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3rd Rock From the Sun - Season 1


TITLE: 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN - SEASON 1


Info:

DVD Release Date: July 26, 2005 (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Color/1996
MSRP: $39.98
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 20
Running Time: 442 Minutes
Total Runtime of Special Features: Approximately 74 Minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning:
Special Features:
Blooper Reel
3rd Rock: Behind the Scenes
Interviews with John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston, French Stewart, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jane Curtin, Simbi Khali, Elmarie Wendel, and Wayne Knight
Season One Highlights
Original NBC TV Previews
“A Guide to Living on Earth” collectible booklet
Teleplays to 4 episodes (DVD-ROM only)


Introduction:

When it debuted as a mid-season replacement in 1996, The New York Daily News instantly called 3rd Rock from the Sun “by a long shot, the funniest, most original, best written, and best produced new comedy of the season”. For the next five years, it remained the most wildly inventive, critically acclaimed, and flat-out hilarious show on TV. Now, the first season of 3rd Rock from the Sun is on DVD!

It all begins here, with these 20 full-length episodes of alien insight in insanely human form. Join High Commander Dr. Dick Solomon (three-time Emmy winner John Lithgow), his Lieutenant trapped in a woman’s body Sally (two-time Emmy winner Kristen Johnston), senior office-turned-hormonal teen Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the supremely squinty Harry (French Stewart), and Dick’s beloved Dr. Albright (Jane Curtin) in this award winning certified-classic, unforgettable first season.


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

The pilot’s a classic, as are…well…every episode in the season. You really can’t go wrong. Some guest stars to look out for: The first guest star is in episode two…and is none other than Martha Stewart, playing herself – curing Harry with her apple cobbler. Ed Begley Jr., in episode 6, plays Dr. Albright’s old boyfriend back in town. The one and only Phil Hartman, still with NewsRadio at the time, guests in the next show as the character Philip. , Bronson Pinchot – best remembered as Balki from Perfect Strangers, guests in episode 9 as Dr. Albright’s brother, who claims he was abducted by aliens. Finally, Naomi Judd guest stars in episode 18 as the Ms. Randall character.


Packaging:

The packaging is your standard 4-disc Digipak…sort of. Pressing a certain spot on the front cover of the box results in the box actually talking. (Tidbit: the mechanism is hidden in a compartment behind the cover, resulting in the packaging being thicker than normal). Unfortunately, something happened in transit to the copy I received for review, and the sound didn’t work – however, it should work on all retail copies.

The front cover features the main cast looking through a telescope in front of a reflective space background, with the 3rd Rock logo at the top. Reverse cover has the introduction on the top, while, underneath a “ring”, the cast (in bowling garb) holds an Earth bowling ball. The artwork for the disc holder is interestingly done too – rather than rehashing the cover art, etc. – each of the five reverse panels (the side opposite the disc holders) has an individual photo of a different character. The artwork on the other side, immediately behind the disc holders, is a generic animated space background. Inside the sleeve in the disc holder is an insert ad for Roseanne and 3rd Rock season ones (why advertise 3rd Rock inside a 3rd Rock set?), as well as Game Over: The Complete Series. The standard information booklet that accompanies nearly all TV DVD sets got a bit of a reconception for this set. The booklet, which uses a lot of the humor 3rd Rock is famous for, is themed “A Guide to Living on Earth”.

The first section is "Let's Pick a Body Type"...with nouns describing various people-types (They have fun with some of them, for example: hunk...goddess.....troll...crone...ancient....legal...doughy...gelatinous...bearlike....They list Floridian and Presbyterian under Race/Nationality...some of the "Description" list is class...

They even work in an, in my opinion, EXCELLENT joke in the introduction…this is verbatim from the booklet: The truly great thing about the human race is that, despite all of their differences, everyone on the planet is equal...except when it comes to sex, race, color, creed, national origin, age, height, weight, physical impairments, hair color, intelligence, muscularity, breast size, odor, speech pattern, education, wealth, charisma, breeding, manner, tendency to sweat, and looks. These are the only exceptions.

The entire booklet continues along this path – it’s easily THE most interesting booklet I’ve ever seen with a TV DVD release…normally I just glance over these, but this one I honestly read top to bottom. Great job by Anchor Bay.

The discs themselves are designed like planets…the first planet is black with light gas clouds, and contains the first six episodes. The 2nd planetary disc, essentially a Mars clone, contains episodes 7-12. Disc 3, a Pluto-like planet, contains episodes 13-18. The fourth disc, a green planet, contains the last two episodes and the special features.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus are spectacular. All four menus feature the same style. Animation, in the same style as the 3rd Rock opening titles, plays for however long the main menu goes on. Various planets, plus the cast in the Rambler, go by. The opening theme plays throughout. The episode selection menus are standard text – in the show title font – beneath two planets. Clicking the episode title presents you with a screen with info about the episode – the episode synopsis, a photo for the episode, as well as two Play options…you can either play the episode…or choose “preview”, which will play the NBC-aired episode preview for each episode. Each preview runs :30.


