Accidental Misnaming: Tommy's early-season girlfriend August did not take well to being called "Augie".
Accidental Pervert: In "Shall We Dick", Alissa accidentally walked in on Don changing for the dance, and Sally assumed she did it on purpose to get a peek at Don's goods.
Acronym Confusion: In "The Loud Solomon Family: A Dickumentary", Dick took Harry to what he thought was an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting, where he forced Harry to admit he was an alcoholic. The woman behind the counter then corrected him: "This is Triple A (AAA)."
In "Y2Dick", Sally, Tommy, and Harry are about to buy a DVD player. They don't quite know what it stands for; they guess "Digital video..... dynamite."
He redid his entire anti-music speech from Footloose resulting in giant amounts of hilarity.
His first time riding in a plane, Dick panics after seeing "something on the wing." Mary informs him that that's the engine.
Double Allusion: When the Big Giant Head (William Shatner) visits Earth, upon disembarking from a plane, he tells Dick that he had to be sedated (with something wonderful called "alcohol") after also seeing "something on the wing." Dick exclaims, "Same thing happened to me!" The character Lithgow played in The Movie was portrayed in the original Twilight Zone episode by Shatner.
The tie-in book 3rd Rock from the Sun: The Official Report (written as the report of the Solomons stay on Earth) features a foreword by John Lithgow with a post-it note attached "written" by Dick Solomon claiming he doesn't know why the foreword is there and referring to Lithgow as an Earth actor who appeared in "some helicopter movie".
Roseanne Barr plays the Big Giant Head's niece, Janet, who was supposed to be Dick's wife. At first, she's totally devoted to being a good wife, and enjoys cooking and cleaning. Then Dick finds out that she was under the belief that she "had" to love him since she was his wife and those were "the rules". Dick informs her that there are no rules to marriage and she's free to be with whoever she wants. Janet then drops everything and reveals that she really hates cooking, cleaning, being with Dick, and his family, and then decides to explore the world. Up until Janet's declaration of her hatred of being a housewife, Roseanne's role was an inversion to her former glory as Roseanne Connor from Roseanne. Upon admitting how she really felt it turned into a shout out to her former role.
Dick re-enacts Shirly Maclaine's "give my daughter the shot" scene from Terms Of Endearment, a movie Lithgow was in.
Actor Existence Failure: Season three ended with a Cliff Hanger in which Harry had been kidnapped by Vicki's old boyfriend Randy. Phil Hartman, who played Randy, was dead by the time the show resumed for the next season, so the storyline had to be resolved without him. Randy gets a Karma Houdini as a result.
All Just a Dream: Occurs frequently in "Rutherford Beauty", as Dick has erotic daydreams about Nina.
Almost Kiss: Sally and Don, numerous times. This is lampshaded by Don when he tells Sally that they've been dating for almost two years and haven't kissed.
An early example occurred in "Frozen Dick" when Sally and Leon's kiss is interrupted by the lights coming back on. Sally's overjoyed that they don't have to mate to perpetuate the species. Leon is less than thrilled by this news.
Alternate Reality Episode: The two-parter "Dick'll Take Manhattan", complete with opening and ending credits in a different font and a remixed theme song.
Always Someone Better: Dr. Liam Neesam (John Cleese) is this to the Solomons, especially Dick. He's an alien just like them, but is so much more competent at everything (including, apparently, the Big Giant Head).
Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: While Dick, Sally, and Harry manage to humiliate Tommy on countless occasions, Sally's overbearing manner makes her the worst offender.
One episode began with the main characters watching an episode of The X-Files on television, groaning over how laughably inaccurate the show is. One scene, described by Tommy as an alien inserting a probe through someone's ear, is met with the derisive comment from Dick, "Everyone knows the proper place to insert an alien probe is the butt!"
In a later episode involving a psychotic alien hunter who kidnaps Dick and accuses aliens like him of "probing the butt of the poor American farmer", Dick denies that aliens anally probe anyone. However, he mentions an incident involving a farmer near Akron, who was "asking for it".
Dr. Albright's brother Roy claims that he has been probed.
Don: ...Not your pants, the gun! (everybody laughs) Yeah... that didn't really happen.
Armor-Piercing Question: In "Dick the Mouth Solomon", Tommy asked Don what he's accomplished by being on the right side of the law, and answers it for him: "Nothing, NOTHING!"
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Let's live! Let's taste danger. Let's go for the gusto, consequences be damned! Let's drive fast and eat cheese!"
Attack of the Political Ad: Done to Harry in "Dick the Vote"; his opponent, Gansmiller, ran a smear ad on Harry that insinuated he was in the Mafia.
Bad Bad Acting: Mary is accused of this in "The Tooth Harry"; she puts on a quasi-British accent for the promotional film about Pendleton University. Amusingly, she doesn't seem to notice she uses one.
Mary: Helleau. Ah'm Dahkter Mehry Awhlbright, and Ah'm proud to be a member of the Pendleton Faculty. Judith: Whoa. What's with the accent? Mary:(normal speaking voice) What accent?! This is my formal speaking voice, always has been. Judith: ...I'm sorry.
Bank Robbery: Harry, Tommy, and Sally try this in "Frankie Goes to Rutherford", not for the cash involved, but just to see if they could pull it off. However, their planning goes sour in a hurry as the three grow suspicious that each isn't up to snuff on the task.
The Beautiful Elite: Guest star David Hasselhoff is apparently supposed to be this in "Dick & Tuck", and tries to convince Dick that plastic surgery can make Dick as beautiful as he is.
Becoming the Mask: Tommy, while in the Hootie mascot outfit in "Collect Call For Dick". So much so that he doesn't even acknowledge someone when his real name is said.
Principal: Tommy? (Tommy doesn't respond) Hootie, can I talk to Tommy now?
