They’ve Been Waiting For You: Inside Three’s Company

Three’s Company will always go down in history as one of the most classic TV shows of all time. Many generations have enjoyed it as it still airs in syndication on several channels. Come and knock on our door and explore a list of interesting truths and rumors about the show and its phenomenal cast.

It Took a While for the Show to Be Made

Producers tried to bring Three’s Company to fruition for several years. The pilot was originally drafted by Larry Gelbart, who was the writer and producer of M*A*S*H . In the original version, Jack Tripper was written as an aspiring filmmaker but something about this did not work so it was ultimately scrapped. Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernard West, producers of All In The Family and The Jeffersons, then gave writing a pilot a go and tried to make a second version of the concept.

It Took a While for the Show to Be Made

However, this version still didn’t take. Finally, a third pilot attempt was produced, and this was the one that was picked up and the show finally made its debut in March of 1977. Interestingly, Three’s Company was also inspired by a British television show called Man About The House. The show is not exactly the same; however, there are three roommates, two girls and one man, which was quite notable at the time.

Suzanne Somers as Chrissy Snow

Suzanne Somers played the ditsy but lovable blonde, Chrissy Snow. In the show, her character was responsible for bringing the main characters together. In the first episode, Chrissy spiked the punch at a party and the three characters – Chrissy, Janet, and Jack – became friends. Oddly enough, Somers was actually added to the cast only a day before the show started filming. Producers passed on multiple other actresses including Loni Anderson until they found Suzanne’s audition tape and of course she got the role! Propelled by Three’s Company, Suzanne Somers became an iconic 1970s beauty and pin-up babe.

Suzanne Somers as Chrissy Snow

Suzanne Somers ultimately left the show amidst some drama, but she continued acting for many years. You have probably seen Suzanne Somers on the infomercials for the Thighmaster, a product targeting women which helps to tone the legs. She went on to star in several different shows during the 1980s and ’90s including She’s The Sheriff, where she played a widow who took over her late husband’s sheriff role and then in Step By Step as the beautiful mother. Step by Step gained a lot of popularity and aired for seven successful years. Suzanne Somers has also beat breast cancer twice and can still be seen promoting health, beauty, and anti-aging products.

Chrissy Snow Version 2: Terri Alden

Priscilla Barnes replaced Suzanne Somers after she left the show, in the role of Terri Alden. Apparently, although you would never know it from watching the show, Priscilla did not enjoy her time on the show. She was deeply unhappy and knew right away that working on the show was not going to be a good fit for her personality, and the atmosphere “rubbed her the wrong way.”

Chrissy Snow Version 2: Terri Alden

Perhaps, Suzanne Somers was on to something? Priscilla was also chastised by producers for having hair that was “too blonde.” After replacing Suzanne as Terri, she would often be called to the producer’s office and told that she needed to darken her hair. To borrow from the beloved sitcom Full House…how rude!

Janet Wood: The Brunette

Joyce DeWitt played the foil to Chrissy Snow’s character and quite literally her opposite as the brunette to her blonde as Janet Wood. Janet was supposed to be mature, intelligent, and reliable. However, she was also billed as the “not sexy” one when compared to Chrissy’s innocent but very sexual character.

Janet Wood: The Brunette

If you’ve seen the show, you will remember that Janet is the one that started the whole “Jack’s gay” caper in order to let the landlord allow him to move in with two women. Joyce DeWitt continued to act on and off in a variety of stage and film productions. Including the off-Broadway hit Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage and was produced a show about her most famous role in Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Three’s Company. Did you know she also holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Theater?

Larry Dallas: The Creepy Friend

Richard Kline played the role of Larry Dallas, a friend of Jack Tripper. He played a rude and crude used car salesman who was attempting to be a playboy. His character was constantly trying to find ways to be with various women, usually through super cheesy lines. His character was so raunchy that it bordered on controversial. Did you know that the character of Larry Dallas was only supposed to appear in one episode?

Larry Dallas: The Creepy Friend

Originally, this character was supposed to be one-time deal; however, John Ritter and Richard Kline had such amazing onscreen chemistry that he ultimately became part of the regular cast. Richard Kline went on to have many roles in television and theater including Suzanne Somers’ Step By Step, the Broadway show Wicked, and even Gilmore Girls. He also expanded his film career and began to direct both television and theater.

Mr. Roper: The Mean Landlord

The iconic role of original landlord Stanley Roper was played by actor Norman Fell. Roper was very conservative and very much a stickler. He was constantly asking for the rent on time, and he was also constantly arguing with the character of his wife. Often, Norman Fell would break the fourth wall and engage with his audience by snickering and giving the camera a big grin after issuing a sarcastic comment.

Mr. Roper: The Mean Landlord

Interestingly, Fell portrayed a landlord more than once in his career, appearing in the iconic film, The Graduate, as Dustin Hoffman’s landlord. After moving on to a spin-off, he was replaced by Don Knotts in Three’s Company. After the show, he appeared on the spin-off The Ropers, Matlock, Magnum P.I., and even The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. He also had roles on the silver screen. He retired from acting in 1998 and died just one year later.

