|Based on||Man About the House|
by Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke
|Developed by||Don Nicholl|
|Directed by||Bill Hobin|
|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|
Bernie West (entire run)
Don Nicholl (1977-81)
Budd Grossman (1980-81)
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|
T.T.C. Productions, Inc.
|Distributor||D.L. Taffner Syndication Sales|
The Program Exchange
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)|
|Original release||March 14, 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 is straight in the second episode, she trusts him with the girls and 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 spin-off 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. Jack eventually meets his love interest Vicky Bradford, which leads into Three's a Crowd.
|Jack Tripper||John Ritter||Main|
|Janet Wood||Joyce DeWitt||Main|
|Chrissy Snow||Suzanne Somers||Main||Does not appear|
|Stanley Roper||Norman Fell||Main||Does not appear||Guest||Does not appear|
|Helen Roper||Audra Lindley||Main||Does not appear||Guest||Does not appear|
|Larry Dallas||Richard Kline||Recurring||Main|
|Ralph Furley||Don Knotts||Does not appear||Main|
|Lana Shields||Ann Wedgeworth||Does not appear||Main||Does not appear|
|Cindy Snow||Jenilee Harrison||Does not appear||Main||Does not appear|
|Terri Alden||Priscilla Barnes||Does not appear||Main|
|Season||Episodes||Originally aired||Rank||Rating||Tied with|
|First aired||Last aired|
|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. Jack is the only character to appear in every episode; Janet appears in every episode except one (season 3's "Stanley's Hotline").
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.
Famed Broadway writer Peter Stone tried to Americanize the British sitcom Man About the House. He originally set the series in New York, and he envisioned the male roommate as a successful, yet underpaid, chef in a fancy French restaurant, while the two female roommates were an executive secretary and a high-style fashion model. When ABC's Fred Silverman read the script, he felt that middle America would not like the concept, and he decided to pass on the script. Silverman asked Larry Gelbart, creator and producer of M*A*S*H, for help of the series. At first, Gelbart wanted nothing to do with the show, feeling that its relatively simple premise made it substandard in comparison to M*A*S*H.
Ultimately, as a favor to Silverman, Gelbart developed a pilot episode with the help of his son-in-law, who named the series Three's Company. Gelbart's adaptation closely followed the British series. Gelbart named the male roommate David Bell, an aspiring film maker looking for a place to live and who just happened to be a great cook. The two female roommates were portrayed by Valerie Curtin who played Jenny, an employee of the DMV, and Susanne Zenor, who played Samantha, an aspiring actress. In Gelbart's version, the series took place in an apartment building called the Hacienda Palms in North Hollywood, California. It was produced by Don Taffner and Ted Bermann.
Silverman liked Gelbart's version, and ABC ended up ordering a pilot, which was taped in early 1976. The format of the show just barely made it on to the fall 1976 ABC lineup, but ABC later took it off for what ABC felt were more promising series. While ABC was considering how to re-shoot the pilot, CBS became interested in the show. CBS made a firm commitment to producers Taffner and Bermann to air the show with the Gelbart cast as a mid-season replacement in February 1977. At the last minute, ABC decided that they wanted the show after all, and ABC made a firm commitment to air the show at midseason with a new cast.
Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernie West, the writers who adapted the British series Till Death Us Do Part into All in the Family, were brought in to help, and the three of them rewrote the pilot. This version of the pilot followed the British series even more closely. The male roommate was changed from filmmaker David Bell to Jack Tripp, a cooking student, similar to his British counterpart chef Robin Tripp. Aspiring actress Samantha became secretary Chrissy,[a] portrayed by Denise Galik. Galik was dismissed a couple of days before the pilot taped, and Susan Lanier replaced her. The other female roommate, DMV employee Jenny became Janet Wood, a florist, portrayed by Joyce DeWitt. The setting of the show was also moved from North Hollywood to the beachside in Santa Monica.
Nicholl, Ross, and West 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 second episode of the British series, titled And Mother Makes Four. The new concept was generally 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, scheduled to air in March 1977. Meanwhile, Silverman ordered a search for another actress to portray Chrissy. On the day before starting the production of the series, Silverman deperately watched the audition tapes again, fast-forwarding through them quickly. Suddenly, Silverman noticed Suzanne Somers' audition, which he hadn't seen before. Silverman recognized Somers from her appearance on The Tonight Show. Silverman watched Somers' audition and decided she was great for the part. Somers had originally been passed on, although no one could give him a straight answer as to why. Somers was contacted immediately, and she was on the set the next day.
At the last minute before the pilot taped, the producers considered whether to recast Ritter. Although test audiences liked Ritter, the producers felt Ritter's foolish and clumsy portrayal of Jack made his character seem somewhat effeminate. Earlier in the casting process, actors such as Barry Van Dyke and future television director Michael Lembeck were considered for the role. Silverman was confident in Ritter, and he advocated for him to remain on the show.
With Somers, Ritter, and DeWitt set in their roles, the third version of the pilot hastily went into production in January 1977. ABC accepted this version, and five additional episodes were filmed for the show's spring debut.
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 receive the script on Monday, rehearse from Tuesday to Thursday, and then 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 with the trio 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 new opening sequence was shot when Priscilla Barnes joined the show, featuring the new threesome and the other cast members riding a zoo tram and looking at various animals around the zoo. These sequences were filmed at the Los Angeles Zoo in Griffith Park. During the opening credits, there is a little baby boy in overalls who walks up to Janet while feeding the goats at the zoo, portrayed by Jason Ritter, John Ritter's oldest son. The exterior shots of the apartment building were filmed at 2912 4th Street in Santa Monica.
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!! ended up returning for a second season.
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. Somers demanded a substantial increase in salary, from $30,000 to $150,000 per episode (equivalent to $93,000-$465,000 in 2019), plus 10% of the show's profits, which would have been on par with fellow cast member John Ritter's salary. When Somers' demands 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 Somers' web series Breaking Through which aired February 2, 2012. Previously, Somers made up with 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 for Dating My Teenage Daughter.
Three's Company premiered in the spring, in the middle of the 1976-77 season. In the 1960s and 1970s, midseason television programs were often 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 1977-78 television season.
Ratings continued to climb throughout the years. The first episode, "A Man About the House", reached No. 28 for the week. The first episode to hit the No. 1 spot was February 14, 1978, when "Will the Real Jack Tripper..." was aired. The most-watched episode aired on March 13, 1979. It was titled "An Anniversary Surprise", and it centered around Stanley Roper selling the apartment, and the Ropers moving out. Immediately after the episode was the series premiere of the spinoff, The Ropers.
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. Some DVDs include commentary on some episodes as a bonus feature. Also, the season 2 set includes the first of the two unaired pilots as a bonus feature, while the season 3 set contains the other.
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 $150million of which Thames took 12.5% ($19million). 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!"
Since 2010, the show has been aired on Antenna TV, where its spin-offs also air. 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 (a Shaw Media property) re-air the show. In French Canada, it currently airs on Prise 2 (owned by Groupe TVA), 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.
In 2016, New Line Cinema began 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.
Silverman talks about Three's Company at about the 21:00 mark.