The Berserker: Tommy, in a rare comedic variation. When provoked (usually by Dick), 9 times out of 10 he jumps right to the attack.
It's generally more understandable with Dick, but he also once does this to Mary's father after the guy gives him a playful punch, which Tommy responds to by socking the elderly man in the stomach.
Bittersweet Ending: The aliens return home in the series finale, but Mary doesn't dare to leave the Earth with Dick.
An alternate ending featured Dick returning moments after he had left, to "abduct" Mary.
Blatant Lies: In "The Fifth Solomon", Gary marks down that Harry doesn't smoke on the insurance forms, despite Harry repeatedly saying that he does smoke.
Blue and Orange Morality: The Solomons. Being Starfish Aliens, they don't understand anything about human culture, which explains why they spent so long on Earth in the first place (apparently other missions on other populated planets don't take much longer then a week).
Harry: I combined red with yellow. I call it... redyellow!
Brick Joke: Harry's LOBSTER CLAWS from "Rutherford Beauty"
Broken Bird: In an alternate universe, we find that Mary is just a bitter lonely woman with little to live for. Dick tries to convince her that she can be more, but she's already given up. Despite having an otherwise much better life, it's this dead inside Mary that gets him to go back home.
Real world Mary is on the happier edge of being one. She has a relatively decent life, but her terrible childhood, Dick, sexual history, Dick, and her frustration with working in a third rate college with Dick give her slightly better reasons to be bitter at the world than most.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Dick's bizarre, childish behaviour is tolerated at the university because his advanced alien knowledge of physics makes him one of the best in his field.
Burger Fool: Dick is reduced to working at Rusty's (a fast food restaurant) in "Proud Dick" when he quit his job at Pendleton over a parking space dispute. Dick is required to say, "Thank you for making Rusty's a part of your day." after each transaction.
The Butler Did It: Referenced in "Dial M For Dick"; the Solomons wonder who could've killed the first victim in the murder mystery, and one suggestion thrown out there is the butler. Being unaware of the trope, they find such a possibility ridiculous.
Calling Shotgun: In "Gwen, Larry, Dick & Mary", Dick took Mary on a date to a drive-in theater, and Tommy, Harry, and Sally tagged along as well. But since Tommy called shotgun, Mary couldn't even sit next to Dick on the date, much to her annoyance.
Judith: Men: Can't live with 'em... (pause) Good night, Mary. (leaves)
Dick lays it out pretty plainly in "Tricky Dick":
Dick: Women. You can't live with 'em, and yet you can't have heterosexual sex without 'em.
Harry: That's probably true.
Cassandra Truth: The first time Dick tries to out himself to Mary as an alien was when he got sick for the first time and thought he was dying. He tells her not to be alarmed if she finds only a shivering purple tube in his place the next day. She seems to take it as either melodrama or delirium.
The next time, it's after they've been attending a sci-fi convention that she's really gotten into. She thinks he's gotten equally into it and awards him appropriately.
Dick also revealed that he's an alien to the psychiatrist in "A Nightmare on Dick Street", but he just brushed it off as crazy talk.
Out of options, the Solomons admitted they were aliens in "Dick and Taxes" to explain their whereabouts during the years before they landed on Earth. The IRS agent, however, believed this to be just another excuse: "Sorry folks, I've heard that one too."
Dick also attempted to tell Mary he was an alien when he was befriended by a former (gay) student of hers that believed he was gay and tried to help him come out.
At one point he's also trying to 'get to know' his students by asking them about their pasts. One of them asks him where he's from and, right before the bell rings signaling the end of the class, he says "Long story... true story... I'm not human."
The Cast Showoff: Numerous times the entire main cast gets to show off their musical talents, the best is in "A Nightmare On Dick Street" where Harry's dream is an elaborate Broadway-style song and dance number that was shot almost entirely in one take.
August sings a song in the episode in which Tommy forms a band. Shay Astar, who played August, is now a professional singer-songwriter (though she sang only as a hobby at the time).
Mary's lackluster but enthusiastic vocal talents are shown off at least as much as the Solomons, despite being poor enough both in-universe and on-screen for a season 3 episode to revolve around her self-recognized lack of singing talent.
Chekhov's Gag: "Tricky Dick." Born out of feelings of bitterness, Dick and Mary engage in an ever-escalating prank war. Amongst Dick's ideas are removing Mary's desk, getting a garage to add massive speakers and flame decals to her car, and sending her a fake letter from the President. Mary, however, gets Dick with a big one: getting Dick stuck to his desk with thermal bond epoxy. As Dick is slowly removed from his desk, they finally agree to end it and act like adults..... just before they hear the loud, booming noise of Mary's car being returned from the shop.
Cloud Cuckoolander: Harry Solomon, to the point where it actually hurts him to think too hard. Vicki Dubcek also has her moments, where despite being a human, she occasionally acts just as nutty as the aliens.
Cock Fight: Dick and Neesam over Mary. Later, Harry and The Big Giant Head over Vicki.
"Superstitious Dick" has a variant; Alissa has a crush on hockey star Stenstrom. Tommy is naturally jealous and goes to tell Stenstrom, who's in the dark about Alissa's crush, to stay away from his girl. But Tommy's words don't register, because Stenstrom doesn't speak a lick of English outside of "Stay in school, don't do drug" and "Okay."
In "Dickmalion", Tommy told Dick he got suspended for setting off the fire alarm. Dick was appalled at the school, since Tommy saved hundreds of lives. Tommy admitted that there was no fire.
Dick: Tommy, this is outrageous. The next time you set off the fire alarm, you damn well better start a fire first!
Another example from season one: Dick goes AWOL (he's got locked in the fire escape at work) and Sally decides he's deliberately left her in charge to see how she handles it, exclaiming "This is a test!" Harry leans over to Tommy and says "She's about to emit a high-pitched tone."
Any time Nina's race is brought up. The Solomans never seem to grasp that 'black' refers to skin color and not just a cultural group.
