3rd Rock From The Sun Is Underappreciated

I have a bad Netflix obsession. I binge-watch shows like crazy. Some people read before bed. Some people listen to music. I watch Netflix on my phone. Some nights I only last ten minutes before I need to sleep, and some nights I’ll stick it out for a couple episodes of whatever I’m currently on. Suffice it to say that I’m a professional at this.

I don’t even want to know how many shows I’ve watched front-to-back in this fashion. 30 Rock, That ’70s Show, Parks & Rec, House of Cards, The League, Friends, Arrested Development, Freaks and Geeks, Breaking Bad (twice), etc. There are honestly more than that, but I’m starting to feel ashamed.

Anyway, I recently finished my latest show and was looking for something new. That’s when I noticed 3rd Rock from the Sun is on Netflix. 3rd Rock ran for six seasons starting in 1996, which means I was eight years old when the show aired its finale in May 2001. I have very vague memories of seeing this on TV as a kid, and I remember a few years ago when I first realized that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the long-haired kid I nearly died from mind-blown syndrome.

Full disclosure: I’ve only made it through a couple seasons so far (no spoilers!), so I can’t vouch for how this thing will end. But I can say that this show is great. It’s no Breaking Bad, but that’s not the point.

The very nature of the show lends itself to some sneaky-smart plots. The main characters are aliens, sent to earth disguised as humans to gather information on our species. Because of this, the show is an exploration of the human condition and American culture. It’s slightly buried within some — occasionally crass — comedy, but it’s certainly there. Its handling of social and political issues (without being too heavy-handed or preachy) has made 3rd Rock age very well. I don’t think this would seem out of place on TV today.

Not many shows from the ’90s were exploring issues like racism, sexism, masculinity, or the American family in ways like this, especially not on broadcast networks like NBC.

The plot and themes are great, but it’s the acting that makes all this work. John Lithgow shines as Dick Solomon, and Kristen Johnston is pretty much flawless as Sally. Both won multiple Emmy Awards for their roles. Then you have French Stewart playing Harry, who essentially functions as the show’s Cosmo Kramer. Rounding out the Solomon family is Tommy, played by a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is already flexing the acting chops we see today. Overall, the show won eight Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes. It’s not like the show was ignored in its time, I just feel like it’s being ignored now.

I can’t figure out why people aren’t watching this show. To be honest, Netflix staples like Friends and That ’70s Show are not that great. I love them as much as the next guy, but they’re fairly ordinary shows that get by on likable characters and heaps of nostalgia.

People are missing the boat on this. 3rd Rock from the Sun is too good to be ignored and too lovable to be slept on.