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Three's Company

Three's Company is an American sitcom that aired from 1977 to 1984 on ABC. It is a remake of the British sitcom Man About the House. The story centers on three roommates in Santa Monica, California: Janet Wood, Chrissy Snow, and Jack Tripper, and their efforts to convince their landlord that Tripper is gay so he will approve of the co-ed living situation.

Description

Jack, Janet and Chrissy lived in apartment 201, directly above the landlord unit in Santa Monica. Jack is studying to be a chef at a technical college and, as the girls do not know how to cook, they decide it would be a good idea for Jack to move in. In order to get permission to keep Jack as a roommate, Janet tells the landlord, Stanley Roper, that Jack is gay while Helen Roper was aware of Jack's true sexuality from the second episode forward. This was a premise of the show until the very end. The other major premise of the show, until the departure of the Ropers, was their marital bickering and lack of sexual intimacy. After the Ropers were spun off the show focused more on the three roommates.

The show was set minutes from the beach in Santa Monica, California, and usually focused on four sets: the trio's apartment, the landlord's apartment, the upstairs apartment of Larry and the neighborhood pub/restaurant called The Regal Beagle. In later seasons, The Beagle was seen less frequently, as Jack's Bistro became the setting for many scenes. The series revolved around sexual double entendres, misunderstandings and clumsiness/slapstick.

Running jokes and gags

The show used many running jokes and gags such as:

  • Mr. Roper breaking the fourth wall: Norman Fell would turn to the camera and grin after making a joke, usually at Mrs. Roper's expense.
  • Jack's perceived homosexuality: Mr. Roper and Mr. Furley would make homophobic remarks such as "Tippy toes" or "Tinkerbell," call him a "fairy," bend their wrists or shake a pretend bell.
  • Chrissy being misunderstood by one of her roommates and then launching into a long and convoluted explanation that made no sense to anyone but her.
  • Mrs. Roper insinuating that she would welcome some physical affection from her husband, and him shooting her down.
  • Larry excitedly telling Jack he's fixed him up with a hot date, then realizing that the landlord is listening behind him, and having to fabricate another story to protect Jack.
  • Cindy slamming the door into someone (usually Jack).
  • Lana chasing after Jack (that being the only reason she ever came over), only to be chased in turn by Mr. Furley.

Characters

Primary characters

Role Years on Show About Actor or actress
Jack Tripper Entire Run A clumsy culinary student (later chef, then restaurant owner) from San Diego, Navy veteran, and swinging bachelor. John Ritter
Janet Wood Entire Run Born in Speedway, Indiana, Janet is a down-to-earth brunette who worked at the "Arcade Florist." Joyce DeWitt
Christmas "Chrissy" Snow 1977–1981 A ditzy blonde secretary. Her real name is Christmas despite not being born on Christmas Day. Suzanne Somers
Stanley Roper 1977–1979 A hard-nosed landlord. Norman Fell
Helen Roper 1977–1979 A love-starved landlady. Audra Lindley
Larry Dallas (full name Dalliapoulos) 1978-1984 A womanizing neighbor and used car salesman. He is Jack's best friend. Richard Kline
Ralph Furley 1979–1984 A goofy, flamboyantly dressed landlord who believes he's a ladies man. Don Knotts
Lana Shields 1979 The wealthy, older woman neighbor who had the hots for Jack, while Furley had the hots for her. Ann Wedgeworth
Cindy Snow 1980–1982 Chrissy's somewhat clumsy cousin, a secretary and later veterinary student at UCLA. Jenilee Harrison
Terri Alden 1981–1984 Born in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, Terri is an intelligent blonde nurse, unlucky in love. Priscilla Barnes

Recurring characters

Role About Actor or actress
Jim Bartender at The Regal Beagle Paul Ainsley
Mike Bartender at The Regal Beagle Brad Blaisdell
Linda Jack's girlfriend and one-time roommate Anne Schedeen
Dean Travers Dean at Jack's cooking school William Pierson
Reverend Luther Snow Chrissy's father Peter Mark Richman
Frank Angelino Jack's short-tempered boss Jordan Charney
Felipé Gomez Jack's jealous co-worker at Angelino's Gino Conforti

Notable guest appearances

Cast changes

Three's Company had many cast changes over the years for a variety of reasons. The first of these changes took place in the spring of 1979 with the relocating of the Ropers to their own TV series (The Ropers), which would revolve around Jack, Janet, and Chrissy's former landlords (and their neighbors) moving into the suburbs after Stanley had sold the apartment building. Man About The House had similarly spun the Ropers off for the series George and Mildred. Two changes took place in the fall of 1979, at the beginning of the fourth season. The first would be the addition of Lana, an older woman whose main purpose was chasing Jack around the apartment building. She had the hots for him but Jack just wanted her to leave him alone. Lana would vanish without any explanation before the season was half over (it was explained on the E! True Hollywood Story that the character was written out because the writers were not sure what to do with her, or how they could keep having Jack avoid her). The other new addition that fall was the trio's new landlord Ralph Furley (whose brother Bart bought the building from the Ropers). Ralph fancied himself as a ladies man but really had no luck with women. He would be as popular with viewers as the Ropers had been and would last until the end of the series.