Specifically, despite their utter failures at fitting in, Sally is great at security, and Tommy repeatedly shows information-handling skills beyond the greatest hacker, including creating false backstories for all of them multiple times. Dick has advanced knowledge of physics, but so do the others; his actual competence is that he is really pretty good at anthropology, and while he's an awful leader, is pretty good at telling the others what they should do to better understand Earth. It may be worth mentioning that Harry is a quite talented artist, both in execution and in analysis.
Confession Cam: Utilized in "The Loud Solomon Family: A Dickumentary".
Conspiracy Theorist: Dick becomes one in "Paranoid Dick" when he suspects Mary of soon being replaced as dean. Ironically, Mary ended up getting removed as dean because she and Dick snuck into Judith's office to see if they could find any proof that Mary was on her way out (she wasn't).
The Couch: Which wasn't a couch at all, but three chairs and an ottoman. The roof of their apartment probably qualifies as well.
Creator Couple: The opening titles end with the credit "Created by Bonnie Turner & Terry Turner". They are a married couple. Incidentally, the show is set in Ohio because Bonnie is an Ohio native.
Crowd Song: In "Frozen Dick", Dick begins singing "Oklahoma!" to cheer up Mary. Within a few bars, the entire restaurant has joined in.
Crying Wolf: Charlotte from "Alien Hunter" did get it right about Dick being an alien, but the F.B.I. wouldn't come close to believing her considering she apparently murdered numerous others she thought were aliens.
Curse Cut Short: Mary is cut off from fully saying "What the fuck?!" by Dick in "Dial M For Dick".
Demoted to Extra: The last season sees Tommy demoted to an occasionally recurring and not very important cast member, partially because he's off to college and thereby separated from the rest of the cast most of the time. The actors playing Nina and Don were listed as regular cast members starting on the third season, but likewise appeared only occasionally on the last season.
Harry: It happens, but it's rare. But it happens. But it's rare.
From "I Brake For Dick":
Dick: We shall have no animal products, no animal byproducts, and you shall not buy any animal byproduct or products.
Then there's Dick not getting people's corrections:
Dick: This is great dip, Mrs. Sumner.
Mrs. Sumner: It's patÚ.
Dick: This is great dip patÚ.
When Tommy takes over cooking:
Dick: Tommy, you have reinvented the sandwich.
Tommy: Uh, actually, it's a panini.
Harry: Tommy, you have reinvented the panini sandwich.
Tommy: No, no, no. Panini is Italian for sandwich.
Dick: Tommy, you have invented the Italian panini sandwich.
Die Hard on an X: The screenplay Professor Suter's been working on for the last four years is described as "Die Hard, but in an office building". Dick remarks that they already made that film. Suter replies: "...Up yours."
Diet Episode: In "Moby Dick", Dick goes on a diet after he starts overeating to deal with the stress of his break-up from Mary. Later we find out Mary is also stress eating.
Harry posed as Ms. Dubcek in "Romeo & Juliet & Dick".
Distracted by the Sexy: Another group of aliens who all look like attractive women use the characters' hometown to test how effective their beauty is at distracting men as part of their bid to conquer Earth. It's pretty effective.
Sally is pretty good at this herself, finding her ability to cloud men's minds an upside to being The Woman. Indeed, she later gets recruited by the above mentioned aliens, who mention she has potential, but is unrefined.
Distracted By The Shiny: Harry promises to carry out a mission dutifully "unless I'm distracted by something shiny." He then spends several seconds watching the light reflect off his watch band.
Dick: Wonderful! How can Harry get ahold of a magic lamp?
Dog Food Diet: A variant occurs in "Proud Dick". Sally brings home cat food for dinner. She doesn't realize it's food for cats, though, and Mary is appalled when she comes over and sees that the Solomons are so poor that they're reduced to eating cat food (Dick had quit his job in the episode).
Harry Solomon:Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200 and do not, I repeat, do not drop the soap.
Dream Sequence: "A Nightmare on Dick Street". In a subversion of this trope, Dick, Tommy, Harry, and Sally don't realize dreams are normal and think they're all going crazy.
Drunk with Power: Dick and Sally use every opportunity to acquire and abuse power over others: a protest, a bake sale committee, a labor union, a fraternity - the list goes on. While Dick eventually sees the error of his ways by the end of the episode, Sally doesn't.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The first episode has the same set for the attic as the rest of the series, except without the stairs. They also push Mrs. Dubcek to leave through the door that leads to their bedroom. Also, Dick and Mary's office is completely different than the rest of the series.
Easily Overheard Conversation: In "Dick: Smoker", Sally, Tommy, and Harry are informed by Nina that Dick didn't show up for work today. They are freaked out and move only a few feet away to talk in "private". Nina quickly informs them: "I can still hear you."
Emotional Maturity Is Physical Maturity: Averted. The actual ages of the aliens don't correspond with the ages of their human bodies, and it shows. Tommy, the oldest of the group, is easily the most level-headed member of the group even though he's physically a teenager.
Partially enforced by hormones though. Tommy's worst moments usually come regarding his girlfriends.
Ethical Slut: Dick. He has an active sex life with Mary, and is very open to chat about it, but he won't turn down an offer from someone else if the opportunity arises. A good example of this is in Auto Eurodicka. Dick and Mary are broken up, and after having sex with a woman he met in line at the movies (who later turns out to be one of his student's, Bug's, mother), Dick honestly can't understand why Mary and Bug are upset about it. To him, it's all the same.
Sally: He said he wanted to sleep with me. I wanted sex, but seeing as he was tired I decided to just go home.
Everyone Looks Sexier If French: French Immigrant Michele appears in the second season as Sally's love interest. So great is his French accent that he can make the entire office swoon with the line, "On my foot I have a big painful oozing bleester!"
