Three’s Company

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.

three's companyReview: 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.



The 70s

On the next couple of Fridays I will bring you information about and recommendations from beyond my favorite decades, starting today.

The 1970s

Fashion in the 70s was colorful with patterns that could make you dizzy. Skirts were super long or super short. You had knee-high boots and ethno-chic tunics. Trousers were flared and paired with platform shoes. Popular colors were hippie rich and often psychedelic. A deep rich brown combined with a bright orange and sunny yellow, or a combination of colors that weren’t necessarily easy on the eyes. 1970s fashion was about fun, second wave feminism and comfort. The music world presented ABBA from Sweden and Saturday Night Fever on dance floors worldwide. Glam rock and punk entered the scene, while microwave ovens became more popular in US homes.

On TV, Mary Tyler Moore had her successful debut, as well as The Muppets. Following affirmative action, Woodstock and the relaunch of an arduous gender debate in the 60s, 1970s television was the mirror of a society still heavily entangled in the Vietnam war. M*A*S*H was a direct answer to the pains and fears of an entire generation, inspired by its preceding feature film and novel. Other examples for successful shows from that era are Happy Days, my decade favorite Hart to HartThe Love Boat, or The Waltons with their rather classic entertainment qualities. New family realities and changing structures were picked up on The Brady Bunch, The Odd Couple, The Partridge Family or Three’s Company, the ongoing debate on gender equality on a variety of shows that circled around female leads. Not that TV hadn’t presented women as central heroes before, but the tone had changed and the atmosphere. Charlie’s Angels, Maude, Police Woman or Wonder Woman didn’t have much on Lucy Ricardo, Donna Stone, Samantha Stephens or Susie McNamara. It was a different fabric these “new women” were made of, independent and hard-boiled yet often sexed up. They were supposed to find their way in a man’s world, no matter what, and their wardrobe and wisecracking attitude helped them accomplish that goal.

On the silver screen, gritty, sexed-up, shocking or taboo-breaking was in vogue: The Godfather, The GraduateKramer vs. Kramer, Norma Rae, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Taxi Driver were big hits, as well as the emerging genre of disaster movies kicked off by the adaptation of Alex Haley’s Airport. Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of either one of these films although I have always greatly appreciated each film’s stellar cast. Cabaret or Love Story  are more my cup of tea, along with the surfer movie Big Wednesday for three simple reasons: California, William Katt and his mother Barbara Hale. I guess you can see my priorities.