Season five (1980–1981) would mark the beginning of contract re-negotiations and would thus spark friction on the set in 1980 when, after demands for a heavily increased salary (from $30,000 per episode to $150,000 per episode, plus 10% of the show's profits) were not met, Suzanne Somers went on strike and was absent for several taping days. Eventually, co-stars Joyce DeWitt and John Ritter refused to work with her because of this, but, unwilling to fire the actress for fears her absence would cause ratings to decline, the producers of the series retained Somers, who was still under contract, to appear in just the one-minute tag scene of select episodes. According to scripts, she had returned to her hometown of Fresno to care for her sick mother, and in the tag scene she would be seen on the telephone talking to one of the roommates (usually Janet) who would recount that episode's adventures to her. In the story, Chrissy's place in the apartment was taken by her cute but clumsy cousin, Cindy (Jenilee Harrison). Somers' scenes were taped on separate days from the show's regular taping; she did not appear on set with any of the show's other actors. This arrangement continued for one season, but after her contract expired, it was not renewed and she disappeared from the series. However, Somers was still credited despite being fired from the show.

As Cindy, Jenilee Harrison was unable to fill the shoes of the original roommate on the series, the producers' explanation being that she was too young for the sex jokes. Their solution was another replacement, Terri Alden (played by Priscilla Barnes), a clever, sometimes sassy nurse who was introduced in the sixth season (1981–1982). In the script, Cindy was to move to college to fulfill her dream of becoming a vet. She was the last of the series' three blondes. Unlike Suzanne Somers, Barnes was considered a cooperative professional who remained close friends with many members of the cast and crew long after the series ended. Somers would eventually make up with the majority of the actors including John Ritter (there had been plans for Somers to appear on Ritter's later hit show 8 Simple Rules prior to his death), but Joyce DeWitt still refused to talk to her even after almost 30 years. However, after John Ritter's death, the two have come to a small reconciliation, and began writing notes to each other . Meanwhile Cindy would remain on the show in season six with Terri, visiting in some episodes and would leave completely before season seven. Three's Company was often compared to Alice in the fact that it also went through three different blonde cast members during its run.

In season eight (1983-1984), Janet married art dealer Phillip Dawson (David Ruprecht); Terri moved to Hawaii for a job; and Jack moved out to live with his new girlfriend, Vicky Bradford (Mary Cadorette), thus morphing the show into Three's a Crowd, the further adventures of Jack as he settles down. Three's a Crowd was based on Thames Television's British series Robin's Nest which was spun off from Three's Company's Thames Television basis, Man About The House; each centered on Jack Tripper / Robin Trip operating a restaurant owned by his live-in girlfriend's father who, while acknowledging Jack/Robin's skills as a chef, did nothing to hide his wish that his daughter would find a more suitable man.

Pilots

Three pilot episodes were shot for Three's Company, a rarity for American television. The show was recast several times at the instruction of ABC's Fred Silverman. The first pilot featured Ritter as "David", Valerie Curtin as "Jenny", and Suzanne Zenor as "Samantha", and the pilot looked more like the first episode of the actual show. The second pilot featured Ritter and DeWitt in as Jack and Janet, but Susan Lanier played Chrissy and the pilot looked more like the second episode of the actual show. The third pilot is the first episode with the famous theme song sung by Ray Charles (unrelated to the more famous, late rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles) and Julia Rinker. It was composed by Joe Raposo (perhaps most well-known for his composing for the children's television show Sesame Street).

In an interview with The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation, Silverman said that Suzanne Somers barely made it as a member of the cast. "I was very involved in the casting of Suzanne Somers. We did three pilots", he recalls, "and the Chrissy character still wasn't right. We got to the day before we're starting the production of the series and we didn't have a Chrissy. I was so desperate, I took all the audition tapes and just kind of fast forward them. All of a sudden, they went by Suzanne Somers who I hadn't seen, but I recognized her from her appearance on the Tonight Show, I said 'back that up' and she was great. She's been passed on! And I said 'I don't understand. This girl could play that part, why was she been passed on?' and I couldn't get a straight answer. Anyway, we got her in that day and she was on the set tomorrow and she was terrific in that part. And that was an accident because she never should have gotten the part.

Broadcast history

  • March 1977 – September 1977, Thursday 9:30 p.m.
  • September 1977 – May 1984, Tuesday 9:00 p.m.
  • May 1984 – September 1984, Tuesday 8:30 p.m.