One episode had the family trying to decide what ethnicity to be. Dick asked Mary, an anthropologist, what the best ethnic group was. She claimed it was all subjective, but when he asked which ethnicity was sexiest, she immediately responded, "Italians. Smokey, swarthy, gotta have 'em."
Fake-Out Fade-Out: In the episode "Dick For Tat," it appears that the episode is going to end in the traditional manner, with all four of them on the roof, after Dick says he just needs to "move on" with his life. Of course, he's kidding himself.
Fake Pregnancy: When Sally visits a gyneacologist for the first time all the other women there are pregnant, and in order to fit in she claims she's pregnant too - which comes as a shock to her boyfriend since they've never had sex.
15 Minutes of Fame: This happens to Sally after she punches out Mark Hamill in a restaurant. When Mary tells a jealous Dick that this is Sally's "fifteen minutes of fame", he interprets it literally and is maddened by her "fifteen minutes" lasting considerably longer than that. It ends after a few days, however, causing Sally to start acting like a White-Dwarf Starlet.
Five Temperament Ensemble: Mary Allbright is the melancholic, Nina the mostly choleric, Mrs. Dubcek the sanguine, and Don the mostly phlegmatic.
The Solomons are each blended of two temperaments:
Freudian Couch: Dick lays on one during therapy in "A Nightmare on Dick Street".
Gag Nose: In "Superstitious Dick", Mary tries to explain to Dick that superstitions are pointless, and shows him a long wooden horn, which was worn by a tribe ages ago; they thought the horn would protect them from danger. It didn't work, and the tribe was wiped out. Dick grabs the horn and puts it over his nose, not realizing it's meant to be worn over the genitals. After Mary asks him to take it off...
And again when Dick sends Mary a photo album of naked pictures of himself after she has broken up with him, in an attempt to win her back. Even though she had just told him she never wanted to see him again, she is clearly tempted.
Apparently, Harry doesn't have a problem in this area either.
Gender Bender: Sally Solomon wasn't female before coming to Earth (whether the aliens have genders, and what they're like is not elaborated on), and initially wasn't pleased at the change.
Sally: Why do I have to be the woman?
Dick: Because you lost!
Dick has his share of a feminine side, too, especially in the emotions he expresses, including but not limited to, his mood swings. He or Sally equally could play a woman. Perhaps the reason the Big Giant Head chose Dick for the temporary switch with Sally?
Genius Ditz: Harry. He's described as only filling a seat and it's considered normal for his mind to be a complete blank, but on the other hand, he's a talented painter and he cracked the bar code.
Genre Shift: A common B story was to have Sally and either Harry or Tommy engage in sudden behavior change. For example, after Sally starts dating a man named Tony The Butcher, Sally starts acting like an Italian mob girlfriend, and Tommy starts behaving like a Goodfella. In addition, most early Sally/Don scenes all were taken straight out of Film Noir.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Every episode has Dick's name in it, resulting in "A Dick Replacement," "My Mother, My Dick," "Shall We Dick," etc.
"Assault with a Deadly Dick"
Surely the worst offender is "Gobble, Gobble, Dick, Dick"
In the same vein, there's "Dick, Smoker".
Failed for one episode entitled "B.D.O.C.," for "Big Dick on Campus."
In one episode, Dick takes out a book of madlibs and asks Mary for the name of a person in the room. She responds with "Dick" and after writing it, Dick says "This is funny already."
After the revelation that the Big Giant Head is Dick's father, Tommy points out that Dick's last name is Head.
Good Cop/Bad Cop: Tommy and Sally do this respectively in order to find out who egged Mary's house on Halloween.
Dick and Don do this to a perp in "The Physics of Being Dick", despite that Dick's not actually a cop. Amusingly, both can never settle on who will be the good cop and who will be the bad cop.
Don: (to Dick, who's supposed to be good cop but ends up shouting at the suspect) You're setting the bar too high! Do you know how bad I have to be in order to be bad cop? Real bad!
A few scenes later they are shown having tried out all the variations they could think of. Good Cop/Good Cop is particularly ineffective.
Hate at First Sight: One episode involved Dick getting upset that a cafeteria lady hated him. This is pretty bizarre when you consider how Dick is usually apparently okay with several regular and recurring characters disliking him. In fact, when he got angry that she didn't even hate him for an actual reason, Nina replied "Does she need a reason? 'Cause I can give her reasons."
Human Aliens: They have to be, to disguise themselves from humanity. Apparently, any life-form that gets to Earth through alien technology is turned into human shape, even if originally it was more like a dog in behavior.
Humans Are Special: Central to the plot of the series, the Aliens have never had to deal with anything close to human feelings before - despite being on "dozens" of missions together on various planets - which accounts for much of their behavior and humor of the series.
I Ate What?: In "Proud Dick", the Solomons' reaction when they realize they're eating cat food. They seem to have thought they were eating food made from cats not for cats (which they were ok with).
Inflationary Dialogue: Dick's attempts to "subtly" convince Mary that they've known each other for more than three years — triggered by an IRS audit — turn out this way.
Informed Judaism: The "Solomon" family spends an episode desperately trying to decide what ethnicity they should be; until their landlady mentions offhand that based on their last name she had just assumed they were Jewish and they decide to run with it (never comes up again). Apparently, they just took it off the side of the first truck they saw.
Dick: Who knew Solomon was a Jewish name when we took it off the side of that truck?"
Harry: "Go figure. We could've been the Wal-Marts."
It does come up again once, when the family tries to kidnap Dick (by putting a bag over his head) just after he has proposed to Mary. He tries to reassure her that the "sacking of the groom" is traditional.
In one episode they go to a family reunion of Solomons from Indiana. These Solomons have a family run furniture business which would involve a lot of trucks. So it is possible that these people are their namesake.
