Three's Company - Season 1 Review
The history of Three's Company begins with a show that was developed and aired in the UK between 1973-1976, called Man About the House. Written by Brian Cooke and Johnnie Mortimer and starring Richard O'Sullivan as Robin Trip living with two female flatmates, the show ran for three successful seasons until it was finally cancelled by producers, believing they had no more to tell. Two spin-offs followed: George and Mildred and Robin's Nest.
The success of the UK comedy series caught the attention of two producers, named Donald L. Taffner and Ted Bergmann, who quickly bought up the rights to develop the show for an American audience. After pitching the idea to several studios, ABC finally gave them the go ahead they needed and thus Three's Company was born.
The show would go on to be huge in the States, running for eight seasons, from 1977-1984, resulting in 174 episodes that captured the hearts of millions of people who would each week tune in to watch the lives of three flatmates and their bickering land lord. And it didn't end there. After Three's Company departed our screens producers turned to spin-offs and soon The Ropers and Three's a Crowd would follow.
One year after receiving the green light, many changes and three attempts later the final “pilot” episode would finally make it to air and U.S. audiences would be introduced to Jack, Janet, Chrissy, Larry and Mr & Mrs Roper.
Season one ran for just six episodes. The story is simple. Jack Tripper (John Ritter) wakes up to find himself in a strange, new apartment where two young, attractive women are residing. Janet (Joyce DeWitt), a florist and Chrissy (Susan Somers), a ditzy secretary naturally assume he's a burglar but it turns out he's just suffering from a hangover after attending a party for their ex-roommate. After learning that he is a trainee chef, the girls decide to help him out with a place to stay but first they need to convince the landlord.
Mr & Mrs Roper live in the apartment below. Mrs Roper (Audra Lindley) is a sexually frustrated woman who is in touch with the kids' generation. She's easy going and not a problem when it comes to asking favours. Mr Roper (Norman Fell) however, is an old fashioned cranky guy who is always on the lookout for any funny business going on in his apartment complex.
The girls know that convincing Mr Roper to let Jack stay as their room-mate is going to be tough so what do they do? They tell him that Jack is gay. So sets up the basis for the series' opening, resulting in a funny, well written show that went on to open a few eyes with its innuendo humour, throwing out the rule book along the way.
It seems that television shows like this only come about once every ten years, something that shows an audience about the changing world around us. Three's Company did wonders for the gay community, of that there's no denying. Through the medium of television this was one area of prejudice that hadn't been looked at. Now, it was all wrapped up in fuzzy and warm sentiments because Jack isn't really gay - but his landlord thinks otherwise and it was Mr Roper who embodied a lot of the views of many ignorant people at the time. Mr Roper simply doesn't understand homosexuality rather than actually have a problem it, though he will keep his distance from Jack, who tends to get more friendly with him than he'd like.
Jack is forced into a situation in which he has to lie about who he really is and although it's not touched upon in a more hard hitting way it does show us that you shouldn't have to live uncomfortably with your sexuality. At the same time it shows us that a man and a woman can innocently live together as friends, and that an older generation should be wiser to the changes around them; rather then refuse to accept them.
First and foremost however Three's Company is a comedy, whether or not it always gets into the public's subconscious doesn't matter. As a 30 minute show it entertains and doesn’t always have to be about Jack playing it as a gay man - there are plenty of opportunities for him and the girls to get into all kinds of situations. Sure, a lot of them involve sexual innuendo but there are plenty that do not, and each week would see something different happen, whether it be the gang trying to find their lost rent money, dealing with bullies or trying to harbour a puppy in a flat where pets are not allowed.
What really made America fall in love with the show were its characters. Jack, Chrissy and Janet are people you would want as friends.
John Ritter had previously starred in The Waltons as a priest and had also featured in several well known series before winning the role of Jack Tripper - a role that he would be best remembered for and one that featured him in his prime. Ritter made some decent movies post Three's Company but in my opinion he never looked better than when he was playing the character he became most synonymous with. Three's Company is Ritter's show, no disrespect to the rest of a great cast but it's Ritter's physical abilities and comic timing that provide the bulk of the laughter. His grinning, boyish good looks and witty persona made for a character that became loved and his performance would win him an emmy award. As someone who was constantly entertained by his portrayal it’s with great sadness that I write this. John Ritter passed away on September 11th 2003 due to heart failure, it shocked the entertainment industry and we can only be thankful for what he left us.
