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3rd Rock From the Sun - Season 4


TITLE: 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN - SEASON 4


Info:

DVD Release Date: May 2, 2006 (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Color/1998-99
MSRP: $39.98
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 24
Running Time: 572 minutes
Total Runtime of Special Features: approx 32 minutes
Audio: English
Closed Captioned
Special Features:
*Bloopers
*Brand New Jane Curtin Interview
*TV Spots
*Season Four Highlights
*16-Page Collectible Booklet


Introduction:

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,” when it debuted. For the next five years, it remained the most wildly inventive, critically acclaimed, and flat-out hilarious show on TV. Now we get to enjoy season four of 3rd Rock from the Sun on DVD!

It’s the fourth hilarious season for TV’s favorite alien investigators as Dick Solomon (John Lithgow) and “family” – Sally (Kristen Johnston), Harry (French Stewart), Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), , Dr. Albright (Jane Curtin) and Officer Don (Wayne Knight) – discover break-ups, engagements, chain letters, the junior prom, collecting “Fuzzy Buddies,” and more. There are battles with alien hunters and IRS audits, plus new loves, family reunions, gender reassignment, one very strange birth, a Neil Diamond impersonator, and even the return of the Big Giant Head, all in the unforgettable year that fans call one of the funniest ever! This season was nominated for 7 Emmy Awards!


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

By the fourth season, the characters were well established. This allowed them to really have fun with the show. They had enough story ideas left to still make the show seem fresh, yet the show was definitely established by now. The season starts off with the hilarious episode Dr. Solomon’s Traveling Freak Show. Harry, already kidnapped, is sold to a carnival freak show, where his transmissions from the Big Giant Head are a huge hit. In Harry’s last transmission though, TBGH threatened to disconnect Dick’s brain function due to reports not being filed, and one look at Dick’s behavior in this episode clearly shows this has happened.

The next two episodes essentially follow a shared arc among both the A and B plots. In Power Mad Dick/Feelin’ Albright: Mary is promoted to Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. She moves into a much nicer office and takes Nina with her. She gets a little power-happy, and Dick starts to get perceived as “Mr. Albright”. Meanwhile, Sally starts announcing to everyone – and I DO mean everyone – that tonight’s the night she’s losing her virginity to Don. The plot continues into the 2nd episode, when Sally learns that Don has had other women in his life, and makes a huge project of tracking down ALL his ex-girlfriends Episode 4 is thrown in to randomly provide a break from the actual stories beginning to occur in the show, in which 3rd Rock spoofs the Beanie Babies craze of the late 90s. This show dated? Couldn’t be.

After that, we really start to focus on the relationships in the show – though not without that same classic 3rd Rock bent. Starting in episode 5, and running through episode 7, a new officemate moves in: Dr. Jennifer Ravelli, a visiting literature professor from Harvard. Soon thereafter, Dick finds himself in love with Dr. Ravelli…yet not breaking up with Dr. Albright. He does by episode six – and within the SAME episode realizes how foolish he was, as Dr. Ravelli’s CONSTANT rhyming is about to make him have a cow (There’s a hilarious exchange with Don near the end of the episode, right before a drunken Mary tells Dick off). By episode 7, the fix is in, and the relationship is on the road to recovery.

The next two episodes aren’t as eventful; however, the tenth episode of the season, the fourth on disc 2, is a classic. The Big Giant Head, responding to a three-year-old request, switches Sally’s body with Dick’s. Needless to say, both are freaked, and hilarity ensues. Harry immediately puts in a request for them to be returned to normal, but they’re informed they’ve been put on a waiting list.

Proving that the episodes in the show are truly timeless, episode 17, Y2Dick, is about the Y2K phenomenon. For the younger readers of this review, Y2K was a supposed glitch in computer systems that were supposed to make computers go nuts when the date hit 2000, as originally computers had only been designed with a 2-digit “date” system (IE, an older machine might recognize August 29, 1997 as 08-27-97.) This was fine at the time; however, there was a mass fear that when the computer systems got to 2000, the computers would read 01-01-00 as Jan. 1st, 1900 instead of Jan 1st, 2000, causing massive problems. The fact that you’re reading this review should tell you how that whole debacle ended. The episode ITSELF, for what it’s worth, involves Nina leaving Dick’s grade reports on the computer, and Dick not knowing how to operate a computer. This episode was just uneventful enough that I thought it deserved an explanation of Y2K instead of a longer plot summary.