Instant Seduction: In "Dick's Ark", Harry is at the check-out lane of the grocery store and asks the clerk if she wants to join him for a party. The clerk is interested and says that she gets off at eight. Harry replies, "No no, the party's at eight. You get off at nine."
Dick: I've just heard the most upsetting thing. Someone has accused me of insensitivity. (notices Vicki sitting in a chair) You're not family; GET OUT!!
Irony: In "Dick and the Other Guy", Dick managed to save the earth from Dr. Neesam, who claimed he spared his kind because of how impressed he was with Dick's intelligence, despite that Dick's an alien.
Tommy: Yeah, Dick, we get the irony. It's really pretty obvious.
I Was Quite a Looker: Mary, twenty years ago. Dick gets ahold of her nude photos from back then and shows them to her.
Just Friends: Sally and Don try this in "Dick vs. Strudwick". It doesn't work too well.
Kavorka Man: Don. With Sally it's understandable, as she's an alien with no knowledge of local standards of beauty (she's actually just attracted to the fact that he's a cop). However, it's played straight as Don has several good-looking ex-girlfriends as well as quite a few karaoke fangirls.
Kissing Cousins: In the third season premiere, the Big Giant Head tries to make Dick adopt Janet (the BGH's own niece) as his Earth wife. Later on, the Big Giant Head turns out to be Dick's father, making Dick and Janet...
Also played with in the first episode. Dick expresses frustration at his inability to obtain the sex from Mary (with Mary in earshot) so Sally offers to experience it with him to get it over with (though they aren't actually related, they're supposed to be and it weirds Mary out).
In "Dick Solomon of the Indiana Solomons", Tommy wants to kiss a girl he meets at the Solomon family reunion, unaware that kissing your cousin is a taboo in America. However, Tommy finds out that she's adopted and uses that as an excuse. Of course, this backfires when the girl is too upset to kiss him, as she was unaware she was adopted.
Tommy: You have no idea how distant we are!
Lady Drunk: Mary. This actually works to her advantage in "Alien Hunter"... until the two decide to physically knock her out.
Lampshade Hanging: Characters in late seasons discuss some of the show's oddities. For example, why do the same college students study under Dick for six years? Because they never pass his course.
Harry was this show's equivalent to Cosmo Kramer when it came to combining physical comedy with hamminess.
John Lithgow routinely hams it up, but then is upstaged by his replacement in the first season finale - a role played by...himself.
Like Brother and Sister: Of course, Dick and Sally are posing as siblings, but they're actually not. They also display no sexual attraction to one another (and in fact are both repulsed by the idea). However, they seem to have an especially close relationship compared to the other members of the family. In closing scenes Sally can often be seen sitting with her legs over Dick's, in the same chair or in otherwise snuggly fashion on the roof, and their emotional bond seems much stronger than the relationships they have with Harry or Tommy.
Literal Metaphor: In one episode, Dick is trying to figure out what happens "when the spit hits the fan" by spewing sips of water into a desk fan.
Locked in a Room: "Stuck With Dick". Dick and Mary are trapped in the school library all weekend with only a bottle of wine and some cheese.
Harry and Dick get stuck in a hole in "Dick and Harry Fall in a Hole", and in "Dick: Smoker", they also get locked in to a stairwell but is not part of the show but rather a joke.
Love Triangle: Between Mary, Dick, and Sonja in "Dick and the Single Girl".
Also seen in "D3: Judgement Day" between Mary, Dick, and Jennifer. Dick realizes that the more lovey-dubby he is with Jennifer, the more Mary wants him back, so he deliberately rides it out with Jennifer, despite the fact that he can't stand her.
It's only a nickname, but Sally often calls Mrs. Dubcek "Doobie". In addition to her sordid past and present, we see her in one episode rolling a joint out of Tommy's cilantro only to be disappointed that it's not marijuana. However, she still says it, "beats the hell out of basil."
Harry: (to Dick) When life gives you lemons, you shut up and eat the damn lemons.
In another episode:
Dick: (to Mary) Before yesterday, the thought of another woman held about as much appeal for me as a plate of boiled eggs: Nutritious, yes, but ultimately way too gassy. (Mary looks confused)
Mildly Military: The aliens are very mildly military. Sally, Tommy, and Harry are extremely insubordinate to their High Commander right from the start of the show. They are apparently bound to obey Dick when he says "That's an order!", but they'll still be openly disrespectful if they think the order is stupid (it often is).
Dick is also mistaken for gay by one of Mary's former students. Dick misreads his innuendos and thinks that he's found a fellow alien.
Mistaken for Pedophile: "So suddenly it's a crime for a grown man to hang around the high school taking pictures of young girls." (Harry was trailing August for Tommy as part of a Private Detective parody.)
Mistaken for Servant: Harry is mistaken for an employee of a hardware store, due to his shirt. He goes along with it. At the end of the episode, Harry announces he's going shopping at Foot Locker, while wearing a striped shirt.
Mondegreen: Invoked in "Dickmalion" when Dick recounts his night of schmoozing with the upper class:
Dick: It was awful. I spent two hours talking to someone about Cornish gay men.
Nina: Don't you mean "Cornish game hen"?
Dick: That's what I said: "Cornish gay men"; aren't you listening?!
Also Sally in "Sex and the Sally", after she gets on the birth control pill.
Naked Apron: First referenced by Sally and Ms. Dubcek, then later performed by Harry in "Dick and the Other Guy". Ms. Dubcek gives Sally a piece of advice to woo Don: Make some eggs for breakfast while in the buff.
Sally: Doesn't the grease splatter all over your boobs??
Name's the Same: In "See Dick Run", evil Dick re-names Harry, Sally, and Tommy to all being named Tommy.
Near Death Experience: Sally, Tommy, and Harry experience this in "Near Dick Experience" when a chandelier falls on a table that they would've been sitting at had the waiter not relocated them. Dick becomes jealous that the three are now seeing life through awakened eyes (that is, they're not taking things for granted), and becomes desperate to have his own near death experience.
