I was never a fan of The Coneheads. Although its premise of an alien family living on Earth was interesting, I never found Dan Ackroyd to be funny as sacrilegious as that may sound to many of you. When I first heard about 3rd Rock From the Sun, the show reminded me too much of The Coneheads and casting Jane Curtin (who played Ackroyd’s wife in Coneheads) didn’t help dispel any reservations I had about the show. I was intrigued by the casting of John Lithgow, who has never failed to impress me no matter what genre he plays in, but he wasn’t enough to get me to care enough to watch the show. Consequently, I skipped the show’s entire run…until now. What a great show! I can now see why 3rd Rock From the Sun garnered so many nominations and award wins over the years. Unlike the majority of TV sitcoms, which assume the typical viewer has no intelligence, 3rd Rock is surprisingly witty and smartly engaging. Sure, its humor is easily accessible to general audiences, but not so much that it appeals only to the most basest level of comedy.

3rd Rock From the Sun is about a group of aliens (John Lithgow, French Stewart, Kristen Johnston, and Gordon Joseph-Levitt) who have been assigned to live on Earth (Ohio to be exact) and learn its ways. To better learn how humans live, the aliens decide to take on family roles. Lithgow becomes the patriarch, taking a job as a physics professor at a local college. Johnston plays Lithgow’s sister who is assigned to learn how to be a woman. Stewart is the strange younger brother of Lithgow and he pretty much does nothing but sit at home all day. Gordon-Levitt is Lithgow’s young son (but in his alien form he is the oldest of them all).

The premise of the sitcom serves as a launching pad for the exploration of various facets of our society. The aliens’ unfamiliarity and child-like wonder of the world provides not only for hilarious set-ups, but it questions many of our assumptions on what is and what is not acceptable in society. This is most extensively explored in Lithgow’s romantic obsession with one of his colleagues (Jane Curtin), an anthropology professor. Ironically, one would think that an anthropology professor would be fascinated by an alien’s newfound discovery of the human race. However, Curtin (and every other human) is totally unaware that Lithgow and his “family” are really aliens. She simply sees Lithgow as a very weird individual.

I’ve seen John Lithgow in many films and he’s been amazing in all of them (notably in Shrek, Cliffhanger, and Terms of Endearment), but I believe his work in 3rd Rock is his absolute best. Its not surprising that Lithgow won 3 Emmys and was nominated for all 6 years the show was on the air. Watching him perform on this show is like watching some of the greatest actors who have ever lived act on your screen every week. Anyone who watched this show should feel fortunate to have had the privilege to see an actor like Lithgow work at his peak every week and for free!

Of course, lets not forget the rest of the cast, which absolutely shines here. Most notably is Kristen Johnston, who is extremely funny. I have not seen her in anything else and my question is WHY NOT??? How many actresses today look as attractive as she does AND have the comedy skills that she has? I would say not very many and I can’t really think of any off the top of my head. French Stewart, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jane Curtin also provide great talent to this show and it gets me thinking of how much a television show’s success depends on getting just the perfect blend of actors. Each actor dominates his or her given space on the show.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed 3rd Rock From the Sun. For a brief moment, I suspected that perhaps my enjoyment of the show was because I don’t watch much television so any decent TV show would amount to excellence for me. However, I don’t think thats the case and the multitude of awards the show has earned is evidence of that.