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The Ropers opening logo
|Based on||George and Mildred created by Johnnie Mortimer
|Developed by||Don Nicholl
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||28|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original run||March 13, 1979– May 22, 1980|
|Preceded by||Three's Company|
|Related shows||George and Mildred|
The Ropers is an American sitcom that ran from March 13, 1979 to May 22, 1980 on ABC. The series is a spin-off of Three's Company and based on the British sitcom George and Mildred. The series focused on middle-aged couple Stanley and Helen Roper (played by Norman Fell and Audra Lindley) who were landlords to Jack, Janet, and Chrissy on Three's Company.
As was the case during their time on Three's Company, opening credits for The Ropers exist with either Audra Lindley or Norman Fell credited first.
- Stanley Roper (Norman Fell) - A lower-middle-class, frugal, and often embarrassing retiree. Has moved into Cheviot Hills after he is duped into making a promise to his wife Helen that he would buy the condo she wants if it wasn't already sold. His realtor's son suddenly reveals that the condo is in fact not sold.
- Helen Roper (Audra Lindley) - A sexually frustrated, social-climbing middle-aged woman who tries to fit in the community despite her husband Stanley's constant boorishness. Despite her attempts to fit in, she often proves herself as bumbling as her husband.
- Jeffrey P. Brookes III (Jeffrey Tambor) - The snobbish realtor who is also the Ropers' next-door neighbor. As revealed in the show's pilot (later syndicated as a Three's Company episode), he is not a third-generation namesake, when his wife Ann chides him for the "III" in his name when his father's name is actually Al. He is forced to sell them the condo after his son David innocently reveals the condo isn't sold to someone else...an obvious effort by Brookes to keep the Ropers out.
- Anne Brookes (Patricia McCormack) - Brookes' long-suffering, down-to-earth homemaker wife, who looks after the house and their young son David. She and Helen become friendly, despite their husbands' frequently adversarial relationship with one another.
- David Brookes (Evan Cohen) - Jeffrey and Anne Brookes' little 7 year-old son that is always tempted to bother Mr. Roper which Brookes doesn't approve. Loves to get candy from people.
- Jenny Ballinger (Louise Vallance) - a young woman who had been living in the Ropers' storeroom.
- Ethel Ambrewster (Dena Dietrich) - Helen's snobby elder sister. Gives her an air kiss every time she sees Helen.
- Hubert Ambrewster (Rod Colbin) - Ethel's husband and Helen's brother-in-law.
- Debbie Hopper (Lois Areno)- The girl Stanley sees at the hot tub in the neighborhood.
- Joey (Richard B. Shull) - Stanley's best friend and one of Helen's enemies.
- Mother (Lucille Benson) - Helen and Ethel's Mother.
In this spinoff, the Ropers have sold their apartment building in Three's Company to live in the upmarket community of Cheviot Hills, where the social-climbing Helen struggled to fit in with her neighbors. Stanley made little attempt to fit in with the standards of the community, thereby causing Helen much embarrassment. The address of their new home was 46 Peacock Drive. Their phone number was 555-3099.
After the enormous success of Three's Company in its short first season in 1977, ABC head Fred Silverman was anxious to capitalize on the show's success. In early 1977, Silverman approached Fell and Lindley with the subject of doing a spin-off from the show after its first full season wrapped in the spring of 1978. Both actors as well as the Three's Company producers begged off as the show had yet to prove itself for an entire season. However, with the show's continued success in its second season, the idea was brought up again in 1978, this time by Three's Company's own producers as well as new ABC head Tony Thomopolous (Silverman went to NBC). The idea intrigued Lindley, but Fell was extremely reluctant, as he was satisfied with his role on a show that was already a proven hit. Fell feared that a spin-off would be unsuccessful and thus put him out of a good role and job. To alleviate his fears, Three's Company producers contractually promised Fell that they would give the new series a year to prove itself. If unsuccessful, then he and Lindley would return to Three's Company. A reluctant Fell agreed to the new terms.
Like Three's Company, The Ropers was introduced as late season replacement series in the spring of 1979 premiering the same night as Three's Company on ABC's successful Tuesday night lineup, airing at 10pm. In its first season, the ratings for the show were very high (the show finished at #8 for the 1978-79 season), and had the second-highest series premiere rating at the time. After the season premiere, Three's Company went on hiatus, but The Ropers still did well. ABC reran the episodes over the summer of 1979 (in August on Sundays) where they continued to achieve high ratings leading many to believe that the show would have a long run.
