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Category:    Home > Reviews > TV Situation Comedy > Three's Company - Season One (Anchor Bay DVD)

Three’s Company – Season One


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Episodes: B



In between the wave of socially conscious comedies led by Norman Lear and smart comedies led by The Mary Tyler Moore Show, there were flat out finny shows that came about that would have never happened without any of that groundbreaking.  While Happy Days started off with promise before becoming the model for regressive sitcoms that kicked in during the 1980s, one show that stood alone in its humor and was more subversive than many realized at he time was Three’s Company.


It is usually not considered so, looking at the series a quarter-century later, I was struck by how clever the show really was.  Though I had caught a few episodes here and there over the years on commercial TV, watching the initial six episodes (it was a Spring 1977 mid-season replacement) commercial free on DVD actually heightens the humor.  Though it was based on the hit British TV series Man About The House, the transformation into an American show is one of the most remarkable ever.


If you do not know, the situation involves the two female roommates Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt) and Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers), searching for a new third person to share the rent and other expenses with.  Having no luck finding one, they find a partygoer form the night before asleep in their bathtub.  He is Jack Tripper (John Ritter), who turns out to have no place to go, except the YMCA.  The girls take a liking to him and would love to have him stay, but coed roommates are forbidden by the landlords and what landlords they are.


We are talking about Stanley and Helen Roper.  Stanley (Norman Fell) is Mr. Unexcitement, a man for whom the term “fun” is like astrophysics to a wino.  His wife Helen (Audra Lindley) notices, unimpressed with her dull life and her extremely uninterested husband.  This makes for a sharp contrast between them and the sexually free and interested roommates.  Stanley knows this, thus his anti-coed stance falls in line with his total absence of sexual drive, so Jack has to pretend to be a Gay man to stay housed on the Roper’s premises.


That covers just about every basic, general taboo TV had never addressed prior to the show, and the creative producing/writing team of Don Nicholl, Michael Ross & Bernie West ran with it like had never been seen on TV or even comedy films.  This is also one of the best-cast shows in TV history, a fact that would come to haunt later it as too many cast changes occurred before all the possibilities and ideas had been exhausted.


The first six episodes here are:


A Man About The House

And Mother Makes Four

Roper’s Niece

No Children, No Dogs

Jack The Giant Killer

It’s Only Money


After many years in show business, Fell and Lindley found the huge hit success that character actors rarely find, but deserve.  They were exceptional and pulled off their roles as if they had known each other for decades.  Though The Ropers spin-off failed because it did not retain the situation or tensions, and then they were not allowed to return to the show in decline (despite the great Don Knotts as Ralph Furley), they haunted the show after their absence far more than Suzanne Somers’ departure ever did.


Double entendres are more common these days, but the ones on this show were especially clever in both their timing and their content.  Chrissy was a character in herself, that was shocking.  She was a new twist on the dumb blonde, not because her father was a minister, or the usual heart of gold, but because in the pre-AIDS 1970s, the idea that the dumb blonde was so extra happy and cheerful like she was could actually compete with XXX-movie stereotypes of the time.  A woman on TV like this, especially after al the liberation Gloria Bunker, Anne Marie, and Mary Richards, it further spawned all kinds of possibilities.  Throw in Somers’ great comic acting and the frenzy over the character was fully understandable.


DeWitt was underrated as Janet, who showed that not all the women who tried to be professional were making it, was always a subtle foil for just about everyone.  This too was not easy and she even outsurvived Lindley as the longest-running female character on the show, all the way up until the disastrous Three’s A Crowd continuation.


And then there was John Ritter, whose Jack Tripper later was shifted into the lead on the show, was eventually its greatest beneficiary.  Then, in the middle of a hit TV comeback, he was dead.  It is very often hard while watching these shows that he is gone, that someone with so much energy is no longer with us.  He was a true comic talent and it is going to be a very long time before his absence sinks in.


The full frame image is from the NTSC analog videotape the show was shot on and the DVD’s MPEG-2 decoding shows its limits as much as all the others shows form this time on tape do.  With that said, it does not look bad, though it reminds us how young color videotape still was at the time.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is also good enough, with all the jokes clear enough.  There are only some web links and an announcement on the series second season coming to DVD, which we will review when we return.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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