The Ropers

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The Ropers
The Ropers (title screen).jpg
The Ropers opening logo
Based onGeorge and Mildred
by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
Developed byDon Nicholl
Michael Ross
Bernie West
StarringNorman Fell
Audra Lindley
Jeffrey Tambor
Patricia McCormack
Evan Cohen
Theme music composerJoe Raposo
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes28 (list of episodes)
Production
Production location(s)CBS Television City
Hollywood, California
Running time30 minutes
Production company(s)The NRW Company
DistributorD.L. Taffner Syndication Services (1980-1998)
DLT Entertainment (1998-present)
The Program Exchange
FremantleMedia (International)
Release
Original networkABC
Original releaseMarch 13, 1979 (1979-03-13) – May 22, 1980 (1980-05-22)
Chronology
Preceded byThree's Company
Related showsGeorge and Mildred

The Ropers is an American sitcom that aired on ABC from March 13, 1979, to May 22, 1980. It is a spin-off of Three's Company and loosely based on the British sitcom George and Mildred, which was itself a spin-off of Man About the House, on which Three's Company was based.

It was taped at CBS Television City in Hollywood, California, where its parent series, Three's Company, was taping at the time, from February to April 1979 (Season 1) and from July 1979 to February 1980 (Season 2).[1]

Plot[edit]

The series focused on middle-aged couple Stanley (Norman Fell) and Helen Roper (Audra Lindley), who were landlords to Jack, Janet and Chrissy on Three's Company.

In this spin-off, the Ropers have sold their apartment building in the Three's Company episode "An Anniversary Surprise" (season 3, episode 20) 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.

As was the case during their time on Three's Company, opening credits for The Ropers alternate between Audra Lindley and Norman Fell credited first.

Characters[edit]

Main characters[edit]

  • Stanley Roper (Norman Fell)—A lower-middle-class, frugal, and often embarrassing retiree, who moved to Cheviot Hills after he is duped into buying a townhouse.
  • Helen Roper (Audra Lindley)—A sexually frustrated, social-climbing middle-aged woman who tries to fit into the community despite her husband Stanley's constant boorishness. Despite her attempts to fit in, she often proves herself to be as bumbling as her husband.
  • Jeffrey P. Brookes III (Jeffrey Tambor)—The snobbish realtor who is also the Ropers' next-door neighbor.
  • 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' 7-year-old son who is always tempted to bother Mr. Roper, which his parents don't approve.

Recurring characters[edit]

  • 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
  • Hilda (Lucy Lee Flippin/Darcy Pulliam)—Helen's sister who has 5 children and 1 on the way with her husband, "Fertile" Freddy
  • Mother (Lucille Benson)—Helen, Hilda, and Ethel's mother

Creation[edit]

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. With the show's continued success in its second season, however, 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 had gone 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 the show were to be canceled prior to that time, 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 a 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.[2] 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 series would enjoy a long run.

Cancellation[edit]

At the beginning of the 1979-80 season ABC moved the show to Saturdays at 8pm, resulting in an audience drop that 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 had allowed it to finish the 1979-80 season at number 25; the Nielsen ratings for that year, however, list the series Soap at number 25.[2]

With the series canceled, Fell approached Three's Company producers about the Ropers returning to the show, however during the time The Ropers was on the air, the landlord 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 and ABC, 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 that led to her departure from the series. 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; Silverman, however, 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 Three's Company that same season playing a different character, a wealthy but unwelcome suitor of Chrissy's cousin Cindy (Season 5, Episode #13). Tambor also made other guest appearances on Three's Company, portraying different characters.

