Three's Company

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Long-lived iconic 1970s slapstick sex farce/comedy of errors. Frequently dismissed as the archetypal Jiggle Show, it's also marked by clever writing, strong performances and fantastic physical humor. Based on the Britcom series Man About the House, it originally aired on ABC from 1977-1984.

In order to share an affordable apartment with two lovely young ladies, Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt) and Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers), cooking student Jack Tripper (John Ritter) must pretend to be gay around Stanley Roper (Norman Fell), the repressed, bigoted Landlord (and not an average homosexual male, but rather an over-the-top stereotype, because that's the only kind of "gay" Mr. Roper - and the average viewer in The Seventies - knows). Roper, in turn, frequently finds himself fending off the advances of his good-natured but sexually repressed wife Helen (Audra Lindley), who knows Jack's secret but likes him and the girls enough to keep mum. Complications are introduced through a variety of misunderstandings and mishaps, often caused by the thinking-impaired apartment mates or their cumbersome friends. Everyone in this series suffers from Genre Blindness at one point or another, which is expected considering the show is essentially a comedy of errors. The show launched the careers of Ritter and Somers, and revived that of Don Knotts (who joined the cast as new landlord and wannabe-swinger Ralph Furley after the Ropers left for their own series following the third season).

Codified, if not actually created, an entire set of plot tropes based on silly misunderstandings and leaping to conclusions. Lucille Ball was a huge fan of the show thanks to its pitch-perfect use of sitcom tropes and physical comedy, and even appeared to host a Clip Show.

In later years, it's almost more famous for the behind-the-scenes issues with Suzanne Somers' contract dispute: she demanded top billing for being Ms. Fanservice despite John Ritter having always been the main character (it didn't work). Overall, the series endured many cast changes, nasty backstage disputes and overall changing tastes in television to become one of the most fondly-remembered (and frequently emulated) shows of the era.

Tropes used in Three's Company include:
  • A-Cup Angst: Janet; one episode revolved around her deciding to get breast implants.
  • Absentee Actor: Chrissy was largely missing from the fifth season, due to contract fights with Suzanne Somers. They squeezed around it by having her appear in the last two minutes of every episode on the telephone so that her roommates could recap the day's events. When the season was over, Somers' contract was quietly let go and Chrissy was Put on a Bus for good.
  • After Show: Three's a Crowd.
  • The Alleged Car: The rust covered Ropermobile. We hear about in an episode in which Roper tries to sell it to Jack and the girls, and actually see it in action in the pilot episode of The Ropers.
  • And Starring: During their time on the show, Audra Lindley and Norman Fell got an "And Starring as the Ropers" credit.
  • Annoying Laugh: Chrissy's snort.
  • Ascended Extra: Larry started out as a guest star, but got more appearances over time and a promotion.
  • Aside Glance: Mr. Roper's specialty, after getting in a really good dig at his wife.
  • Beach Episode: Setting the show in Santa Monica gave the producers the perfect excuse to parade the female leads around in skimpy bathing suits.
  • Bedmate Reveal
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Fillipe, Jack's jealous assistant chef at Angelino's who smiles to his face and pretends to be a loyal worker but is always trying to get him fired so he could be head chef.
    • Becomes somewhat subverted later on, when the two actually do become friends. Helps when Jack gets his own restaurant and is no longer competition.
  • Brainless Beauty: Chrissy.
  • The Bus Came Back: The Ropers returned for one Season 5 episode following the cancellation of their spinoff show.
  • Captain Obvious: Mr. Roper occasionally, to which Mrs. Roper usually replies sarcastically "Very good, Stanley."
  • Casanova Wannabe: Several of them, including Larry, Mr. Furley, and often Jack himself.
  • Catch Phrase: Jack: "Oh lordy, lordy, lordy..."
    • Mr. Furley: "Now hear this!..."
      • "Open up! It's R.F.!"
  • Censor Steam: Mentioned.

Mr. Furley: You mean Lana saw me in the bathtub?
Chrissy: You don't have to be embarrassed. The little bubbles hid everything.