Joyce DeWitt as Janet - She's smart, funny and attractive and is often there to provide the right balance between Jack's off the wall personality and Chrissy's ditzy blonde typist. Played by Susan Somers, Chrissy would often be seen as the shapely dumb blonde - a clichéd character by today's standards as characters of her type have been copied over and over. In her day though, Chrissy was a relatively fresh character and the heart Somers gives her really helped as she is the caring and naive member of the trio who sees good in everything.
The Ropers round off the main cast for the first season. (Richard Kline would only make guest appearances as Larry until the second season, when he took main credit billing). The late, Norman Fell was a World War II air gunner before he took up acting. For his role in Three's Company he won a Golden Globe as best supporting actor. Stanley Roper is an endearing character who unintentionally causes himself more trouble than he needs. He lives with his sharp tongue'd wife, Helen played by the late, Audra Lindley, who wishes he'd be a little more romantic toward her.
It's always fun when we take a break from the kid's apartment and visit the Ropers and it wasn't a surprise to see that their spin off show would later prove to be so popular.
Anchor Bay presents Three's Company for the first time ever on DVD. Upon loading the disc you are treated to colourful little menus that play the show's theme. Rather than chapter stops each episode has a synopsis before pressing 'play'. The episodes cannot be played all together.
The DVD contains the entire first season as follows:
Episode 1: A Man About the House
Janet and Chrissy find Jack asleep in their bathtub. When they are told he's a friend of their ex-room mate and a trainee chef who has nowhere else to stay they set about trying to help him. Trouble is they have to convince Mr Roper to let him stay first.
Episode 2: And Mother Makes Four
Jack begins moving in with the girls. Chrissy's mother, Mrs. Snow phones to let the girls know she will be visiting their home in the next hour. Chrissy begins to panic as her father is a minister and it is up to Janet to get Jack out of the house until she leaves. Mrs. Snow has a change of plan though and decides to spend the night.
Episode 3: Roper's Niece
The Roper's niece, Karen visits town. Helen tells Stanley that he's too boring and that Karen should hang out with kids her own age. Mr Roper then asks Jack for his help, knowing he is gay and will keep his hands away from the attractive young woman. Jack agrees but is also in the midst of planning Janet's birthday surprise, so it's not long before everyone gets their wires crossed in a series of hilarious events.
Episode 4: No Children, No dogs
Jack's friend, Larry gives him a puppy to take home to the girls. Although they love their new pet they must remind Jack that Mr Roper does not allow them. Jack and Company struggle to keep the puppy out of Roper's sight after failing to give the little puppy away.
Episode 5: Jack The Giant Killer
Jack, Chrissy and Janet decide to take a break from doing the chores and go to the local pub - The Regal Beagle. Things take a turn when a large man by the name of Jeff approaches the table and chats up Chrissy, unsuccessfully. Jack tries to stand up to the man but is soon intimidated by his size. The Ropers walk in and Stanley, suffering from a mean toothache shouts at Jeff for getting in his way. Now Jack feels like a coward and begins to mope around the apartment.
Episode 6: It's only Money
Panic ensues when the gang's rent money goes missing and they find their door unlocked. Chrissy insists she placed it on a shelf in an envelope so they conclude a burglar has taken it and call the police. Meanwhile, as they try to come up with the money, Mrs Roper convinces Stanley to invite them for a meal.
The first season is presented in its original 4:3 aspect ratio. The image looks as good as you can expect for a series this old. Source materials have held up well though the image does have an overall soft look to it.
The standard 2.0 original mono track is present. For a sitcom there's nothing here that will amaze you. As with many other shows of it's time it just does the job and digital enthusiasts need not expect nor want any more.
Anchor Bay had acquired the rights to distribute Three's Company on DVD and were planning to record new interviews and commentary tracks with its stars. Unfortunately with the sad passing of John Ritter they released the disc as a bare bones affair, promising that Season 2 would fare better in terms of extras.
All we have on this disc is:
A Tribute to John Ritter - One page of text that explains that proceeds of the DVD sales will go toward charity in name of John Ritter.
Season 2 - A brief text announcement for the second season release.
As of late it seems all the classics are making their way onto our favourite shiny little disc so it’s good to see Three's Company getting a DVD release. Although the show's humour may appear too dated for some (remember, this was 1977) its values haven't changed and back in the day the show held out strong against pressure from critics while fans stayed loyal.
Three's Company is an example of the type of show they just don't make anymore. It has a sense of charm and while shows come and go and many fall into obscurity, this is one that will never be forgotten.