The show was ranked number two on Time magazine's "Top 10 Worst TV Spin-Offs".[3]

In July 2002 TV Guide named The Ropers the 49th worst TV series of all time.[4]

Episodes[edit]

Season Episodes First aired Last aired
1 6 March 13, 1979 (1979-03-13) April 17, 1979 (1979-04-17)
2 22 September 15, 1979 (1979-09-15) May 18, 1980 (1980-05-18)

Season 1 (1979)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
11"Moving On"Dave PowersBrian Cooke,
Johnnie Mortimer
March 13, 1979 (1979-03-13)
Helen bugs Stanley into finally looking for a new house. Stanley, however, wants to buy a mobile home.
Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke. This episode is sometimes included in Three's Company syndication as an additional Three's Company episode.
22"Friends and Neighbors"Dave PowersBrian Cooke,
Johnnie Mortimer
March 20, 1979 (1979-03-20)

Stanley embarrasses Helen, when he locks himself outside of their house in nothing but underwear, while she's attending a posh party next door.

Guest stars: Roger Bowen as James, Rick Garcia as Locksmith, Jean Gillespie as Margaret, and Tom Pedi as Moving Man.
Based on "The Bad Penny" by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
33"Your Money or Your Life"Dave PowersBrian Cooke,
Johnnie Mortimer
March 27, 1979 (1979-03-27)

Stanley thinks he's dying when results from his doctor don't come right away.

Guest stars: Marilyn Borden as Hetty, Rosalyn Borden as Betty, Hope Clarke as Dr. Young, Mickey Deems as Uncle Bert, Jane Dulo as Kate Morgan, John Fiedler as Bill Marsh, Lois Hamilton as Marilyn Graham (credited as Lois Areno), and Jillian Kesner as Linda Graham.
Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
44"The Doris Letters"Dave PowersBrian Cooke,
Johnnie Mortimer
April 3, 1979 (1979-04-03)

Helen thinks Stanley needs help and takes him to a marriage counselor, after she finds many love letters from him that turn out were for Doris Day.

Guest Stars: Don Chastain as Keith and Alice Hirson as Mrs. Eastham.
Based on "The Dorothy Letters" by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
55"The Family Planning"Dave PowersBrian Cooke,
Johnnie Mortimer
April 10, 1979 (1979-04-10)

Stanley gets upset when Helen's mother and sister Ethel visit and he thinks that her mother has plans to stay with them permanently.

Guest Stars: Lucille Benson as Mother, Rod Colbin as Hubert Armbrewster, Dena Dietrich as Ethel Armbrewster, and Lucy Lee Flippin as Hilda.
Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
66"Opportunity Knocks"Dave PowersBrian Cooke,
Johnnie Mortimer
April 17, 1979 (1979-04-17)

Larry Dallas 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.

Guest Stars: William Cort as Mr. Williams, Lois Hamilton as Marilyn Graham (credited as Lois Areno), Richard Kline as Larry Dallas, Cooper Neal as Councilman Clifford, Nancy Priddy as Mrs. Clifford, and Mary-Robin Redd as Mrs. Williams.
Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke

Season 2 (1979–80)[edit]

No.
overall
No. in
season
Title Directed by Written by Original air date
71"The Party"Jack SheaGeorge BurdittSeptember 15, 1979 (1979-09-15)

Helen complains 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. This episode is sometimes included in "Three's Company" syndication as "Stanley, the Ladies' Man".

Guest Stars: Joyce DeWitt as Janet Wood, John Ritter as Jack Tripper, Suzanne Somers as Chrissy Snow.
82"Days of Beer and Rosie"Jack SheaMartin Rips,
Joseph Staretski
September 22, 1979 (1979-09-22)

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.

Guest Stars: Peggy Converse as Mrs. Hollingsworth, Squire Fridell as Bill, and Vernon Weddle as Ernest Grimes.
Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
93"Power Play"Jack SheaMartin Rips,
Joseph Staretski
September 29, 1979 (1979-09-29)

When the electricity to the Ropers' house is cut off, and Helen's sister is supposed to come for dinner, Stanley "borrows" electricity from the Brookes.

Guest Stars: Rod Colbin as Hubert Armbrewster, Dena Dietrich as Ethel Armbrewster, and Cliff Norton as Don Webster.
Based on "The Unkindest Cut of All" by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
104"Baby Talk"Jack SheaGeorge BurdittOctober 6, 1979 (1979-10-06)

Stanley fears that Helen will ignore him if they adopt a child. When a social worker says they're too old to adopt, he raises her spirits by giving her a dog, Muffin.

