Two women take on a male roommate in a Santa Monica apartment. With the disapproving landlord living just downstairs, the only way Jack can cohabit with Janet and Chrissy is to pretend that he's gay.
Chock full of double entendres and sexual innuendo, Three's Company was just about as racy as network television got in 1977. Misunderstandings, eavesdropping, and people hiding behind a plethora of swinging and slamming doors made many episodes resemble a twenty-three-minute farce decked out in tube tops and velour track suits.
Based on the hit British sitcom Man About the House, the show premiered for a six-episode run in the spring of 1977 and was a ratings smash. Viewers immediately responded to the charms of the show's three stars: the slapstick antics of John Ritter, the warmth and wit of Joyce DeWitt, and the natural assets of Suzanne Somers. Along with Richard Kline as neighbor Larry Dallas, the only other regulars were the landlords the Ropers, played by two seasoned pros: hangdog, curmudgeonly Norman Fell (who, in the second and third seasons, developed a bizarre habit of saying a punch line and then leering directly into the camera lens); and Audra Lindley, a truly gifted character actress stuck in a muumuu and bangle bracelets for her entire three-season run.
The show ranked consistently in the top ten, and when Lindley and Fell left at the end of the third season to star in their spin-off The Ropers, the show was lucky enough to nab Don Knotts as the new landlord, Mr. Furley. In canary yellow polyester leisure suits topped off with gold chains and a garish scarf, Ralph Furley, a swinger wannabe, fit right into the show's over-the-top atmosphere. Around the same time, another shift occurred. At the beginning of the series’ run, Suzanne Somers had played her character Chrissy Snow as a cross between Gracie Allen and Goldie Hawn. By the third season, however, Chrissy had become less a good-hearted naif and more of a face-screwing, bug-eyed, snorting cartoon straight out of a Chuck Jones production. To Somers, Chrissy Snow was iconic and solely her comic creation. Others were left to observe what they saw as the delusions of a scene-hogging narcissist.
Yet even bigger trouble lay ahead. Instantly famous, the three stars found themselves on the covers of virtually every magazine but Popular Mechanics, and Somers began to believe her own publicity. Demanding an astronomical raise and part ownership of the show, she called in sick until the producers agreed to her terms. With morale in the basement (DeWitt, in particular, felt completely sold out by the producers and Somers), the producers sued Somers and she returned to the show -- but as neither of the other two roomies wanted to lay eyes on her, she was relegated to one-minute phone conversations taped on a separate soundstage. With a show now more aptly titled Two's Company, newcomer Jenilee Harrison was brought on as Chrissy's cousin Cindy, but the inexperienced Harrison floundered, her only discernible character traits being big teeth, a loud voice, and klutzy behavior. The quality of the show plummeted and the producers knew they had to find a permanent replacement for Somers. Priscilla Barnes, a beautiful and talented actress, came aboard. We can only imagine the pressure she felt: After the misfire with Harrison, the entire future of the series rested on recapturing the early magic of the show. Luckily, Barnes soon hit her stride as a comedienne and helped keep the show afloat for three more seasons.
By 1984, times had definitely changed, and with the rise of smarter ensemble shows like Cheers, people were less interested in the antics of the Santa Monica singles. As the eighth season drew to a close, the producers once again dropped a bombshell: The show would be going off the air, with Ritter continuing on as Jack Tripper in a new series completely revolving around him. The new vehicle, Three's a Crowd, lasted only a season.
Three's Company endures as nostalgia for all those who were single in the free-wheeling late '70s, before Reaganomics, AIDS, and the yuppie invasion of the '80s. Above all, it was a showcase for the hilarious physical-comedy talents of John Ritter, who made comic art out of juggling eggs, trying to tame an uncooperative hammock, or dealing with a cranky landlord while attempting to hide a kitten stuffed inside his shirt. It's easy to see why Three's Company was a favorite of the legendary Lucille Ball for, in terms of pure solo slapstick, Jack Tripper's manic antics were the next best thing to Lucy Ricardo riding the subway with a loving cup tuck on her head.
Based on the 1970s British Sitcom "Man About the House" (1973).
Jack lived at the Y.M.C.A. before moving in with Janet and Chrissy.
Suzanne Somers was fired midway through the show's run due to salary disputes, amid a very public lawsuit and loads of publicity.
During Suzanne's clash with the producers at the start of season five, the cast had to be given scripts with Chrissy and without Chrissy in them. Most of the time, Chrissy's lines were given to Mr. Furley.
Because of the season five controversy, the producers reduced Chrissy's role to short phone calls. Suzanne Somers would come in and record them the day before the rest of the cast arrived to shoot the episode.
Priscilla Barnes said her years on this show were the unhappiest in her professional career. She almost quit as soon as she was cast because she did not like the backstage atmosphere.
During the earlier seasons' opening credits, the brunette walking by the beach that causes Jack to fall off his bike is Suzanne Somers in a wig.
During the pilot episode, Jack says: "Well, you know you have to learn to trot before you can gallop... who said that?" and the audience laughs. This was John Ritter's way of paying homage to his late father, Tex Ritter.
At the end of the second episode, first season, Jack says: "Goodnight, John Boy." This was a direct wink at John Ritter's former performance on "The Waltons" (1972) as Reverend Fordwick.
The exterior shots of the Roper's apartment was an actual corner apartment-house in Santa Monica. Permission was obtained by the owners for filming rights.
Audra Lindley and Norman Fell left the show after the third season for a spin-off about their characters. They were promised by the ABC network that if their show didn't make it past its first season, their spots were secure for a permanent return to "Three's Company". Their spin-off lasted a season and a half, so ABC was not obliged bring them back. They were permanently replaced by Don Knotts.
The final episode of the series didn't air until the beginning of the 1984-1985 season when it served as the lead in to its spin-off "Three's a Crowd" (1984).
Among the actors considered for the role of Jack Tripper was Billy Crystal, soon to be starring on another controversial ABC sitcom, Soap.
Chrissy: You know, if women ran the world there'd be none of these stupid wars!
Stanley Roper: Yeah, all the countries would nag each other to death!
Jack Tripper: I have two surprises for you two girls.
Chrissy: Oh, I love surprises. It's funny that you never suspect them!
Jack Tripper: Larry, haven't you ever thought of telling a girl the truth?
Larry: Well, I figure, anyone who puts on eyeliner, fake eyelashes, and plastic nails isn't someone who wants to hear the truth.