At the beginning of the 1979-80 season, however, ABC moved the show to Saturday nights at 8pm, resulting in an audience drop which put it near the bottom of the ratings. Being placed on Saturday nights, rather than on the ABC Tuesday night lineup, caused an immediate fall into the bottom ten (#52 out of 61 shows for the week of September 17–23, its second week of the season) as the show was in direct competition with the NBC show CHiPs. The show later moved to 8:30pm on Saturdays by January 1980. The move upset Fell to the point that he actually went to ABC headquarters in New York to plead with the network to move the show to a better time slot. His effort was in vain, however, and the show continued to pull in low ratings. The drop in ratings and the fact that the show wasn't pulling in the key young demographic audience, led to announcement of the show's cancellation by ABC in May 1980. The last three episodes aired Thursdays at 9:30pm after Barney Miller in May 1980. Audra Lindley stated in Chris Mann's 1997 book about Three's Company, that she was surprised that The Ropers had been canceled after a late season surge in the series ratings that allowed it to finish the 1979-80 season at number 25, however, the Nielsen ratings for that year list the series Soap at number 25.
With the series canceled, Fell approached Three's Company producers about returning to the show. During the time that The Ropers was on the air, the characters had been replaced on Three's Company by Ralph Furley (Don Knotts). The addition had worked well and Three's Company had retained its popularity. The idea of returning Fell and Lindley to their original Three's Company roles was undesirable to producers, mainly because they had one character playing the landlord role now as opposed to two, which would require more money to be paid out per episode, (the cancellation of The Ropers came just as Suzanne Somers began to renegotiate her contract, which would lead to her very public contract dispute during the 1980-81 television season), something that was undesirable to the show's producers and ABC. The cancellation of The Ropers came just one month after the one-year contractual deadline had passed. Fell would later state that he always believed the decision to pull the plug on the show had been made much earlier, but that the network deliberately postponed making the cancellation official until after the one-year mark specifically to be relieved of the obligation to allow Fell and Lindley to return to Three's Company. There was an attempt by producers to sell the show to Silverman over at NBC; however, Silverman passed on it too.
Despite the hard feelings, in March 1981 both Fell and Lindley made one final guest appearance on Three's Company (in season 5, episode # 96) nearly a year after the end of their own series before the characters were retired for good. For audiences, it was a chance to see all of the three landlord characters — played by Fell, Lindley, and Knotts — on the same stage.
Tambor appeared on the show that same season playing a different character, a wealthy but unwelcome suitor of Chrissy's cousin Cindy (#5.13).
- Nº = Overall episode number
- Ep = Episode number by season
Season 1: 1979
|Nº||Ep||Title||Directed by:||Written by:||Air date|
|1||1||"Moving On"||Dave Powers||Brian Cooke,
|13 March 1979|
|Helen bugs Stanley into finally looking for a new house. Stanley, however, wants to rent a mobile home. Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke|
|2||2||"Friends and Neighbors"||Dave Powers||Brian Cooke,
|20 March 1979|
|Stanley embarrasses Helen when he locks himself outside of their house in nothing but underwear while she's attending a posh party next door. Based on "The Bad Penny" by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke|
|3||3||"Your Money or Your Life"||Dave Powers||Brian Cooke,
|27 March 1979|
|Stanley thinks he's dying when results from his doctor don't come right away. Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke|
|4||4||"The Doris Letters"||Dave Powers||Brian Cooke,
|3 April 1979|
|Helen thinks Stanley needs help and takes him to a marriage counselor after she finds many love letters from him, which turn out were for Doris Day. Based on "The Dorothy Letters" by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke|
|5||5||"The Family Planning"||Dave Powers||Brian Cooke,
|10 April 1979|
|Stanley gets upset when Helen's mother and sister Ethel visit and he thinks that her mother has plans to stay with them — permanently! Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke|
|6||6||"Opportunity Knocks"||Dave Powers||Brian Cooke,
|17 April 1979|
|Larry visits and tries to sell them a mobile home. This idea excites Mr. Roper and the always devious Jeffrey. Stanley almost buys it without telling Helen. Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke|
Season 2: 1979–80
|Nº||Ep||Title||Directed by:||Written by:||Air date|
|7||1||"The Party"||Jack Shea||George Burditt||15 September 1979|
|The second season begins with Helen complaining about never getting to take a vacation. To keep her quiet, Stanley prepares a secret disco birthday party with the aid of his former tenants Jack Tripper, Janet Wood, and Chrissy Snow.|
|8||2||"Days of Beer and Rosie"||Jack Shea||Martin Rips,
|22 September 1979|
|A man shows up at the condo and introduces himself as Stanley's son from an affair years ago. The Brookes want to send their son, David, to a private school. Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke|
|9||3||"Power Play"||Jack Shea||Martin Rips,