Guest Stars: Beverly Dixon as Hortense Bell, Lois Hamilton as Debbie Hopper (credited as Lois Areno), Missy Howard as Little Girl, and Henry Sutton as Reverend Munson (listed in final credits as 'Reverend Sutton').
Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
115"Two for the Road"Jack SheaWayne Kline,
Martin Rips,
Joseph Staretski
October 13, 1979 (1979-10-13)

Stanley and Jeffrey get drunk and are arrested, after both have arguments with their respective spouses.

Guest Stars: Richard Christie as Officer Hibbs (credited as Dick Christie) (final credits show 'Office Hibbs'), Alan Koss as Officer Slade, Art K. Koustik as Bartender (credited as Art Koustik), and Fred Pinkard as Desk Sergeant.
126"Puppy Love"Jack SheaMartin Rips,
Joseph Staretski
October 20, 1979 (1979-10-20)

Stanley loses their dog and buys another one to try to calm Helen down.

Guest Stars: Martin Ferrero as Salesman, Lois Hamilton as Debbie Hopper (credited as Lois Areno), and Sheila Rogers as Customer.
137"All Around the Clock"Jack SheaGeorge BurdittOctober 27, 1979 (1979-10-27)

On their 23rd wedding anniversary, Stanley buys a fake antique clock that happens to resemble the Brookes' stolen clock. Helen then tries to sneak into their house to return it.

Guest Stars: Joey Forman as Officer McNab and Sam McMurray as Charles Remington.
Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
148"Odd Couples"Jack SheaMark FinkNovember 3, 1979 (1979-11-03)

When Stanley accidentally sets his kitchen on fire, Brookes thinks it's from faulty wiring and lets the Ropers stay with his family.

Guest Star: Carleton Carpenter as Roland Calvert.
159"Pal Joey"Jack SheaMartin Rips,
Joseph Staretski
November 17, 1979 (1979-11-17)

When Stanley gets a new (or so he tells Helen) living room suite from his friend Joey, he finds out the furniture once belonged to Helen's sister, Ethel.

Guest Stars: Rod Colbin as Hubert Armbrewster, Dena Dietrich as Ethel Armbrewster, and Richard B. Shull as Joey.
1610"Helen Makes Music"Jack SheaStephen NeigherNovember 24, 1979 (1979-11-24)

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 an organ.

Guest Star: Matthew Tobin as Donald Carey.
1711"The Skeleton"Jack SheaAlan HackneyDecember 1, 1979 (1979-12-01)

Jeffrey's hobo uncle comes for a visit, especially since a congressman is coming for lunch.

Guest Star: Barry Nelson as Uncle Bill.
1812"The Other Man"Jack SheaNeil Rosen,
George Tricker
December 15, 1979 (1979-12-15)

Helen asks the gardener to pose as her "Latin lover" Ramon, in order to make Stanley jealous.

Guest stars: Dante D'Andre as Second Man, Jillian Kesner as Linda Graham, Julio Medina as Third Man, and Jay Varela as Mr. Ramirez.
1913"And Who's Been Sleeping in My...?"Jack SheaGeorge Burditt,
Stephen Neigher,
Don Nicholl,
Michael Ross,
Bernard West
January 26, 1980 (1980-01-26)

The Ropers find out that an 18-year-old girl has been living in their store room for weeks.

Introducing Stevie Vallance as Jenny Ballinger (credited as Louise Vallance).
2014"Jenny's Date"Jack SheaMartin Rips,
Joseph Staretski
February 2, 1980 (1980-02-02)

Stanley pays the Brookes' nephew, Michael, $50 to take Jenny out on a date.

Guest Stars: Edward Edwards as Michael Dinkelmann and Stevie Vallance as Jenny Ballinger (credited as Louise Vallance).
2115"Of Mice and Horses"Jack SheaGeorge BurdittFebruary 9, 1980 (1980-02-09)

Ethel attempts to retrieve a valuable horse-shaped case, supposedly from the Ming Dynasty, from Helen.

