TV classics: Three’s Company
USA 1977-84, eight seasons, 172 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, ABC, color. Cast: John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt, Suzanne Somers, Norman Fell, Audra Lindley, Jenilee Harrison, Priscilla Barnes, Richard Kline, Don Knotts, Ann Wedgeworth.
Plot summary: To be allowed to share an apartment with two girls, ladies’ man Jack Tripper tells a lie to his landlords that turns his life into a comedy of errors.
Review: There are not a lot of things from the 70s I have fond memories of. Three’s Company, however, was one of the few series I thoroughly enjoyed as a kid. It may have been the odd mix of slapstick and comedy of errors that made me fall in love with it or the comedic genius of John Ritter who died ten years ago at only 54. The early seasons were my favorites, starring John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt, Suzanne Somers, Norman Fell and Audra Lindley. Based on the British sitcom Man About the House, Three’s Company was re-written and re-cast several times before it finally premiered on ABC in the spring of 1977. An instant hit, the show was promptly renewed for a second season and didn’t lose audience approval until its eighth and final season.
Today, the storyline is a pop culture classic. When Jack Tripper moves in with two young women, Janet Wood and Chrissy Snow, he is confronted with the scrutiny of his new landlord Mr. Roper who is not fond of the idea that a man shares an apartment with two single girls. So Jack and his roommates come up with a lie that temporarily saves the day, but also turns their lives into a game of hide and seek, of misunderstandings and double entendre. What sounds simplistic now was actually great entertainment. Jack Tripper, the ladies’ man with the ironic name, pretended to be gay and thus unmasked the hypocrisy of his respectable landlord. Mrs. Roper, the sensually charged (and constantly starved) wife of Stanley Roper, was well aware of Tripper’s lie but never gave him away. She enjoyed seeing her husband being messed about with too much.
Blessed with a talented cast who knew how to sell a charmingly silly storyline, Three’s Company started lasting careers but also survived cast departures, changes and additions. Following into the footsteps of its British predecessor, the show sparked off two spin-offs, The Ropers in 1979 and Three’s a Crowd in 1984, both of which were unfortunately short-lived. Available in reruns and on DVD today, the show is still popular with members of all generations and tickles the risible muscles of anyone who’s fond of the late 1970s.
Don’t remember the show?! Watch the pilot here.