|Based on||Man About the House|
by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
|Developed by||Don Nicholl|
|Theme music composer||Joe Raposo|
|Opening theme||"Come And Knock On Our Door", performed by Ray Charles & Julia Rinker|
|Ending theme||"Come And Knock On Our Door" (instrumental)|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||8|
|No. of episodes||172 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Michael Ross|
Bernie West (entire run)
Don Nicholl (1977–81)
George Burditt (1981–84)
|Production location(s)||Metromedia Square|
Hollywood, California (1977, 1982–84)
ABC Television Center
Hollywood, California (1977)
CBS Television City
Hollywood, California (1977–82)
|Camera setup||Videotape; Multi-camera|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production company(s)||NRW Productions|
T.T.C. Productions, Inc.
|Distributor||D.L. Taffner Syndication Sales|
The Program Exchange
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Original release||March 15, 1977– September 18, 1984|
|Followed by||The Ropers|
Three's a Crowd
|Related shows||Man About the House|
The story revolves around three single roommates: Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt), Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers), and Jack Tripper (John Ritter), who all platonically live together in a Santa Monica, California apartment complex owned by Stanley Roper (Norman Fell) and Helen Roper (Audra Lindley). After Norman Fell and Audra Lindley left the series in 1979 for their own sitcom, Don Knotts joined the cast as the roommates' new building manager, Ralph Furley. Following Somers's departure in late 1980, Jenilee Harrison joined the cast as Chrissy's first cousin Cindy Snow, who was soon replaced by Priscilla Barnes as Terri Alden.
The show, a farce, chronicles the escapades and hijinks of the trio's constant misunderstandings, social lives, and financial struggles. A top ten hit from 1977 to 1983, the series has remained popular in syndication and through DVD releases. The show also spawned similar spin-offs that Man About the House had: The Ropers and Three's a Crowd, based upon George and Mildred and Robin's Nest, respectively.
After crashing a party and finding himself passed out in the bathtub, culinary school student Jack Tripper meets Janet Wood, a florist, and Chrissy Snow, a secretary, in need of a new roommate to replace their departing roommate Eleanor. Having only been able to afford to live at the YMCA, Jack quickly accepts the offer to move in with the duo.
However, due to overbearing landlord Stanley Roper's intolerance for co-ed living situations, even in a multi-bedroom apartment, Jack is allowed to move in only after Janet tells Mr. Roper that Jack is gay. Although Mrs. Roper figures out Jack's true sexuality in the second episode, she does not tell her husband, who tolerates but mocks him. Frequently siding with the three roommates instead of her husband, Mrs. Roper's bond with the roommates grows until the eventual spinoff The Ropers.
Jack continues the charade when new building manager Ralph Furley takes over the apartment complex because Mr. Furley insists that his hard-nosed brother Bart (the building's new owner) would also never tolerate such living situations.
