Saturday, 15 June 2013

Favourite Film and TV Characters: Dick Solomon

My interest in Television has steady decreased over the last few years. Whether this is due to a lack of time, or a lack of interest is somehow unclear . Many would actually argue that some of the all-time best TV series currently grace our screens e.g. Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. However if I were to create a “Top 10 Favourite TV Shows” list then 3rd Rock From The Sun would undoubtably be on it. Growing up, my exposure to sitcoms or just comedy itself was still in the capable hands of The Simpsons, Black Adder and my feeble understanding of Frasier. 3rd Rock From The Sun was one of those shows that managed to build itself on simplicity and a creative angle that justified the over-the-top nature of its characters. Instead of your typical bunch of friends, a gay couple or a cuuuuu-razy family, the show centred on a team of alien researchers that land on Earth. Sure it took the same methodology and principles as many others sitcoms, but it’s the cast of extremely charismatic and memorable performances that perpetuates this over many of its rivals. Whether it's a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt or a clumsy, romantic Wayne Knight, there was a wealth of personalities that blurred the behavioural lines between the extraterrestrials and genuine humans. My personal favourite is Dick Solomon. 

Dick Solomon, played by John Lithgow, is the High Commander of the alien research team. Thrust into a new body and into a new world, he soon becomes Professor of Physics at Pendelton State University. Lithgow has never truly made it as a “big name” within the industry. True his involvement in Shrek and recently Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dexter have seen him return to the limelight, but his role as Dick clearly showed his varied and charismatic charm, which particularly stand out. As a youngster my favourite comedians tended to centre on the physical dynamic of comedy i.e. Jim Carey or Rowan Atkinson, rather than the slick talking or witty banter of the likes of Frasier Crane or Jerry Seinfield. Lithgow’s character offered a step into a slightly more matured sense of the genre. He maintained the over-the-top movements, body language and reactions, but had the capacity to deliver the sophisticated and clever elements of the script. His comic timing was sublime, and his general delivery managed to portray the bizarre nature of his character. 

Being an alien, Dick’s perceptions of the world are based on the childlike sense of wonder and discovery that humanity experiences. He constantly wants more of the world’s “positive” notions and sensations, whether that be the feeling of “sharing” or the delights of baked goods. This great blend of infantile personality coupled with his older exterior, prove to form a highly likeable and accessible character. At the age of about 8/9 at the time, my understanding of certain episodes themes or subject matter never materialised further than Dick’s constant screaming, similar to my attachment to Homer Simpson. As I’ve grown up, his character has developed into a more understandable and even more humorous presence. Underneath his mugging and general over reaction lay a changing personality that was being exposed to different individuals and concepts, that I myself was similarly undergoing. In that respect and in a slightly weird way, I connected with Dick and the rest of the “family”’s various characters. That’s not to say I’m some sort of extraterrestrial.

Looking at it now as a “young adult”, Dick still remains engrossing and hilarious. None of that early charm has been lost, instead its been further enhanced by my now mature comprehension of the writing. What I admire Dick for is his confounded look at everything, and his weird mannerisms. He is  highly intelligent and eloquently spoken individual that even Einstein would be jealous of, yet he doesn't understand the concept of a tissue box. In the end, whether it’s him beating a printer with its own toner cartridge, or the sheer panic and fear at the sight of jelly, there’s something simple and funny in watching him do and react to everyday, mundane activities. His lovey-dubby, juvenile relationship with Mary Albright is an undoubtably cringeworthy affair, yet is one that remains charming throughout the predictable ups and downs. As a professor, his interactions with his class are absolutely hysterical. He frequently belittles them with his expansive knowledge of the Universe, and lectures them on his sexual experiences and his latest forays into human life. His entire “development” as a character throughout the show’s 6 season spread is thorough, but never detracts from our immediate and initial attachment to him. 

Whenever I talk about Dick Solomon, or 3rd Rock from the Sun for that matter, it saddens me to hear that many haven’t watched or heard of the series. Those that have, tend to criticise the over-the-top nature of the show. But how is that different to the likes of Friends or Frasier? Whatever the case, Dick Solomon is inarguably one of my favourite characters to grace the screen. From his joyous laugh, to the sheer look of amazement as he discovers the simplest of things, Dick is a loveable and charming individual. John Lithgow’s performance is simply hilarious and consequently landed him 6 Emmy Awards through the course of the 6 series. In the end, I love this show and I love him as a character. And “By-god...I’m gorgeous!” is a catchphrase that rarely gets old.

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