|29 September 1979|
|When the electricity to the Roper's house is cut off when Helen's sister is supposed to come for dinner, Stanley "borrows" electricity from the Brookes. Based on "The Unkindest Cut of All" by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke|
|10||4||"Baby Talk"||Jack Shea||George Burditt||6 October 1979|
|Stanley fears that Helen will ignore him if they adopt a child. But when a social worker says they're too old to adopt, he raises her spirits by giving her Muffin, a dog. Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke|
|11||5||"Two for the Road"||Jack Shea||Wayne Kline,
|13 October 1979|
|Stanley and Jeffrey get drunk and are arrested after both have arguments with their respective spouses.|
|12||6||"Puppy Love"||Jack Shea||Martin Rips,
|20 October 1979|
|Stanley loses their dog and buys another one to try to calm Helen down.|
|13||7||"All Around the Clock"||Jack Shea||George Burditt||27 October 1979|
|On their 23rd wedding anniversary, Stanley buys a fake antique clock which happens to resemble the Brookes' stolen clock. Helen then tries to sneak into the house to return the clock. Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke|
|14||8||"Odd Couples"||Jack Shea||Mark Fink||3 November 1979|
|When the Ropers' kitchen is accidentally set on fire by Mr. Roper, Brookes thinks it's his fault and lets them stay with his family.|
|15||9||"Pal Joey"||Jack Shea||Martin Rips,
|17 November 1979|
|When Stanley gets a new (or so he tells Helen) living room suite from his friend Joey, he finds out the "new" furniture once belonged to Helen's sister, Ethel.|
|16||10||"Helen Makes Music"||Jack Shea||Stephen Neigher||24 November 1979|
|The Brookes and Ropers fight over the commission money Helen gets when she sells one of the townhouses to a buyer, so the Brookes decide to buy her something — an organ!|
|17||11||"The Skeleton"||Jack Shea||Alan Hackney||1 December 1979|
|Jeffrey's hobo uncle comes for a visit.|
|18||12||"The Other Man"||Jack Shea||Neil Rosen,
|15 December 1979|
|Helen creates a phony lover named Roman to make Stanley jealous.|
|19||13||"And Who's Been Sleeping in My...?"||Jack Shea||George Burditt,
|26 January 1980|
|The Ropers find out that a 18-year-old girl has been living in their store room for weeks.|
|20||14||"Jenny's Date"||Jack Shea||Martin Rips,
|2 February 1980|
|Stanley pays the Brookes' nephew $50 to take Jenny out on a date.|
|21||15||"Of Mice and Horses"||Jack Shea||George Burditt||9 February 1980|
|Ethel attempts to retrieve a valuable horse-shaped vase from the Ropers. Based on "I Gotta Horse!" by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke|
|22||16||"Family Feud"||Jack Shea||Katherine Green,
|16 February 1980|
|The Ropers and Brookes feud on David and Helen's birthday.|
|23||17||"The Other Woman"||Jack Shea||Stephen Neigher||1 March 1980|
|Helen thinks Stanley is cheating on her.|
|24||18||"Men About the House"||Jack Shea||Martin Rips,
|8 March 1980|
|Stanley takes David to a poker game while babysitting him.|
|25||19||"Old Flames"||Jack Shea||Martin Rips,
|15 March 1980|
|Stanley is jealous when Helen's old boyfriend wants to see her.|
|26||20||"The Rummage Sale"||Jack Shea||George Burditt||1 May 1980|
|Stanley's men's magazines are accidentally donated to a church rummage sale. Based on "Jumble Pie" by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke|
|27||21||"Four Letter Word"||Jack Shea||George Burditt||8 May 1980|
|When Stanley goes over to his brother-in-law Hubert's office to get a job, he finds two tickets for Hubert and his secretary to Acapulco.|
|28||22||"Mother's Wake"||Jack Shea||George Burditt||18 May 1980|
|Helen's mother holds a wake at the Ropers' house to discuss her will, complete with presents.|
The Ropers has been aired in syndication on local channels in the 1980s and early 1990s, but has had limited airings in recent years, likely because, due to its relatively short network run—roughly a season and a half—there aren't enough episodes to strip the show. Two episodes of the series, however, play in the syndication package of Three's Company. When initially offered in syndication, the series ran under the title Three's Company's Friends, The Ropers. That version used an instrumental version of the original series' theme song. Six episodes of the series were aired on TV Land in September 2006, and four episodes were aired on WGN America in October 2008.
Beginning in January 2011 Antenna TV, a television network designed for digital television subchannels and owned by Tribune Broadcasting, aired the sitcom. The series started on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011, and went through one entire rotation of all episodes before being removed from the lineup. On August 29, 2011, the show returned to the lineup as the Three's Company cycle again came to the point of the series where the Ropers left.
Antenna TV usually shows back-to-back episodes of Three's Company. But when the cycle comes to the point of the Roper's departure, the network then airs The Ropers following a single episode of Three's Company until the end of the Ropers cycle, then resumes the back-to-back Three's Company airings.
- Mann, Chris (1998). Come and Knock on Our Door: A Hers and Hers and His Guide to Three's Company. Macmillan. p. 113. ISBN 0-312-16803-9.
- "The Ropers, 1979-80 - Top 10 Worst TV Spin-Offs". Time (Time Inc.). October 1, 2008. Retrieved 2010-12-30.
- TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 181. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.