Cast and characters
- John Ritter as Jack Tripper: A clumsy culinary student (later chef, then restaurant owner) from San Diego. Also a Navy veteran, and swinging bachelor. (172 episodes)
- Joyce DeWitt as Janet Wood: A down-to-earth level-headed woman from Speedway, Indiana who was also an aspiring dancer. She works at the Arcade Flower Shop. (171 episodes)
- Suzanne Somers as Chrissy Snow (seasons 1–5): A ditzy secretary from Fresno. (87 episodes)
- Jenilee Harrison as Cindy Snow (seasons 5–6): Chrissy's accident-prone cousin, a secretary and later, veterinary student at UCLA. (27 episodes)
- Priscilla Barnes as Terri Alden (seasons 6–8): An intelligent, but lovelorn, registered nurse from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. (70 episodes)
- Richard Kline as Larry Dallas: A playboy neighbor, used car salesman, and Jack's best friend. (146 episodes)
- Norman Fell as Stanley Roper (seasons 1–3; season 5, guest star): The trio's original, hard-nosed landlord. (54 episodes)
- Audra Lindley as Helen Roper (seasons 1–3; season 5, guest star): Stanley's sex-starved, muumuu-wearing wife. (54 episodes)
- Don Knotts as Ralph Furley (seasons 4–8): The trio's goofy, yet friendly, flamboyantly dressed second landlord who fancies himself a ladies' man. He’s something of a skinflint. (88 episodes)
- Ann Wedgeworth as Lana Shields (season 4): A promiscuous older female neighbor who pursued Jack and was in turn pursued by Mr. Furley. (9 episodes)
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Nielsen ratings|
|First aired||Last aired||Rank||Rating||Tied with|
|1||6||March 15, 1977||April 21, 1977||11||23.1||N/A|
|2||25||September 13, 1977||May 16, 1978||3||28.3||N/A|
|3||22||September 12, 1978||May 8, 1979||2||30.3||N/A|
|4||25||September 11, 1979||May 6, 1980||2||26.3||N/A|
|5||22||October 28, 1980||May 19, 1981||8||22.4||House Calls|
|6||28||October 6, 1981||May 18, 1982||4||23.3||N/A|
|7||22||September 28, 1982||May 10, 1983||6||21.2||N/A|
|8||22||September 27, 1983||September 18, 1984||33||16.8||N/A|
The show was set in a neighborhood within walking distance of the beach in Santa Monica, California, and was filmed primarily using three main sets: the trio's apartment, their landlord's apartment, and a neighborhood pub called The Regal Beagle. In later seasons more sets were used, frequently depicting the apartment of Jack's friend Larry, Angelino's restaurant, Jack's Bistro, the hospital where Terri worked, and Janet's flower shop.
Humor in the show was based on farce, often relying on innuendo and misunderstanding, as well as physical comedy to punctuate the hare-brained schemes the characters would invariably conjure up to get themselves out of situations and dilemmas. Running jokes were frequently based on Jack's (supposed) sexual orientation, Mr. Roper's lack of sexual prowess, and Chrissy's blonde moments. Conflict in the show came from the dysfunctional marriage of the Ropers, Janet's intolerance for a roommate romance, and later on, Jack's friendship with Larry and Larry's abuse thereof. Of all the characters, only Jack, Janet, and Larry appeared in all eight seasons of the series.
The theme song was composed by Joe Raposo (known for composing for the children's television shows Sesame Street and The Electric Company), and sung by Ray Charles (not to be confused with the blind R&B musician) and Julia Rinker.
Three's Company went through a lengthy development process. Two different sets of writers attempted to Americanize the British Man About the House. Three pilot episodes were shot for Three's Company, a rarity for American television (although All In The Family had shot three pilots between 1968 and 1970). The show was recast several times at the instruction of ABC's Fred Silverman.
The show was first penned by famed Broadway writer Peter Stone who set the series in New York. Stone envisioned the Jack Tripper character as a successful, yet underpaid, chef in a fancy French restaurant while the characters who were to become Janet and Chrissy were to be a secretary for a CEO, and a high style fashion model respectively. Silverman felt that the treatment would not play to middle America and thus passed on the script. Silverman then enlisted the services of famed television writer Larry Gelbart, best known for his Emmy-award-winning work on CBS' M*A*S*H. Gelbart initially wanted nothing to do with the show, feeling that its relatively simple premise made it substandard in comparison to M*A*S*H. Nonetheless as a favor to Silverman, Gelbart developed a pilot episode with his son in law who named the series Three's Company. Gelbart's adaptation closely followed the British series. He envisioned Ritter as "David Bell", an aspiring film maker looking for a place to live who just happened to be a great cook. Ritter's better halves were portrayed by Valerie Curtin who played "Jenny" an employee of the DMV, and Susanne Zenor as an aspiring actress named "Samantha". Gelbart reset the Ropers' apartment building, which he called the Hacienda Palms, from New York to North Hollywood, California. This plot of this pilot looked much like that of the first episode of the actual show. Liked by Silverman, a pilot was ordered by ABC which taped in early 1976. This format of the show just barely made it on to the fall 1976 ABC lineup but was ousted by what ABC felt were more promising series. Of all the new sitcoms that premiered on ABC for the 1976–77 television season, only Three's Company and the summer premiere of What's Happening!! went on to a second season. While ABC was in negotiations to re-shoot the pilot, CBS became interested in the show, and made a firm commitment to TTC productions (producers Don Taffner and Ted Bergmann's New York based company) to air the show as a mid season replacement in February 1977 with the Gelbart cast. However, at the last minute ABC decided that they wanted the show and made a firm commitment to air the show at midseason with a new cast.