Don Knotts as Ralph Furley

Don Knotts was already a very well-known actor when he replaced Mr. Roper on Three’s Company, he played a new landlord called Mr. Furley. Known for his over the top facial expressions, producers of Three’s Company wanted an actor who could play a role similarly when they were searching for Mr. Roper’s replacement. Ultimately they reached out to him and were able to get the original himself, Mr. Don Knotts. Previous to this people probably knew him most for his role in The Andy Griffith Show.

Don Knotts as Ralph Furley

The comedic actor was a perfect fit for the role of Mr. Furley. Mr. Furley was another wannabe playboy who could never actually get a woman. He was also super impressionable and easily fooled and would consistently fall for the core cast’s shenanigans. Although like Mr. Roper he believed Jack to be gay, eventually he learned the truth but overlooked it as he became fond of the group. Don Knotts continued to act until his death in 2006. Some of his other roles were in shows like Johnny Bravo, Matlock, and Air Buddies. He had a truly remarkable 50-year career. Hard to do in Hollywood!

The Lovable Jack Tripper

Probably the most famous of all the characters on Three’s Company is the character of Jack Tripper, played by the amazing John Ritter. Much of the premise centered around the fact that Jack pretended to be gay in order to live with two women in the apartment and Mr. Roper was constantly trying to catch him in the lie. John Ritter also brought a fantastic amount of physical comedy into the role often acting like a major klutz and tripping over things.

The Lovable Jack Tripper

John Ritter continued to have a successful career after Three’s Company, especially in the film series Problem Child. He also starred in the spin-off Three’s A Crowd, and the show 8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter. The show of course centered around exactly what the title says and the show was very well received at the time. Unfortunately, John suffered a fatal heart problem onset and succumbed to the condition that same day in 2003.

Connections to Other Shows

Three’s Company had a lot of interesting ties to other shows. For example, there was a tie to the children’s show Sesame Street. Who would have thought? Songwriter Joe Raposo created the theme song of both Sesame Street and The Electric Company. He also wrote the theme song for Three’s Company. You’re singing it in your head right now, aren’t you?

Connections to Other Shows

He planned for the cast to provide the vocals but no one could actually sing so they had two talented singers in their place. Another interesting nod to another show takes places in the second episode of the show ever. If you listen closely at the end you can hear Jack say, “Goodnight, John Boy.” If you’ve ever seen the show The Walton’s you know that this is a famous line from the show. John Ritter previously performed as the character Reverend Fordwick on the series, The Waltons.

Banana Stand Patriarch?

Actor Jeffrey Tambor famous for his role as the character Oscar Bluth, the incarcerated patriarch on the cult classic series Arrested Development was also in Three’s Company. He actually played three different roles on the series. He first appeared as the rich playboy Winston Cromwell III.

Banana Stand Patriarch?

Later he appeared as Dr. Tom Miller and lastly as Dr. Phillip Green, the zany dentist who got dumped by the character Terri. The 72-year-old actor has a number of amazing roles throughout his career so it’s very interesting to see him in much smaller roles at the beginning of his career. That’s Hollywood for you!

Interesting Info about Jack

Jack Tripper was certainly the star of the show and he was also the only character to appear in every episode. Ritter also suffered from a hilarious gaffe in one episode in which he didn’t even realize the mistake until it was pointed out years later. One male viewer pointed out to him that parts of his nether regions had fallen out of his short shorts! How embarrassing!

Interesting Info about Jack

When episodes were airing on Nick-at-Night, they cut out the brief mistake for viewers from a younger generation. Apparently, Ritter actually requested that both versions actually be aired because “sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don’t.” Oh, John! Another interesting Jack Tripper fact is that we almost had another famous face as Jack Tripper. Comedian Billy Crystal actually auditioned for the role. That would have been a totally different show!

Crazy Info about the Ropers

The crazy but lovable characters, The Ropers, were one of the most popular draws to the show. They ended up actually having their own spin-off entitled The Ropers. The spin-off was intended to be actor Norman Fell’s big break but he didn’t really want to leave Three’s Company. His TV wife, actress Audra Lindley ultimately convinced the actor to do the series. The producers also promised that he could return to Three’s Company if the show didn’t work. It didn’t work and lasted only one year. However, producers loved Don Knotts fulfilling the new role of Mr. Furley that they didn’t actually let poor Norman return.

Crazy Info about the Ropers

Another interesting tidbit is that Norman actually impersonated a real person when playing the character, saying, “He thought he was the cat’s meow. He thought he was attractive, he liked his clothes. He thought people were looking at him because of how well-preserved he looked. He thought he was all things he’s not.” One last interesting Roper fact is that the apartment complex is actually a real place. The Hacienda Palms is a real apartment complex in Santa Monica, California, and the show was actually filmed there.

Drama over Pay Inequality

One of the longest standing facts about the show is that Suzanne Somers ultimately left the show because of pay inequality. John Ritter was reportedly earning $150,000 an episode and Somers was only making $30,000 an episode. Suzanne complained to producers to provide equal pay for all three of the co-stars, and there was a lot of drama on set. This is very reminiscent of current Hollywood actresses who still complain that they are being less than their male counterparts.

