This sitcom became an opportunity for the versatile actor John Lithgow to tickle our funny bone – and he was good at it. The show featured four aliens that came to the small town of Rutherford, Ohio to explore life on Earth. After assuming human bodies, they stayed for six years, learning everything about life on the planet. The actors and the writers seemed to share a sense of humor that was pretty physical; a simple thing like a cold could turn into a half-hour of very funny slapstick. Perfectly complementing Lithgow’s performance as the mission commander were those by Jane Curtin as his girlfriend, a patient college teacher, and Wayne Knight as the rotund, by-the-book police officer Don. Amusing guest performances by William Shatner and John Cleese were always welcome.
1996-2001:U.S. Made for TV. 139 episodes. Color. Created by Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner. Cast: John Lithgow (Dick Solomon), Kristen Johnston (Sally Solomon), French Stewart (Harry Solomon), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Tommy Solomon), Jane Curtin, Wayne Knight (97-01), Simbi Khali.
Emmys: Outstanding Actor (Lithgow) 96-97, 98-99; Supporting Actress (Johnston) 96-97, 98-99. Golden Globes: Best Comedy Series 97; Actor (Lithgow) 97.
Quote: “Women, you can’t live with ‘em and you can’t have heterosexual sex without ‘em.” (Lithgow)
Last word: “I was extremely proud of ’3rd Rock’ from start to finish. I thought it was a masterpiece that never got credit for what it actually was. The writers, for example, were never nominated for anything, and it was absolutely brilliant comedy writing. It was like George S. Kaufman never getting credit for writing for the Marx brothers, because everybody thought they were zany and were making it up, and they were a bunch of comedy anarchists.” (Lithgow, A.V. Club)