    • Parodied when Jack walks in on Chrissy in the bath and tells her she needs more bubbles when she kicks him out.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Jack Tripper.
  • Christmas Episode
  • Clip Show: "The Best of Three's Company", hosted by Lucille Ball.
  • Comedy of Errors: Show was the Trope Namer at one point.
  • The Couch
  • Cranky Neighbor: Mr. Roper.
  • Cure Your Gays: Mr. Furley thinks his friendship with Jack did the trick when, in the finale, he moves in with a woman.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Cindy.
  • Did They or Didn't They?
  • The Ditz: Chrissy.
  • Dumb Blonde: Chrissy and Cindy, Janet when she got her blonde wig.
  • End-of-Episode Silliness
  • Fake Twin Gambit: Jack pretends to be his own twin, "Austin" a macho cowboy in order to fool Mr. Furley so he can date his niece.
  • Faking the Dead
  • Faux Yay: Jack pretends to be gay so he can live with two female roommates.
  • Flamboyant Gay: Even when Jack is pretending to be gay in front of the land lord, he really doesn't act any different. But Mr. Roper and Mr. Furley both seem to be convinced that Jack is this trope.
  • Flanderization: In the first season, Chrissy was a little naive but not exactly stupid. Second season on, she almost became Too Dumb to Live.
  • Genre Blindness: Borders on contractual.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Mr. Angelino and Jack.
  • Grand Finale: The two-part "Friends and Lovers", which has Janet getting married, Terri moving to Hawaii, and Jack moving in with a new girlfriend.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky
  • Heel Face Revolving Door: Felipe.
  • Hit Me Dammit
  • Homage / Actor Allusion: A 2003 episode of John Ritter's later sitcom, 8 Simple Rules, has his character dreaming he and his family are in a Three's Company episode...with himself as Mr. Roper. They even rebuilt the set for the episode.
    • Earlier in the 1992 film Stay Tuned, John Ritter plays a man who gets Trapped in TV Land. At one point, John's character stumbles through a channel onto the set of Three's Company. Two women dressed as Chrissy Snow and Janet Wood shout "Where have you been?", a snippet of the Theme Song plays, and he screams in terror and changes the channel (this clip ended just about all versions of the trailer and assorted ads for the film).
  • Hospital Hottie: Terri the nurse, who may well have been the only blonde in the show to have a brain.
  • I Ate What?: One episode had Mr. Roper eat some dog food he mistook for a stew Jack had whipped up. He reported it was much better than his wife's cooking and asked Jack to give her the recipe.
    • In a later episode Jack bakes a sawdust cake for what he thinks is a party for Eleanor, the former roommate (it's actually for him). He tries to get back the fake cake from the guests, but Roper has already eaten some. He asks his wife why she can't bake something that good....
  • Idiot Ball: Everyone at some point, usually thanks to mishearing a conversation or misinterpreting a situation.
  • Informed Attractiveness: In one episode, Janet gets breast implant surgery in one afternoon, and when she appears the audience is whooping with laughter at the shock of her Gag Boobs while Jack is absolutely speechless. For the viewers of today though... she looks pretty much exactly the same.
  • Innocent Cohabitation: Not that the main characters can really convince anyone that is the case. The show was largely a response to the growing trend in The Seventies of nonsexual, opposite-sex roommates, which just a decade before was almost unheard of.
    • Which brought up an amusing Double Standard when Jack finds out that a girl he is seeing is living with two men, and he refuses to believe that it's strictly innocent.
  • Irrevocable Message
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Larry.
  • Jiggle Show
  • Local Hangout: The Regal Beagle.
  • Locked in the Bathroom: Jack's date locks herself in the bathroom while Jack is having a food critic over for dinner. Mr. Furley, the landlord, arrives, announces himself as the manager of the building and demands that she open the door. When she refuses, Mr. Furley attempts to unlock the door with his credit card, which she takes when he pushes it through the crack.
  • Mad Magazine: He's Company.
  • Meaningful Name: Christmas Noelle Snow, better known as "Chrissy". May also count as a borderline Punny Name; its unlikelihood was actually a plot point in one episode.
  • Mistaken for Gay