Video and Audio Quality:

The video quality is fairly good. Most episodes are bright and vivid with minimal compression. Some of the later episodes appear slightly faded, but still look good. Audio is your basic 2.0 English. The sound is spread evenly among both channels. The audio is loud and clear – there are no detectable muffled spots. Overall, while not amazing video/audio, it’s not problematic. I did notice something that gives me pause: The theme uses the shortened intro (doesn’t have the James Earl Jones “this is the story of four such explorers/they had an extra seat” voiceover – it goes straight into the music). – shortened intros are usually a sign on syndication cuts, but the episodes run 22:00; which seems about right for a show from 1996. Unfortunately, I never recorded the show in original broadcast or syndication, so I have nothing for comparison. It’s also possible that James didn’t clear his voiceover at the start of the show. One other thing – the episodes DO NOT have chapter stops, at ALL.


Special Features:

3rd Rock: Behind the Scenes (2:25). Various clips edited together to an extended/looped version of the show theme music. Includes various clips from episode runthroughs, episode production, and in front of the greenscreen.

John Lithgow Interview (9:49). An interview with John Lithgow (Dick), shot during the show’s run, in which he discusses various elements of the show, such as why viewers relate to the show’s humor, plus his favorite part of the creative process, what attracted him to the role of Dick Solomon, how doing a sitcom differs from theatre (John claims they’re quite similar), his favorite episode, and quite a bit more.

Kristen Johnston Interview (9:24). An interview with Kirsten Johnston (Sally), also shot during the show’s run, in which she talks about her character, the appeal of the show, HER favorite part of the creative process, and other questions. Several questions are more or less the same thing asked to John. Also asked is a question about Sally’s perfect mate, how the show gets away with its over-the-top humor, and the most outrageous thing Sally has ever done.

French Stewart Interview (7:18). As with the other interviews, there’s the standard questions (character info, favorite part of the process, favorite episode), plus some rather unique questions about the Harry character (Harry’s purpose, his rather unique luck with women, etc)…and a question about the improv factor of the show (the show starts with one script, and block by block gets changed out). One striking thing in the interview is how much slower and deeper French’s voice sounds compared to on the show – something French actually mentions in a question near the end.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Interview (4:47). Essentially the interview is just the same thing asked to everyone else – there wasn’t that much unique content in his interview.

Jane Curtin Interview (6:15). More of the same (What attracter her to the role, favorite episode, etc…), plus a couple of interesting questions asked (such as if Dr. Albright ever thinks that maybe SHE’S the crazy one, and why Mary remains with Dick)

Simbi Khali Interview (5:07). More of the same, plus her response on Nina’s relationship with Dick, and what her fans like most about Nina.

Elmarie Wendel Interview (4:35). Same questions. Elmarie talks about her character being a catalyst for the characters at time. One interesting one – whether Ms. Dubcek suspects the tenants of being aliens.

Wayne Knight Interview (6:28). One final time, the same questions. Emphasized here is the relationship between Don and Sally.

Season One Highlights (10:27) The funniest parts in the first season edited together in a clip montage. At the end was a graphic saying to be on the lookout for future seasons of 3rd Rock on DVD – assuming Anchor Bay keeps their word, I for one can’t wait.

Bloopers (6:46): If you think the episodes themselves are funny – the bloopers are classic – John had a LOT of trouble with the Turkish nipple armor line. One thing that’s fascinating, at least to me, to see is that all the bloopers have timecodes, and next to each timecode is a marker showing the current camera being used (1 is A, 2 is B, 3 is C…while 4 is X)

Teleplays *DVD-ROM ONLY* (N/T): Included for those of you viewing the features with a computer are the full scripts/stage directions/etc for the episodes “Brains and Eggs”, “Dick is from Mars, Sally is from Venus”, “Dick Like Me”, and “See Dick Run”. They can be accessed by loading the fourth disc into your computer’s DVD-ROM drive, choosing “Open” From the right-click menu (assuming auto-play isn’t disabled), and clicking “teleplays.html” This is a real treat for those curious in seeing a full script of a TV show but don’t have the time nor patience to look on eBay.


Final Comments:

Having the privilege to see this show on DVD again (I’ve missed the scattered cable reruns, and my affiliates stopped syndicating the show about a year ago) reminded me of just how much I love this show. The humor is of a caliber that is unmatched by most shows – a perfect blend of nutty slapstick and high-level satire. Virtually the entire principal cast cited Monty Python as a source, and it does show. The show is EASILY one of the best sitcoms of the 90s.

There are really only two flaws with the set…assuming that the shortened intros AREN’T a result of syndication prints. First is the video fade on some of the later episodes. I’m not sure what caused it, but the problem needs to be addressed before Season 2’s release. Also, it might’ve been nice to see some commentary tracks. Jane Curtin, in the interview (taped during 3rd Rock’s run), went so far as to say that she’ll do something if it’s fun, and I have no doubt she’d enjoy doing commentary on these episodes…particularly if done with other cast members.

I honestly recommend this set to anyone who’s a fan of virtually any form of comedy. The show, particularly in the early seasons, hit all it’s comedic marks, and is a genuine treat to behold. I can’t wait for season two.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 5/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 07/09/05

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0007WQGVI/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20


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