No, Except Yes: In "Dick and the Other Guy", Ms. Dubcek suggests that if Sally wants to know what's going on with Don, to spy on him.
Sally: You mean stalk him?
Ms. Dubcek: No, no..... disguise yourself and follow him around.
Noodle Implements: The Big Giant Head once threatened to have Dick sent to Mars. At first, Dick doesn't think that would be so bad, before the Big Giant Head clarifies "not THAT Mars!" and Dick immediately becomes horrified.
An earlier episode had Dick order Sally to "assemble the giant robot", to which Sally responds they didn't bring it because they had to make room for his exercise equipment. There's also mention that they've got human body parts stored in the freezer in case of an emergency.
There's a running gag that somewhere in the galaxy, Jell-o's are incredibly dangerous creatures; occasionally they recieve molds as gifts or see them at parties, and they usually cower behind something until Sally, as security officer, kills it, usually by stabbing it. In Dick's nightmare in "A Nightmare on Dick Street", he is attacked by a massive wall-sized one, which may be what they're afraid of—although as malicious as it is, it still has bits of orange and pineapple imbedded in it.
Noodle Incident: When reminiscing, the aliens talk about a rather humorous memory that is never elaborated upon, which also provides the title for the two-part ending episode:
Dick *Very cheerful*: And we hit it, and hit it, and hit it
Everyone: AND IT JUST WOULDN'T DIE! Ahahaha... ah...
Most of what Ms. Dubceck says is a reference to some past sexual escapade. Thankfully, the other characters don't pry.
Of Corpse He's Alive: In "Romeo & Juliet & Dick", Ms. Dubcek unknowingly drinks a potion that Tommy made for the school play of Romeo and Juliet which causes the person to pass out and appear dead. In one scene, the Solomons hang Dubcek's body out the window, moving her limbs and providing her voice. Eventually, they ditch that and just decide to dress Harry up as Dubcek, since people will be seeing her up close.
He also hams up the Alter Kocker when, in the final season, they learn that their mission is at an end. The others point out that he always 'acts old' when they reach the end of the mission, but he actually takes the end of the mission much harder than initially suggested, breaking down during their going away party, a reaction he apparently hasn't had before.
Omniglot: The Solomons seem to have learned every Earth language in preparation for their trip, or at least a couple dozen. Dick reads a newspaper in a different language almost every episode. When they got cable, they switched to a Spanish-speaking channel and all started speaking Spanish — until they realized what they were doing.
They can also speak (at least some) animal languages. For instance, in the second season episode about thanksgiving, Dick hears turkeys on television. He later tells the others that the turkeys were talking about an apocalypse (What made this more hilarious was the reporter on tv earlier jokingly saying that the turkeys seemed to know what was headed their way). In a season one episode, Harry has a conversation with a dog.
This may be an unidentified form of Neural Implanting: in one episode Harry and Dick are locked in a stairwell together for over a day, during which Dick begins talking to his 'inner voice'. In a throw-away line, Harry says his inner voice began speaking to him too, but he didn't know what it said because he doesn't speak French. Obviously it was just intended as a one-line joke, but if one ponders it, it probably means that Harry has the French language stored somewhere in his brain, he just can't access it.
However, this theory is also somewhat damaged by the fact that in a Battle of Wits between Dick and Tommy, they show off using their language skills. ( Tommy wins, apparently having mastered all the languages Dick challenges him with, and correcting Dick's faulty grammar.)
It's also an Actor Allusion, given that Harry is played by French Stewart.
Only Sane Man: As the core cast is so insane, an outsider is often needed for the job. Initially, it was Mary - until she was developed as pretty quirky herself. Then it was August, Tommy's first girlfriend, during her run with the show. Later, Don often played the part, especially in conversations with Sally where she takes up some ludicrous position about their relationship. He doesn't tell her she's wrong when it plays to his advantage.
Narrator: As many intelligent people know, aliens are all around us. This is the story of four such explorers. To blend in, they've assumed human form. This is the High Commander. He has assembled an elite team of experts; a decorated military officer, a seasoned intelligence specialist, and, well, they had an extra seat. (what follows is a Couch Gag comment)
Or So I Heard: In "Much Ado About Dick", the priest says, "Women." Dick and Suter stare at him, and the priest adds, "...Or so I heard."
And after that, he decided to become a children songs artist.
Practical Joke: "Tricky Dick" had Dick and Mary playing pranks on each other throughout the episode.
Prima Donna Director: Dick becomes one almost immediately in "Romeo and Juliet and Dick" when he directs the high school version of the play.
Professional Butt-Kisser: Sally becomes one to Mary in "The Physics of Being Dick", at the advice of Nina, who says that correcting Mary will only make Mary upset. The butt-kissing backfires when Sally doesn't catch numerous mistakes in one of Mary's speeches and she makes a fool of herself.
Sally: It's just so intimidating to work for-
Mary: Say it. A BITCH?!
Sally: No, a genius! (Mary is flattered once again)
Psycho Ex Boyfriend: Vicky Dubcek's jealous ex, Randy (The late Phil Hartman), abducts Harry and sells him to a Circus.
Psycho Ex-Girlfriend applies also to Sally, especially with the early men she dates. She's aggressive, domineering and obsessive, which drives a few men away before she meets Don.
Raging Stiffie: It's insinuated that Tommy got one from the music teacher in "Fourth and Dick", since he's reluctant to stand up when she calls on him.
Really Gets Around: Ms. Dubceck, Mary before she met Dick (to her continuing embarrassment) and Harry, who occasionally veers into Anything That Moves territory and has to be forcibly stopped from french kissing any female within reach.
Reset Button: Almost anything other than couples breaking up or getting back together that comes up in a plot is ignored the very next episode. In particular, in The Loud Solomon Family: A Dickumentary, life-changing lies and real secrets about the Solomons are revealed to everyone who knows them, and nobody mentions any of it afterward.