The last two episodes are a two-parter, and fans of the show know what it is: Dick’s Giant Headache. Short version: Harry gets a transmission from the Big Giant Head. The mission has received a sub-standard evaluation (I know all about THOSE as of late), and the BGH is ON HIS WAY to Earth to check things out. By part II, Dick has officially lost command, and they’re close to having their entire mission cancelled.

The List Of Guest Stars:
(Note: Despite not being credited among the main cast, Elmarie Wendell and Jan Hooks are not being listed, as they appear in the VAST majority of episodes)

Laurie Metcalf (“Roseanne”): “What’s Love Got to Do, Got to do with Dick,”, “Dick Pentameter”, “D3: Judgment Day”
Larisa Oleynik (“The Secret World of Alex Mack”): Indecent Dick, Sally Forth, The House that Dick Built, Superstitious Dick, Y2dicK, Citizen Solomon, Near Dick Experience
Kurtwood Smith (“That 70s Show”): Dick Solomon of the Indiana Solomons
Christine Lakin (“Step By Step”): Dick Solomon of the Indiana Solomons
Kevin Nealon (“Saturday Night Live”): Dick the Mouth Solomon
William Shatner (“Star Trek”, “Boston Legal” [Denny Crane]): Dick’s Big Giant Headache (I and II)


Packaging:

Well, it was nice while it lasted. Apparently, Anchor Bay, having finally managed to get me a copy that actually talked for season 3 – dropped the talking box thing altogether for this season. AS a result, the box is noticeably thinner, as a good deal of extra space was being used just for the voice clip. Honestly, as I never got a talking season 1 or season 2 anyway, this is no big loss to me, but to those who liked the feature, it may be missed.

The rest of the packaging is the same old stuff to 3rd Rock fans. It’s still a 4-disk Digipak, unfolding, contained inside an outer box. The outer box features the main five cast members (Dick/Sally/Harry/Tommy/Mary) in bowling shirts, with Dick holding an Earth bowling ball. The picture used below the “special features ring” this season is easily the simplest of the four used here to-date: A picture of the five main cast members smiling towards the camera in normal clothes. Surreal.

The pictures used on the back of the unfolded Digipak, honestly, just don’t seem as good as they used to be. You’ve got, left to right (with Digipak unfolded and art side up): Tommy, looking as though he’s…well…I’m not sure. Like perhaps he’s thinking of something…or someone’s asked him something strange…I really just don’t know. Dick’s picture is probably the most normal one, as it’s the strangest. You’ve got Dick holding a book open mid-way…and he’s wearing 3D glasses. The third art panel has Sally looking like she’s, honestly, just gotten through daydreaming about something romantic. Harry appears to be standing on one leg, while wearing a fur jacket. Dr. Albright is on the last panel, with her hand at her chin, in a rather academic pose. Yeah…

Discs appear to be switched to the “nothing to do with background” concept for good. This time, there’s a random star field behind the 5 main characters (Each of the 5 on a different disc except Dick/Mary). The art behind the plastic disc holders is of space, with random various planets/etc being shown. The characters all are standing in front of different disc art, with each doing a random thing. Dick and Mary are together on Disc 1, standing with their heads next to each other, looking at each other rather lovingly (awwwwwww…..). Harry is on Disc 2, looking as though he just had an idea (out of character….) Sally is on Disc three, wearing a black dress and waving around a feathered boa. Tommy is on disc 4, just standing there. I will say that I do love how they always depict Tommy the most normally of the characters in the art. The episodes are a perfect even split. 24 episodes, 4 discs = 6 episodes per disc (IE: 1-6, 7-12, 13-18, 19-24).

There is another “book” insert with a few more excerpts from the 3rd Rock from the Sun book (The Official Report on Earth by High Commander Dick Solomon). There’s a section on human vanity, owning a car, Harry’s reasons to believe planet earth has a higher power, how to “pleasure” a human, plus a few more photos. Not the strongest material, or anything worth going into detail over.


