NBC is known historically for having some of the best programming on tv during the latter half of the twentieth century. And much like Nickelodeon had its heydey during the 1990’s NBC also had its real heydey during that decade. It ran strong on the shoulders of its Must See TV Thursday lineup. Its Thursday lineup included major hits such as: ER, Frasier, Seinfeld, and Friends. The early 90’s on NBC also saw two other long time staples begin to wind down in The Cosby Show and Cheers. By the latter half of the 90’s, NBC’s Thursday night lineup was visibly shaky. Luckily, NBC did have one more trick up its sleeve with a little show that wasn’t in its Thursday lineup. That show was the ensemble comedy, 3rd Rock From The Sun.
3rd Rock From The Sun ran a total of six seasons on NBC. It aired from 1996 – 2001. There’s no argument that despite not being on the “Peacock Network’s” Thursday lineup, it was one of the most solid of the network’s shows in the latter half of the 90’s. It really helped to ease NBC into the new millenium. That’s because unlike most of its Thursday lineup, 3rd Rock From The Sun really appealed to a wide range of viewers. It was a show that the entire family could really enjoy. Having veterans John Lithgow and Jane Curtin leading the cast only served to make the show even funnier. Now, thanks to Mill Creek Entertainment, that classic hit show is seeing the light of day once again. The third and fourth seasons were released on dvd last month. And the laughs come just as fast in these two seasons as in the show’s first two seasons.
Season Three opens with Tommy, Sally, and Harry returning to Earth after the second season’s finale. Season two ended with Harry, Tommy and Sally returning to their home planet after experiencing dreams. Their dreams made them think that their brains were decomposing. While they’re gone, Dick stays behind and plans his wedding with Mary. When the trio return, they’re not alone. They bring along a fellow alien named Janet, who is played by guest star Roseanne. They tell Dick that Janet is his new wife, to which Dick obviously freaks out. He freaks out not just because it throws a wrench in the works for his impending wedding with Mary. It’s also because Janet is the niece of the Big Giant Head (William Shatner). They tell Dick that if he gets rid of her, the Big Giant Head could get rid of them, literally. This leads Dick to figure out any way that he can to make Janet want to leave. Classic movie buffs will love the reference to A Streetcar Named Desire in one of Dick’s plans. Needless to say, Janet ends up ruining things for Dick and Mary. She thinks he’s been lying to her all along, and calls off the wedding. Luckily, it does all end with a good laugh.
Also in Season Three, the Solomon’s (specifically Sally) learn about pregnancy after Sally goes to the gynecologist in the episode, “Pickles and Ice Cream.” Sally meets a group of expectant mothers after leaving the exam room. The moment in which she leaves the exam room is funny in itself. When all the mothers start to talk about their pregnancies, it makes Sally jealous. So she pretends to be pregnant. This leads to all kinds of laughs. It ties in to the episode’s secondary story. The episode’s secondary story has Harry’s pet, Pickles, returning to the family. There’s just one problem. Pickles is in human form. Pickles ties in to Sally’s pretend pregnancy because when Sally’s boyfriend, Don (Wayne Knight) finds out about her being allegedly pregnant through Dick, he thinks Pickles is the dad, not knowing Pickles isn’t human. So when Sally returns home at the episode’s end, Don tells her that he wants to be the father of Sally’s baby. That’s when she reveals that she’d been pretending all along. Of course, for all the laughs, this episode does have its heartwarming moment. Sally actually sees another woman giving birth. She admits she wouldn’t mind having a child. She’s just afraid she won’t be good enough because of the amount of time and dedication. She says something that rings true for every expecting couple. A baby is forever. It shows that even female aliens have a certain motherly instinct.
Sally learns about pregnancy and motherhood in Season Three. She also learns about the ins and outs of love. In “Sally and Don’s First Kiss”, Don confronts Sally about why in the amount of time they’ve dated, they haven’t kissed yet. So Sally starts reading romance novels to try and come up with the perfect scenario for their first kiss. But when what she reads doesn’t work out in reality, she nearly breaks up with Don, until he takes charge of the situation. That ignites the spark that they both need for romance. While all this is going on, Dick is having to deal with a hateful lunchlady who is charging him for crackers every day during his lunch. That is until Mary explains that he needs to take control of his situation. And Tommy teaches Harry how to pass the test for his G.E.D. using random choice instead of studying. Weirdly enough, that advice works. This storyline ties in to Sally’s story, albeit very briefly. That’s part of what makes this such a great episode. Far too often, tv shows try to interweave too many storylines into an episode/episodes, thus bogging down said episode(s). This episode of 3rd Rock is an example to students of the media arts of episode writing done right. While there are three entirely separate storylines here, they all work perfectly independently, making for lots of laughs from start to finish.
3rd Rock From The Sun was a great show when it originally aired on NBC. Its writers had a wonderful grip of comedy. For that matter, their writing gave the show a certain kind of heart, too. That combination of heart and comedy made all six seasons of this show a hit. And Season Three was just one part of the whole that made the show so great, as evidenced in the episodes listed. Whether for those episodes, or any others not listed here, Season Three of 3rd Rock From The Sun is one more wonderful addition to the library of any fan of true worthwhile television.