 2023. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  45. ^ 3rd Rock From The Sun Season 6. Retrieved August 31, 2023. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  46. ^ "3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN: COMPLETE COLLECTION". JB Hi-Fi. Archived from the original on December 24, 2010. Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  47. ^ "3rd Rock From The Sun - Complete Series (Seasons 1 - 6)". JB Hi-Fi. Archived from the original on October 22, 2012. Retrieved August 31, 2023.
  48. ^ 3rd Rock From The Sun The Complete Series Collection (Limited Release). Retrieved August 31, 2023. ((cite book)): |website= ignored (help)
  49. ^ "1995–1996 TV Ratings Archived November 9, 2009, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  50. ^ "1996–1997 TV Ratings Archived January 6, 2010, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  51. ^ "1997–1998 TV Ratings Archived May 24, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved July 25, 2008.
  52. ^ "1998–1999 TV Ratings Retrieved July 24, 2008. Archived October 22, 2009.
  53. ^ "Top TV Shows for 1999–2000 Season
  54. ^ "2000–2001 TV Ratings Retrieved July 24, 2008.
  55. ^ "Academy of Television Arts & Sciences". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Archived from the original on September 12, 2007. Retrieved September 18, 2007.