Menu Design and Navigation:

It all been done…before. The main menu animations, while great, are essentially just the same bouncing planets used in the first three seasons’ menus, just without the cast being used anywhere in the menus. The episode selection menu is the same as the previous releases: selectable text below 4 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 to view an episode preview for each episode. Each preview runs 0:30.

There was a small change made to the audio portion of the main menus: The main theme now runs slightly longer, including a (very) brief extra piano section. Other than that, they’re the exact same. Due to the decreased amounts of special features, most specifically, the lack of commentaries, on discs 1-3 the only options are play all and episodes, while the old options list returns on disc 4. For all other info on menus, please consult the reviews for seasons 1-3, as they ARE the same menus.

For what it’s worth, they did find a fun (and new!) way to animate in the options on the main menu. The bouncing planets leave the option texts behind as they bounce by.


Video and Audio Quality:

The video quality is good. Most episodes are bright and vivid with no really apparent compression artifacts. 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. Essentially it’s the same as before. One of the problems I’ve found in reviewing multiple seasons of the same show is that, in areas such as VQ and AQ, each season tends to be the same as the one before it, so it’s hard coming up with anything original or interesting to say. VQ on the previews is good as well, while AQ stays good. Chapter stop is placed only after the end of the main credits. Better than nothing…

There were a couple of people worried that Carsey-Werner, and by proxy, Anchor Bay might revert back to syndication cuts – no, they haven’t. Though by 1998/1999, the episodes were running short enough on their own that there’s really not that much of a difference anyway.

Doctor Solomon’s Traveling Alien Show: 22:07
Power Mad Dick: 22:07
Feelin’ Albright: 22:07
Collect Call for Dick: 22:07
What’s Love Got to Do, Got to Do with Dick?: 22:07
I Am Dick Pentameter! 22:07
D3: Judgment Day: 22:06
Indecent Dick: 22:07
Happy New Dick: 22:07
Two-Faced Dick: 22:07
Dick Solomon of the Indiana Solomons: 22:07
Dick and Taxes: 22:07
Sally Forth: 22:06
Paranoid Dick: 22:07
The House that Dick Built: 22:07
Superstitious Dick: 22:07
Y2dicK: 22:07
Dick “The Mouth” Solomon: 22:07
Citizen Solomon: 22:05
Alien Hunter: 22:06
Dick v. Strudwick: 22:06
Near Dick Experience: 22:07
Big Giant Headache (I): 22:06
Big Giant Headache (II): 22:06


Special Features:

Season Four Highlights: The funnier moments of season four condensed into 11 minutes and 7 seconds.

Jane Curtin Interview: Runs a mere 7:19, interspersed with clips. The interview appears to have been shot during the series’ run, as the interview takes place on-set, and Jane refers to the show in the present tense. The extras in the clips are, as always, blurred out.

Previews: I’m adding this back into the special feature total. 30 second average (some above, some below). 30 seconds times 24 episodes = 12 minutes.

Bloopers: 4:50 worth of bloopers. Over 50% less bloopers than last time. Did less just survive the cutting room floor this time?

Runtime of Special Features: Roughly 32 Minutes


Final Comments:

Where have all the features gone? The cast interviews/footage seems to have been halved, and commentaries have completely disappeared. It’s a sad reduction, as the first three seasons were all well received, even despite syndication cuts on 1 and 2, in large part due to the volume of features initially. I understand, 4 seasons in, you begin to run out of material. Still, something had to be available.

In an attempt to keep this review from becoming any more of a marathon, I’ll keep my comments regarding the next set short and concise. More special features, including the return of commentary tracks, would definitely be nice. In addition, any footage that Carsey-Werner has seen fit to hand over to Anchor Bay that they’ve been holding out on: It’s getting time to use it. In addition, PLEASE, put in chapter stops at the start of each scene (IE: Fade to black) Still, it’s a hilarious show, and there are definitely enough features to justify the purchase, episodes themselves aside. The shows themselves look good, sound good, and are uncut. Summary: Recommended.


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

Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 3/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 05/04/06

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

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000EQHXIC/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20

Questions or comments about this set? Post on our message board:

http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=171544


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