3rd Rock from the Sun

Filmed in Los Angeles by Carsey-Werner Prods. Executive producers, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner, Caryn Mandabach, Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner; co-producer, Patrick Kienlen; director, James Burrows; script, Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner; camera, Ken Lamkin; editor, Vince Humphrey; production designer, Garvin Eddy; sound, Norman Webster; music, Ben Vaughn. TX:Cast: John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston, French Stewart, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jane Curtin, Simbi Khali, Elmarie Wendel, Jennifer Rhodes, David DeLuise, Marne Petterson, Ian Lithgow, Chris Hogan, Danielle Nicolet, Susan Leslie, Dan Gilvezen. Quartet of extraterrestrials land on Earth to study the civilization while passing themselves off as locals. No, it isn't "My Favorite Martian," nor -- despite the presence of Jane Curtin and writers and co-executive producers Bonnie and Terry Turner (both from "Saturday Night Live") -- is it a TV series spinoff of "Coneheads." The style and tone of "3rd Rock From the Sun," the latest sitcom from Carsey-Werner, seem more in line with Fox or UPN than NBC. The Solomon home unit is completed by Sally (Kristen Johnston), sardonic Harry (French Stewart) and teenage Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). For some reason , even though they've found a home -- Mrs. Dupeczech (Elmarie Wendel) is their landlady -- the quartet evidently assemble regularly in an automobile atop the local Lovers Lane. Aliens don't necessarily correspond to their human forms: Sally was given female form, she's told, "Because you lost." That's the approximate level of humor in the pilot, directed by James Burrows. Other jokes tend toward the risque, with the Solomon family often misinterpreting American English.

Filmed in Los Angeles by Carsey-Werner Prods. Executive producers, Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner, Caryn Mandabach, Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner; co-producer, Patrick Kienlen; director, James Burrows; script, Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner; camera, Ken Lamkin; editor, Vince Humphrey; production designer, Garvin Eddy; sound, Norman Webster; music, Ben Vaughn. TX:Cast: John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston, French Stewart, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jane Curtin, Simbi Khali, Elmarie Wendel, Jennifer Rhodes, David DeLuise, Marne Petterson, Ian Lithgow, Chris Hogan, Danielle Nicolet, Susan Leslie, Dan Gilvezen. Quartet of extraterrestrials land on Earth to study the civilization while passing themselves off as locals. No, it isn’t “My Favorite Martian,” nor — despite the presence of Jane Curtin and writers and co-executive producers Bonnie and Terry Turner (both from “Saturday Night Live”) — is it a TV series spinoff of “Coneheads.” The style and tone of “3rd Rock From the Sun,” the latest sitcom from Carsey-Werner, seem more in line with Fox or UPN than NBC. The Solomon home unit is completed by Sally (Kristen Johnston), sardonic Harry (French Stewart) and teenage Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). For some reason , even though they’ve found a home — Mrs. Dupeczech (Elmarie Wendel) is their landlady — the quartet evidently assemble regularly in an automobile atop the local Lovers Lane. Aliens don’t necessarily correspond to their human forms: Sally was given female form, she’s told, “Because you lost.” That’s the approximate level of humor in the pilot, directed by James Burrows. Other jokes tend toward the risque, with the Solomon family often misinterpreting American English.

Cast generally rises above the material, with Lithgow a sort of cross between Steve Martin and Matt Frewer, and tall, raspy-voiced Johnston a real find. Curtin is fine, but somewhat wasted as an uptight professor.

Ben Vaughn contributes the surf-rockabilly music score; bumper visuals of animated planets grow annoying quickly.

3rd Rock from the Sun

(Tues. (9), 8:30-9 p.m., NBC)

Production: John Lithgow toplines as alien who in human form is called Dick Solomon. Somehow having landed himself a teaching position at an Ohio university, he works with humans Dr. Mary Albright (Curtin) and department secretary Nina (Simbi Khali).

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