The second pilot was penned by writers Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernie West, better known as NRW, who had gained fame in adapting another British series, Till Death Us Do Part, into All in the Family. The second pilot followed the British series even more closely, with the filmmaker character David Bell becoming cooking student Jack Tripp like his English counterpart, chef Robin Tripp, and one of the women being renamed Chrissy (a character name also featured in the British version; however, the US character bore more resemblance to the other British female character, Jo). Jack's female roommates were portrayed by Joyce DeWitt as florist Janet Wood, and Susan Lanier as secretary Chrissy Snow (actress Denise Galik had originally been given the role but was dismissed a couple of days before the pilot taped). The setting of the show was also moved from North Hollywood to the beachside in Santa Monica. NRW went on to conceive the show as an all out farce, building the show's plot line heavily on the many misunderstandings encountered by each of the characters. This pilot was actually a remake of the British series episode And Mother Makes Four which was the second episode of the show. The new concept was well liked, with the exception of Lanier's portrayal of Chrissy.
Despite the doubts about Lanier's portrayal as Chrissy, Silverman put the show on the network lineup, to air in March 1977, yet ordered a search for a new Chrissy. 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 forwarded 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.". With Somers set in the role the third pilot hastily went into production in January 1977. NRW had initially thought about recasting Ritter at the last minute before the pilot taped. Although liked by test audiences, the producers felt Ritter's foolish and clumsy portrayal of Jack made his character seem somewhat effeminate; Barry Van Dyke, and future television director Michael Lembeck, who had originally auditioned for the now renamed Jack Tripper, were initially considered to take the role. Nonetheless Silverman championed for Ritter to stay on the show. The third pilot was accepted by ABC, and was followed by five additional episodes for the show's spring tryout.
Three's Company was recorded at two locations: the first, seventh, and eighth seasons were taped at Metromedia Square and ABC Television Center, while the second through sixth season were taped in Studio 31 at 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. A Multicamera setup of three cameras was used.
The taping was done in sequence and there were rarely any retakes because the producers were strict. Priscilla Barnes once said, "Our bosses were very, very controlling. If my hair was too blonde, I'd get called up in the office."
The scenes in the opening credits where the trio are frolicking on a boardwalk and riding bumper-cars was shot at the Santa Monica Pier, prior to the building of a larger amusement park adjacent to the pier. 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 Zoo in Griffith Park. During the opening credits, the little baby boy in overalls who walks up to Janet while feeding the goats at the zoo, is Jason Ritter, John Ritter's elder son. The exterior shots of the apartment building were filmed at 2912 4th Street in Santa Monica.
Three's Company had many cast changes over its run. The first of these changes took place in the spring of 1979 with the relocation of the Ropers to their own television series (The Ropers), which revolved around Helen and Stanley, and their neighbors in a townhouse community 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 was the addition of Lana, an older woman who chased Jack around. She liked to pursue him but he did not appreciate her advances. Since Ann Wedgeworth did not appreciate her diminishing role in the series, Lana was dropped from the show without any explanation before the season was half over. The other new addition that fall was the new building manager, Ralph Furley (played by Don Knotts), whose brother Bart bought the building from the Ropers. Mr. Furley pursued Lana unsuccessfully, as she unsuccessfully pursued Jack. Unlike Lana, Mr. Furley appeared until the end of the series.