Rearrange the Song: Starting in season 5. The theme was also remixed in the two-parter "Dick'll Take Manhattan".
Romantic Rain: Sally and her would-be policeman boyfriend go for what he really hopes will be a romantic walk in the rain. Subverted, because she just finds it boring, tedious, wet and uncomfortable, and gets annoyed with him.
Rule of Three: In "Sensitive Dick", Nina telling the disciplinary committee three times that Dick's "warm, kind, and a credit to Pendleton State", no matter the question asked.
In "Why Dickie Can't Teach", Tommy hugs Mary and then tries to grab her ass, which she doesn't allow. Later, Dick tries the same technique on Mary. Finally, at the end of the episode, Dick hugs Tommy and both try the same thing on each other.
Scenery Censor: Played with in an episode where Harry walks around naked in the kitchen, while people in the foreground "coincidentally" move objects in the line of view of his crotch in perfect synchronization with his movements.
Season Fluidity: More towards the "fluid" category, due to most every episode being a stand-alone plot that can be watched independently, but there is continuity, especially in the romantic relationships. Example: Dick and Mary are broken up? You're watching a season 3 episode. Sally and Don are broken up? You're watching a season 4 episode.
Also, Tommy's shortened hair.
Secret Identity: At various times, Mary and the university staff have interpreted Dick's elusiveness about his past as him being either a political activist on the run from the feds, a secret agent, or a serial killer \ terrorist.
There are a few relating to Jane Curtin's role as Primat in Coneheads, the most obvious one being when they ran into Coneheads cosplayers at a sci-fi convention.
As well as an episode where she makes everyone watch a tabloid show about Susan Saint James.
When the Big Giant Head first appears on Earth, he and Dick commiserate about their shared experience of seeing something on the wing of their craft and nobody believing them; William Shatner and John Lithgow had both played the protagonist role in adaptations of "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet".
Shall We Dick has a shout out to "Cinderella". Harry wishes he could go to the big dance contest, only he can't find his shoes and he's covered in soot from looking for them. The other three start uproariously mocking him for wanting to go because he's "dressed in rags" and dirty. Mrs. Dubcek, conveniently dressed in an all white, sequined number and waving around a cigarette holder, tells Harry he can still go to the dance if he really wants too. Harry mentions he doesn't have a car or clothes, and then Dubcek says "well Harry... I guess you're screwed."
There's also an accidental shout out, in that Harry's covered in soot, making him "Dirty Harry".
"Fifteen Minutes of Dick" becomes a parody of Sunset Boulevard, complete with "It's the pictures that got small!" reference.
"Citizen Solomon" contains, surprisingly enough, a Whole Plot Reference to Citizen Kane. Tommy is Kane himself, Alissa is Susan Alexander, August is Jedediah Leland, and the principal is Mr. Thatcher. The parody isn't evident unless you've seen the film as it's based on a portion of the movie which is not often parodied and is thus outside the Popcultural Osmosis of the film's more famous scenes.
"Gwen, Larry, Dick & Mary"'s subplot eventually becomes a parody of Judge Judy.
The episode The Loud Solomon Family: A Dickumentary could possibly be a reference to the 1970's PBS documentary "An American Family", starring a family whose last name was in fact "Loud".
A lot of shoutouts to Rebel Without a Cause in Father Knows Best, in which Harry shouts "You're tearing me apart!" followed by his search for self (which ends in an agreement to a drag race with the boyfriend of a girl he meets at the bar).
"A Nightmare on Dick Street Part 1" featured a parody of Chinatown.
Sick Episode: The second episode of the show, "Post Nasal Dick", features the entire Solomon family getting a cold. Dick fights it, though, so he can attend a wedding with Mary.
Harry: "Dick, I've lost all feeling in the left side of my body. [looks at can upside down] Could somebody please call "1-1-6"?
Slap-Slap-Kiss: A sequence in the first episode between Dick and Mary.
Slapstick: occasionally features on the show, with one scene involving hitting Harry on the head with a pan half a dozen times.
The Sleepless: Don in "Charitable Dick"; Sally shares his bed and her snoring keeps him up at night. However, even the solution of Sally staying awake all night doesn't work, as she keeps inadvertently making noise.
Springtime for Hitler: Looking to punk Tommy, Dick suggested he play a prank on the dean, claiming it's a Rutherford tradition. Tommy glues the Dean's furniture to the ceiling. To Dick's unction, the Dean gives kudos and reminisces about his own past pranks.
Mary: Hecky Mulligan! How can you vote for Hecky Mulligan? Nina, can you believe that? Nina: How do you know I'm not voting for Mulligan? Mary: I thought you were a Democrat. Nina: And why do you think I'm a Democrat, because I'm black? Mary: Go ahead, vote for Mulligan! Nina: I'm not voting for Mulligan!
Subverted Suspicion Aesop: In "Two-Faced Dick", Harry and Tommy are suspicious of a tough-looking gang who keeps ordering drinks. Ms. Dubcek tells them that they shouldn't judge people by how they look, and Harry and Tommy decide to apologize to the gang for it. Immediately after they apologize, the gang tells them to open up the cash register. Amusingly, instead of being terrified, Harry and Tommy are overjoyed that they were right all along about their first impression.
Dick: Can any of you come up with a reasonable scenario in which throwing out a piece of mail would result in having your ribs broken by a floor waxer?
Harry: Absolutely: Guy who was waxing the floor thought that you were throwing out his paycheck.
Dick: No, the guy with the waxer knew nothing about it.
Tommy: Well then why are we throwing out his paycheck?
Dick: No, there was no paycheck.
Sally: No paycheck?! Well no wonder the waxer dude went psycho on you.
Swapped Roles: Harry and Sally switch jobs in "Same Old Song and Old Dick".