  • Mrs. Robinson: Lana Shields, a middle-aged neighbor who had the hots for Jack in a few Season 4 episodes. Part of the reason the character was quietly dropped was due to Ritter's complaints about the implausibility of Jack spurning her attentions.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Season 3's second episode has Janet and Mrs. Roper going attending a protest rally at a nude beach. After the police break it up, the two have to run home without their clothes on.
  • No Ending: One episode featured Mr Furley secretly taking in a cat, which a little girl lost that the roommates have been trying to help find for her. At the end of the episode all that happens is the girl sees Mr Furley holding the cat, and then cue credits.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Or sounds like, much of the time.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: This is pretty much how every wacky situation in each episode happens. Mr Furley thinks Chrissy is pregnant and wants an abortion? Oh wait, she's actually talking about a wart on her finger that she wants removed!
  • Phoney Call: The phone rings while Jack is pretending to talk to Irene.
    • Jack does this again when he pretends to call his grandfather's hotel to leave him a message informing him that he's not actually a doctor. Janet grabs the phone and discovers he called Larry.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: The end of the final episode sets up the premise for Three's a Crowd.
  • Porn Stash: Mr. Roper has one. He calls it "putting them somewhere convenient."
  • Preacher's Kid: Chrissy's father is a minister.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles: Richard Kline (Larry), in Season 4.
  • Punny Name: Jack Tripper.
    • Also a Meaningful Name, as Jack has a bad habit of tripping and falling over the couch.
      • And tripping while trying to get out of the tub near the beginning of the first episode - while telling Chrissy and Janet his name.
    • Chrissy's given name is "Christmas Noelle Snow".
    • Let's not forget Janet Wood worked in a flower shop.
  • Put on a Bus: The Ropers, Chrissy, Cindy.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Somers was holding out for more money so the studio just called her bluff -- because they couldn't technically fire her due to the terms of the contract, they instead let it run out by moving her away.
  • Recurring Character: Lana Shields, Mr. Angelino, Filepe, Dean Travers, Reverend Snow, bartenders Jim and Mike.
  • Required Spinoff Crossover: Jack, Janet, Chrissy, and Larry all appeared on The Ropers. Larry also turns up in a Three's a Crowd episode.
  • Scotch Tape
  • Sexless Marriage: The Ropers appear to have one of these for the most part, much to Mrs. Roper's chagrin.
  • Single-Issue Landlord: Mr. Roper.
  • Spin-Off: The Ropers had the title characters moving into a swanky townhouse; Three's a Crowd followed Jack's adventures with his new restaurant and live-in girlfriend. Both were based on spinoffs of the British version. Neither was particularly successful.
  • Starving Student: This is why Jack moves in with the girls. He's a starving cooking school student.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Cindy. 5'8" Jennilee Harrison actually stood taller than John Ritter in heels, and absolutely towered over petite Joyce DeWitt.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Cindy for Chrissy. The only real difference between them was that Cindy was a klutz. Terri is an aversion. Though a blonde, she was quite intelligent.
  • Thematic Theme Tune / Title Theme Tune: "Down at our rendezvous / Three's company, too!"
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: After trying on a blonde wig and seeing the attention she gets, Janet starts to more and more embody the Dumb Blonde. Problem is, unlike Chrissy or Cindy, she gets downright obnoxious and insulting. Fortunately, she has a Heel Realization in the end and cleans up her act.
  • Trans-Atlantic Equivalent: Of the series and both spinoffs!
  • Two-Timer Date
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Bart Furley is rather short. His daughter is full-sized and very attractive.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: There were multiple episodes throughout the series giving off hints that Janet and Jack might have a thing for each other, but nothing ever really came of it, and in the finale they both end up marrying other people.
  • Wedding Day
  • What Did I Do Last Night?
  • You Look Familiar: Jeffrey Tambor, now fairly well known for playing George Bluth Sr., appeared in several episodes, each time as a different character. And that's not even counting his regular role on the spinoff The Ropers.
    • Jordan Chaney appeared in a third-season episode as a used-car dealer who employs Jack as a live-in cook (and whose wife keeps hitting on him), before becoming a semi-regular as Jack's boss Mr. Angelino.
  • Zany Scheme