Drama over Pay Inequality

The producers refused to match the salaries and so Suzanne and Chrissy left. All of this drama caused a major rift in the cast and John and Joyce both stopped speaking to Suzanne. They didn’t speak for over thirty years. Apparently, towards the end of Suzanne’s stint on the show, the rift was so bad that she would go in before the rest of the actors arrived and record voice calls as they wrote her character as away “visiting family.”

Money Drives Wedge between Cast

Jennifer Lawrence famously wrote a letter regarding pay inequality so clearly Suzanne was head of her time. Her character originally had nearly has much screen time yet made an obscene amount more than her. This is only indicative of pay in most career spaces as well. Men still unequivocally earn more than women, which is such an outdated and unfair.

Money Drives Wedge between Cast

It’s quite remarkable that Suzanne was willing to stand up for herself such a long time ago. Legendary actor Don Knotts also apparently sided with Suzanne Somers. Apparently, he had faced a similar issue while starring on The Andy Griffith Show. He reportedly said he understood how isolating such a situation could be and even once said during filming to John and Joyce, “Excuse me, I’m going to talk to Suzanne.”

Color Coding Scripts

There was apparently so much awkwardness on set that during Season 5 of the show, producers actually color-coded the scripts. If Chrissy was present they printed the scripts as blue and if she was absent as blue. This was in order to keep any awkward run-ins between the cast to a minimum.

Color Coding Scripts

Towards the end of Chrissy’s existence on the show, she made a lot of phone calls as though she were far away visiting family, but the phone calls are often cut in re-runs. Joyce DeWitt later appeared on Suzanne Somers talk show where Suzanne apologized for all of the drama. It kind of sounds like Suzanne was not the one in the wrong here.

A Ritter Family Affair

Did you know that John Ritter’s father was also a famous star? Tex Ritter was both a country singer and a famous film actor. John often referred to his father saying lines such as, “Well, you know you have to learn to trot before you can gallop… who said that?” When the audience got the reference, John was elated because he was able to honor his father through his witty inclusion of lines.

A Ritter Family Affair

Another member of the Ritter family appeared in Three’s Company as well. John’s son Jason Ritter, now a famous actor himself, appeared in the opening credits of Season 6 through 8. Little Jason was so excited to see his father on set that producers kept the scene after it made Joyce DeWitt crack up. Jason has had roles in various TV shows himself like Joan of Arcadia and Parenthood.

Girls Who Auditioned for Chrissy

Before settling on Suzanne Somers for the role of Chrissy, many others tried out for the role. Actually, even Suzanne wasn’t even originally cast. Initially, Chrissy was played by actress Suze Lanier-Bramlett in the first episode ever shot. Producers even kept the scene of her tossing bread at the seagulls in the closing credits. Reportedly, they did this to save money. Actress Heather Locklear also took a shot at the role after Somer’s exit.

Girls Who Auditioned for Chrissy

Allegedly, when she auditioned she had placed tissue under her arms to keep the sweat from getting on her silk blouse but forgot it was there. Then during the audition, the tissue popped out, making it look like she stuffed her bra! Embarrassing! Actress and Burt Reynolds love, Loni Anderson also auditioned for the role of Chrissy however she was passed over. Probably a good thing for both the show and for Somers as the role of Chrissy has become iconic.

Wigs and Pantyhose

Joyce DeWitt was apparently obsessed with pantyhose, so much so that she actually refused to film without them. This paid off for her because ultimately the brand L’eggs hired her on as a spokeswoman for their pantyhose. Talk about a commitment that actually payid off!

Wigs and Pantyhose

Another interesting incident took place during the opening credits of the show. When Jack is riding a bike and catches a glimpse of a brunette woman walking down the street and almost falls down. The brunette woman was actually Suzanne Somers hiding her famous blonde locks under a brown wig. Who would’ve ever known!

Interesting Info about Mr. Furley

Don Knotts was widely famous before every starring on Three’s Company. This didn’t stop him however from getting good old-fashioned stage fright. He claims that he was quite intimidated before his first day of filming. This was attributed to the fact that The Andy Griffith Show was only shot with one camera while Three’s Company was actually shot with three.

Interesting Info about Mr. Furley

However, he ended up receiving an extended standing ovation when he first appeared which definitely put him more at ease. Don was also not particularly fond of the ridiculous outfits he had to wear as Mr. Furley. He still says that while auditioning for the role he dressed the part! Even though the producers asked him to play the role they still made him audition. That’s pretty crazy!

Penny Pinching on Set

The producers seem to definitely be on the penny-pinching side of things. Apparently, they were scrambling around quite a bit while trying to produce the original episode. While hurrying to film the opening credits the producers paid a Venice Beach shop $100 to shoot the scene for the opening credits, sounds like a pretty good deal to us!

Penny Pinching on Set

The famous scene is when Jack Tripper is riding his bike down the boardwalk. Of course, the theme song “Come and Knock On Our Door” was played over the images. The producers were also known to recycle audience shots as a means to save money on each episode. If you look closely you might recognize the same audience in multiple episodes!