Ratings

Three's Company premiered in the spring, in the middle of the season. Usually in the 1960s and 1970s, midseason television programs were cancelled after their original six-episode run in the spring. Network observers did not believe that Three's Company would go anywhere after its first six shows. They were proved wrong when it racked in record ratings, breaking barriers at the time as the highest-rated midseason show ever broadcast on network television. ABC gladly renewed the show for a formal television season, giving it a permanent primetime spot during the 1977-1978 year. Ratings continued to climb throughout the years. The very first episode, "A Man About the House", hit #28 overall. The first time a Company episode hit the #1 spot was the airing of "Will the Real Jack Tripper...", which aired February 14, 1978. The most watched Company episode aired on March 13, 1979, immediately preceding the series premiere of its spinoff, The Ropers. The episode, entitled "An Anniversary Surprise", centered around Stanley selling the apartment, and the Ropers moving out. It attracted a superb 38.4 rating (29 million households), making the episode one of the most watched telecasts ever. Here is how the show ranked overall in popularity throughout its eight-season run among all television programs:

  1. Spring 1977: #11
  2. 1977–1978: #3
  3. 1978–1979: #1
  4. 1979–1980: #2
  5. 1980–1981: #8
  6. 1981–1982: #4
  7. 1982–1983: #6
  8. 1983–1984: #31

Syndication

The show has been in local syndication since 1982 (ABC aired repeats during daytime in the summer of 1981) and the sales on the project realized more than $150,000,000 of which Thames took 12.5% ($19,000,000). It debuted on cable in 1992 on TBS and ran through 1999. Then Nick at Nite bought the show in 2000 and have a 7 year term with other Viacom networks such as TV Land and TNN.

In March 2001, after being notified by a viewer, Nick at Nite quickly edited an episode where John Ritter's scrotum skin was briefly visible through the bottom of a pair of blue boxer shorts. The most famous quip about this issue was uttered by John Ritter, who told the New York Observer when they asked him about the controversy: "I've requested that [Nickelodeon] air both versions, edited and unedited, because sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don't.

The show currently airs on TV Land.

Technical aspect

Three's Company was taped at two places: The first, seventh, and eighth seasons were taped at Metromedia Square while the second through sixth season were taped in studio 31 of CBS Television City. The cast would get the script on Monday, rehearse from Tuesday to Thursday, and shoot on Friday. Each episode was shot twice in a row using two different audiences. Three cameras were used, a technique created for I Love Lucy to give a stage-play feel.

The taping was done in sequence and there were rarely any retakes because the producers were pretty strict. Priscilla Barnes once said, "Our bosses were very, very controlling. If my hair was too blond, I'd get called up in the office.

The opening credits where the trio are frolicking on a boardwalk and riding bumper-cars was shot at the Santa Monica Pier. They have since built a larger amusement park area adjacent to the pier, which wasn't there when the series was filmed.

A later opening sequence that was shot when Priscilla Barnes joined the show featured the new threesome and the other cast members riding a zoo tram and looking at various animals around the zoo. Those sequences were filmed at the Los Angeles County Zoo in Griffith Park.

DVD releases

All eight seasons of Three's Company have been released on DVD in Region 1 by Anchor Bay Entertainment.

DVD name Release date Nbr ep. Bonus features
Season 1 November 11 2003 6 None
Season 2 May 4 2004 25 Audio commentary; Best of Janet, Chrissy and the Ropers; Pilot episode; Tribute to John Ritter; Featurette; Gag reels; Trivia game.
Season 3 November 2 2004 22 Pilot Episode #2; Remembering John Ritter interview; Audio commentary; Original promo pieces with John Ritter; Richard Kline and Dave Powers interviews.
Season 4 May 3 2005 25 Nancy Morgan Ritter interview; Audio commentary; Interviews with Don Knotts, Richard Kline, and Ann Wedgeworth; Best of Jack, Janet, Chrissy, Larry, and Mr. Furley.
Season 5 November 15 2005 22 Jenilee Harrison interview; interviews with producers George Sunga & George Burditt and writer Kim Weiskopf; Best of Jack, Janet, Cindy, Larry, and Mr. Furley.
Season 6 March 7 2006 26 Lucille Ball presents The Best Of Three's Company; Laughs Around the World: Episode in Polish; Audio commentary from director Dave Powers on Jack Bares All.
Season 7 July 25 2006 22 Don Knotts: A Tribute; Parlez-Vous Three's Company?; Audio commentary from Richard Kline; Best of Jack, Janet, Terri, and Larry.
Season 8 October 3 2006 22 John Ritter: Working with the Master; Usted Habla Three's Company?; Bloopers from final 3 seasons; Best of Jack, Janet, Terri, Larry, and Mr. Furley.

See also

References

External links

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