Season five (1980–81) marked the beginning of contract re-negotiations and sparked friction on the set. When Somers' demands for a heavily increased salary (from $30,000 to $150,000 per episode, plus 10% of the show's profits) were not met, Somers went on a strike of sorts. Executives believed that a complete loss of Somers could damage the program's popularity so a compromise was reached. Somers, who was still under contract, continued to appear in the series, but only in the one minute tag scene of a handful of episodes. 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 cast members. According to Somers, an off-hiatus contract with CBS as well as tension between her and producer Michael Ross led to her being fired, and her dismissal was on the personal level as she states that Ted Harbert confirms this. According to the story within the show, her character had returned to her hometown of Fresno to care for her ailing mother, and was only seen when she telephoned her former roommates, and they recounted that week's adventures to her. This arrangement continued for one season. Somers' contract was not renewed and Chrissy's place in the apartment was taken by her clumsy cousin Cindy Snow (Jenilee Harrison).
Another replacement, Terri Alden (played by Priscilla Barnes), a clever, sometimes sassy nurse, joined the cast in the sixth season (1981–82). In the script, Cindy was to move to college to fulfill her dream of becoming a veterinarian, and would continue to visit throughout the sixth season.
The show ended with the departure of all cast members except Ritter, who moved on to the spin-off Three's a Crowd (syndicated as Three's Company, Too in the Three's Company syndication package), itself based upon Man About the House’s spin-off Robin's Nest.
After more than 30 years of not speaking to each other, Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt finally made up and reunited for Suzanne's web series Breaking Through which aired February 2, 2012. Previously, Suzanne made up with John Ritter just days before his death of aortic dissection on September 11, 2003. They were even discussing having her make a cameo appearance on Ritter's new show, 8 Simple Rules.
Three's Company premiered in the spring, in the middle of the 1976-77 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 episodes. They were proven wrong when it raked 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 television season. Ratings continued to climb throughout the years. The first episode, "A Man About the House", reached #28 for the week. 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.
Anchor Bay Entertainment has released all eight seasons of Three's Company on DVD in Region 1 - these are the original, unedited and uncut network television broadcast versions and not the edited versions which have been seen in syndication since the Fall of 1982.
The show has been in local syndication since 1982 (ABC aired back-to-back repeats during daytime in the summer of 1981) on local stations such as WNEW-TV in New York City and the sales on the project realized more than $150 million of which Thames took 12.5% ($19 million). It debuted on cable in 1992 on TBS and ran through 1999. Nick at Nite bought the show in 2000 and have a seven-year term with other Viacom networks such as TV Land and TNN. In 2007, Viacom renewed its contract for reruns of the show for another six years.
In March 2001, after being notified by a viewer, Nick at Nite quickly edited an episode ("The Charming Stranger") 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 Ritter himself, 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" (quoting an advertising jingle for Almond Joy and Mounds candy bars). The incident was also brought up during a "Celebrity Secrets" comedy bit on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in the late 1990s, where a nervous-acting Ritter jokingly says "Somebody asked me if I did that on purpose...", after taking a nervous sip of water, he responds "You bet I did!"
The show currently airs on Antenna TV, where its spin-offs also air. However, because the spin-offs cannot be stripped due to a lack of episodes, they are aired at the same time with the show. In Canada DejaView (the latter two, both Shaw Media properties) re-air the show. In French Canada, it currently airs on Prise 2, using a soundtrack dubbed in Montreal.
As of early 2017, re-runs are also shown on the Logo Network.
In May 2003, NBC aired a two-hour television movie entitled Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Three's Company, a docudrama featuring actors portraying Ritter, Dewitt, Somers and other actors on the series. The movie covered the entire run of the series, from the pilots to the final episode, but the contract negotiations and subsequent departure of Somers provided much of the drama. Dewitt co-produced and narrated the movie. Ritter and Somers both had some input, but neither appeared in the project.
New Line Cinema is in negotiations to pick up the film rights to Three's Company with Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein to pen the screenplay. Robert Cort and Don Taffner Jr. will produce the film and plan to have the film to be set in the 1970s.
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