Case Number 09314

3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN: SEASON FOUR

Anchor Bay // 1998 // 572 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // May 24th, 2006

The Charge

Has the chart-topping aliens-from-another-world sitcom been reduced to nothing more than a cheap circus of shameless exploitation? Ask Harry.

Opening Statement

The aliens' tenure on Earth continues but they may finally be exposed for who (or what) they really are. Harry ,feeling unwanted and unneeded by the rest of the crew, has run off to join the circus, and he may blow the troupe's cover when he makes contact with the Big Giant Head in front of the curious sideshow onlookers.

Facts of the Case

In their fourth year on our planet, the intergalactic observers continue to study humankind and all that goes with it. As they learned previously, though, their quest to truly fit in, thereby making their mission more substantive, has resulted in their developing of relationships with the lesser humans. So High Commander Dick Solomon (John Lithgow, The World According to Garp) is firmly entrenched in an all-too-human hot and cold relationship with university cohort Mary Albright (Jane Curtin, Coneheads). Weapons Officer Sally Solomon (Kristen Johnston, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) is smitten by the portly yet somehow alluring police officer Don Orville (Wayne Knight, Jurassic Park). Information Officer Tommy Solomon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mysterious Skin) has successfully untangled himself from a previous relationship with the domineering August, only to become as quickly involved with the sweeter Alissa (Larisa Oleynik, Bringing Rain), daughter of Dick's university nemesis, Dr. Vincent Strudwick (Ron West). And Communicator Harry Solomon (French Stewart, Clockstoppers) still roams free, unencumbered by Earthly good sense and judgment.

Yep, these manic misfits from another world are still trying to figure out humans while trying to manage their own foreign emotions as they get caught up in everything that comes with human frailty. It's more of the same in this fourth season of 3rd Rock from the Sun.

The Evidence

The winning formula of extreme comedy and over-the-top performances is maintained in this fourth season of the show. Tightly written and exuberantly performed, the show packs the same sort of high-energy laughs that had helped make the show a surprise hit from the first episode. In this fourth season, however, the proceedings start off a bit forced. Upon completing the cliffhanger from the Season 3 finale (Harry joining the circus), the subsequent scripts took on an air of even more overt humor, often straying beyond the line of what could have been considered "vaudevillian slapstick." To that end, much of the humor of the first five or six episodes here seems a little too energetic and the live audience responses seem a bit coerced, too. Finally, though, the writers and actors seem to settle back into their slightly more subtle ways and the show cruises once again to deliver top-notch comedy in a tidy 30-minute excursion.

In this 3rd Rock from the Sun: Season 4 boxed set, Anchor Bay Entertainment delivers the following 24 episodes across four single-sided discs:

Disc One:
• "Dr. Solomon's Traveling Alien Show"
• "Power Mad Dick"
• "Feelin' Albright"
• "Collect Call for Dick"
• "What's Love Got to Do, Got to Do with Dick?"
• "I Am Dick Pentameter!"

Disc Two:
• "DIII: Judgment Day"
• "Indecent Dick"
• "Happy New Dick!"
• "Two-Faced Dick"
• "Dick Solomon of the Indiana Solomons"
• "Dick and Taxes"

Disc Three:
• "Sally Forth"
• "Paranoid Dick"
• "The House that Dick Built"
• "Superstitious Dick"
• "Y2dicK"
• "Dick 'The Mouth' Solomon

Disc Four:
• "Citizen Solomon"
• "Alien Hunter"
• "Dick v. Strudwick"
• "Near Dick Experience"
• "Dick's Giant Headache -- Part I
• "Dick's Giant Headache -- Part II

Each episode is presented in a 1.33:1 full frame format as originally televised. The color is vivid, as with previous season releases, and the detail is sharp. There is the occasional moiré effect (largely due to the suit jackets worn by Dick) but, overall, the transfer quality clean, stable, and generally artifact free. The audio is a recreation of the original Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix and it sounds great, as expected.

The extras on this set are of the usual sort, the same we've seen for the past three releases. Not that there's anything bad with remaining consistent but, with this set, the formula is getting a bit stretched, as evidenced by the arguably diluted quality of the features. The blooper reel is fun, but at just four minutes it seems a bit trim considering how much material like this must surely be available and that previous seasons offered up to 10 minutes of these outtakes. Then there's a brief 7-minute interview with Jane Curtin, "Mary is Just Albright with Me," which is fun but contains too many show clips to truly be regarded as a legitimate interview. As with previous releases, this set also contains the unneeded "Season Highlights" feature as well as the NBC promos that precede each show. The 16-page booklet is colorful but doesn't contain much in the way of informative insight.
Oh, and for some reason, Anchor Bay decided to eliminate the slipcase-embedded talking chip this time around. It's not a big deal, really, since these typically result in a mauling of the outer case to make the damned thing work.

Still no audio commentaries? What's up with that?

The Rebuttal Witnesses

The package once again proclaims this release to contain "24 uncut episodes," yet following the debacle of Anchor Bay having released syndicated versions for Seasons One through Three, the jury's still out here. While Season Two episodes clocked in at a trimmed 21:50 each, the Season Four episodes here only reach the 22:05 mark. Although the original airings weren't available for cross-comparison, it still appears that the only thing here that's "uncut" is that the original syndication versions have been presented in their entirety. Tsk-tsk.

Closing Statement

3rd Rock from the Sun continues to be a truly funny show, several years after its final televised broadcast. By Season Four, however, the jokes ran a bit thin at times but, overall, it continues to pack a punch that's sure to make you laugh out loud.

The Verdict

The cast and crew are again commended for their excellent work yet folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment and Carsey-Warner Distribution are now deemed "hostile witnesses," still not providing clarity to the cut-or-uncut nature of these episodes. That doesn't rest well in this particular courtroom.

Court adjourned!

Review content copyright © 2006 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 91
Audio: 95
Extras: 81
Acting: 95
Story: 93
Judgment: 93

Perp Profile
Studio: Anchor Bay
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 572 Minutes
Release Year: 1998
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Bloopers
* Season Highlights
* Jane Curtin Interview
* Episode Promo Spots
* Sixteen Page Booklet

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0115082/combined

* Season One Review
http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/3rdrockseason1.php

* Season Two Review
http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/3rdrockseason2.php

* Season Three Review
http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/3rdrockseason3.php