Guest Stars: Lucille Benson as Mother, Dena Dietrich as Ethel Armbrewster, and Stevie Vallance as Jenny Ballinger (credited as Louise Vallance).
Based on "I Gotta Horse!" by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
2216"Family Feud"Jack SheaKatherine Green,
Barbara Allyn
February 16, 1980 (1980-02-16)

The Ropers and Brookes feud on David and Helen's birthday.

Guest Star: Stevie Vallance as Jenny Ballinger (credited as Louise Vallance).
2317"The Other Woman"Jack SheaStephen NeigherMarch 1, 1980 (1980-03-01)

Helen is convinced Stanley is having an affair, when she sees him give a locket to another woman.

Guest Stars: Jordan Charney as Mr. McLaughlin, Lola Mason as Lucille Pomeroy, Paul Valentine as Maitre'D, and Stevie Vallance as Jenny Ballinger (credited as Louise Vallance).
2418"Men About the House"Jack SheaMartin Rips,
Joseph Staretski
March 8, 1980 (1980-03-08)

After Helen volunteers Stanley to babysit David on poker night, he takes him to a game.

Guest Star: Richard B. Shull as Joey.
2519"Old Flames"Jack SheaMartin Rips,
Joseph Staretski
March 15, 1980 (1980-03-15)

Stanley is jealous when Helen's old USO boyfriend wants to see her and makes himself a date with an old girlfriend.

Guest Stars: Lucille Benson as Mother, James T. Callahan as Tom Cummins (credited as James Callahan), Mickey Deems as Drunk, Joe George as Bartender, Gloria LeRoy as Gloria Mealy, and Stevie Vallance as Jenny Ballinger (credited as Louise Vallance).
2620"The Rummage Sale"Jack SheaGeorge BurdittMay 1, 1980 (1980-05-01)

Stanley's men's magazines are accidentally donated to a church rummage sale.

Guest Stars: Edward Grover as Reverend Harper and Stevie Vallance as Jenny Ballinger (credited as Louise Vallance).
Based on "Jumble Pie" by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
2721"Four Letter Word"Jack SheaGeorge BurdittMay 8, 1980 (1980-05-08)

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.

Guest Stars: Timothy Blake as Louise Cooper, Rod Colbinas Hubert Armbrewster, Dena Dietrich as Ethel Armbrewster, and Stevie Vallance as Jenny Ballinger (credited as Louise Vallance).
Based on the episode of the same name by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
2822"Mother's Wake"Jack SheaGeorge BurdittMay 18, 1980 (1980-05-18)

Helen's mother holds a wake at the Ropers' house to discuss her will, complete with presents.

Helen's mother gives herself a wake at the Ropers' house.

Guest Stars: Lucille Benson as Mother, Dena Dietrich as Ethel Armbrewster, Lois Hamilton as Debbie Hopper (credited as Lois Areno), Darcy Pulliam as Hilda, Henry Sutton as Reverend Munson, and Stevie Vallance as Jenny Ballinger (credited as Louise Vallance).

Syndication[edit]

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.[5] The series started on Tuesday, February 15, 2011, and went through one entire rotation of all episodes before being removed from the lineup.[6] 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 Ropers' 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.

Beginning in 2015 Antenna TV began airing the series on weekends back to back with the other Three's Company spin-off series Three's A Crowd.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Shows - CBS Television City". cbstelevisioncity.com.
  2. ^ a b 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.
  3. ^ "The Ropers, 1979-80 - Top 10 Worst TV Spin-Offs". Time. Time Inc. October 1, 2008. Retrieved 2010-12-30.
  4. ^ TV Guide Book of Lists. Running Press. 2007. p. 181. ISBN 0-7624-3007-9.
  5. ^ "Our Exclusive Interview with Antenna TV's Sean Compton; KTLA Preview of Antenna TV; 2011 SAG Nominations - SitcomsOnline.com News Blog". sitcomsonline.com.
  6. ^ "Antenna TV Premieres The Ropers on Feb. 15, 2011; Remembering Character Actor Peter Hobbs - SitcomsOnline.com News Blog". sitcomsonline.com.

External links[edit]