A crazier example: "Two-Faced Dick". Dick and Sally end up switching bodies (due to a delayed answer to a request Sally gave when she first arrived on the planet that she wanted to be a man), which forces them to adjust their personalities so they don't lose Mary and Don, respectively.
The Tag: Starting with season 2, there was an additional scene over the closing credits. It more or less stopped starting in season 5, though, likely due to network promos being run over the credits instead.
Talk to the Hand: From Harry. He learned it from Nina, who encouraged him to do this if Dick (Harry's boss in that episode) got in his face with unreasonable demands.
That Came Out Wrong: In "The Great Dickdater", Don and Dick go on a double date. Dick starts telling the two girls about models, to which the girls sarcastically ask why every guy wants to date models. Dick replies he was talking about model trains, after which the girls apologize. Dick then remarks: "If I had a model, why would I be here tonight?" He instantly realizes what he said could be taken the wrong way and apologizes.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Sally, as the mission's no-nonsense, militaristic, security officer frequently discusses needing to kill anyone who may expose their secret, but never actually hurts or threatens anyone on these grounds. Admittedly, that would be very wrong for the show's light tone.
Too Dumb to Live: Harry. One of the earliest episodes of the series involves him taste-testing various house hold liquids to find out which are toxic. Guess what, he finds out, and asks the family to call poison control because the left side of his body is numb.
Dick: (to his class) Let's just say... I had sex with Dr. Albright.
Dick: (to Mary) I'm not wearing any panties.
In "Power Mad Dick", Dick thinks it's only fair that Sally tell the family every detail of her sexual encounter with Don, since he did such a thing when he had sex with Mary, even after everyone begged him to stop.
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Sally and Don. Played with in that Sally has no idea Don is supposed to be ugly (despite the fact that he's played by Wayne Knight), and finds his power as a police officer sexy (Despite the fact that he has almost no real power). This becomes even more hilarious in a later episode, where Sally convinces herself she's ugly while still seeing Don as the hottest man on the planet.
The first time she sees him without his uniform though, she doesn't recognize him. When he insists it's really him, she blows him off, but is instantly attracted to him again when he comes to confront her in-uniform. They both figure out what's going on and Don proposes a solution: he always wears his uniform around her.
This changes as time goes on; she begins to find other aspects of him sexy aside from the uniform (though generally situations in which he is "powerful" somehow - when he was a bouncer, or a karaoke star). She also comes to respect him more when he asserts himself over her shallowness at times, and in the end she cares about him even as she realizes he's an ineffectual coward, teaching him how to be a strong police officer before she leaves the planet.
Un-Confession: Used several times over the course of the series with the Solomons admitting they were aliens, though of course it never carried any consequences past the episode in question.
The end of the "Dickumentary" episode has all the False Confessions the family has made (Sally is a lesbian, Tommy is a bed-wetter, Harry is an alcoholic, etc) revealed as lies, making it obvious that they are actually trying to hide something. Fed up with the bickering and fighting, Tommy offers to reveal their big secret: Dick isn't his real father, they aren't even biologically related.
Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: Averted in "Dick Behaving Badly", the answer to Dick's charades is "Two celestial bodies of equal mass sharing a single gravitational field will exhibit identical rotational properties for as long as their inertial integrity is maintained." Dick's physics friends are able to correctly guess in very short order.
The Unfair Sex: When Dick Solomon (or other male character) screw something up in a relationship, they get their comeuppance most of the time and rightly so. On the other hand when Vicki, who not only was in a loving/(lusting?) relationship with Harry but were trying to have a child together, sleeps with, gets knocked up by and marries another man, nobody seems to be fazed by it (not even Harry)
Possibly justified because the man who knocked her up was their leader, The Big Giant Head and nobody wanted to say anything and risk pissing him off.
Something about a purple tube. Any further descriptions made only make it weirder. Further confused by the time Dick mentions they came to Earth in a spaceship that could fit in his pants-pocket.
And apparently they were disappointed that as humans they could no longer lick their backs. Harry was surprised to find that eyelids have to be operated manually, and initially they're all weirded out by how many holes they have in their heads.
Not only that, but just why are they so afraid of Jell-O?
Jello looks like some sort of alien monster that tried to eat them and snow looks like brain eating parasites. They mentioned it in "Selfish Dick" and "Frozen Dick", respectively.
Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Everyone, really, and increasingly so as the show goes along. Dick, Mary, and (mostly in the later seasons) Sally are the most obvious examples, but Harry and Tommy have had their Jerkass moments too. As John Lithgow points out, they could get away with really outrageous things under the pretense of "they're aliens, so they don't know any better." Note how Mary, who doesn't have that excuse, never really crosses the line of normal sitcom character behavior.
Explanation: Dick's evil replacement asked Sally to explain to him what the "it" Mary was referring to was. Rather than telling him about sex, she apparently told him that the above quote is what drives women crazy.
Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: One episode involved Harry and Tommy finding a wallet; when they returned the wallet to the person, they were irritated that they didn't get a reward. So they devised schemes to get the guy to pay up.
Waxing Lyrical: In one episode, Dick said: "Fame, I want to live forever! Light up the sky like a flame, FAME!"
Worthless Yellow Rocks: The family apparently wins the lottery every time, but tears up the tickets and just enjoys the fun of playing the lottery.
It's unknown whether this is because this qualifies as a 'global change' (Similar to blowing up the Earth), or they simply don't know that the lottery actually involves money. Likely the second.
Written-In Absence: Tommy wasn't around much in the final season since he had gone off to college. As had Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Yiddish as a Second Language: In "Proud Dick", Dick quits his job at the university over a parking space dispute. Sally asks why Dick got "meshugenah" over something that petty.
Dick's "wife," Janet, spent her entire trip to Earth studying The Joy of Cooking, The Joy of Sex, and The Joy of Yiddish.