Even before it became a candidate for the Seinfeld time slot, 3rd Rock From the Sun was getting a once-over from its network. NBC made a strategic mistake this season in pulling the Emmy-winning yammering-aliens sitcom from its successful Sunday berth and plunking it on Wednesdays, where Drew Carey’s yammering-working-stiffs sitcom on ABC rules 9 p.m. To give the series a boost, an hour-long 3rd Rock will air after the Super Bowl on Jan. 25, with guest stars Cindy Crawford and Angie Everhart — a babe load-up presumably designed to perk up besotted postgame football fans.
3rd Rock has lost ratings and buzz, but it’s actually gotten better. Mercifully, they’ve dropped a lot of the tiresome, aren’t-we-naughty emphasis on how John Lithgow and his alien crew cope with dating and sex. Lithgow has been particularly wacky; a recent episode in which his Dick Solomon was confined to a wheelchair found him pulling off a hilarious Franklin D. Roosevelt impersonation along with some fine, limb-threatening slapstick.
Still, I question the wisdom of plugging 3rd Rock into the Seinfeld slot: Its raucous physical humor doesn’t match the tone of the Thursday-night character-based comedy leading into ER. Whatever happens, Seinfeld’s Newman, Wayne Knight, will surely be watching the Super Bowl edition’s ratings closely; after all, with the departure of his first TV home, 3rd Rock is now part-time cast member Knight’s primary meal ticket.