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THREE'S COMPANY
Season One

Review by Ed Nguyen

Stars: John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt, Suzanne Somers, Norman Fell, Audra Lindley
Directors: (various)
Audio: English monaural
Subtitles: English closed-captioning
Video: Color, full-screen 1.33:1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Features: None
Length: 146 minutes
Release Date: November 11, 2003

"Come and knock on our door, we've been waiting for you,

where the kisses are hers and hers and his, three's company too!"

Shows *** 1/2

Once upon a time, in a 70's TV show, there were three young women.  While these women didn't join a police academy, they did share an apartment together.  Unfortunately, one of them decided to get married and move out, leaving the other two searching for a new roommate.  They found that new roommate in a young aspiring chef...named Jack.  Jack was a guy, but no matter.  For the next eight seasons on TV, Jack and his two female roommates would entertain audiences in what was then and remains now (in syndication) one of TV's funniest sitcoms - Three's Company.

The direct inspiration for Three's Company came from the British television comedy Man About the House, which also featured a single man living with two female roommates.  Other characters in that show included Larry, the lounge lizard best pal, and George and Mildred Roper, who were the elderly landlords of the flat.  In fact, the Ropers were played by none other than Norman Fell and Audra Lindley, who would later adapt their roles to Three's Company, albeit this time as Stanley and Helen Roper.

TV producer Donald L. Taffner first saw this British comedy in the early 1970's.  He enjoyed it so much that he was determined to create an Americanized adaptation of it for TV viewers on our side of the pond.  It took several re-castings and several pilots, but by the spring of 1977, Taffner had his cast for the show.  For the role of Jack Tripper, he chose John Ritter, who around the time was best known for playing a reverend (!) on The Waltons.  For the two female roommates, the role of Janet Wood, the frisky brunette florist, was played by Joyce DeWitt, while the blonde typist, Chrissy Snow, was played by Suzanne Somers, whom producers spied one evening on The Tonight Show.  Somers was soon catapulted to stardom by her role in Three's Company.  Just as Ritter will always be identified with his role as Jack the aspiring young chef, so Somers will probably be best remembered for her portrayal of the quintessentially dumb blonde Chrissy.

As if the comic possibilities of an eligible bachelor living with two young women were not juicy indeed, the show offered still another fun twist.  The landlord, Mr. Roper, does not condone any hanky-panky in his apartment complex.  The very idea of a young man sharing an apartment with two attractive, unmarried women is definitely out of the question...unless, of course, that young man happens to be gay, in which case it would be okay.  So, Jack Tripper has to pretend to be gay, which presents a problem, seeing as how Jack has a constantly wandering eye for the nearest pretty thing in short skirts.

The show's inevitable chuckles and laughter ensue from the countless ways in which Jack tries to live a normal bachelor's life while simultaneously preventing Mr. Roper from learning the truth.  It is a situation fraught with great, humorous potential and endless variations, and isn't that the very definition of a situation comedy?  Three's Company was relatively racy for its time, and its co-ed premise reflected some of the evolving attitudes in the relationships between men and women.  For some people, the double-entendres made the show uproariously funny; for others, it was the physical, slapstick comedy.  Yet even without the coy dialogue, John Ritter would probably have become a star simply because he was a master of the double-take and the pratfall.  For kids watching the show, there was nothing quite as repetitively funny as seeing Jack tumble and flop down or bang his head against something again and again.  Children just love that sort of physical humor.  Of course, the older audience members of the time probably didn't mind the physicality of Suzanne Somers in all those tight tops, either!  In short, Three's Company offered something for everyone, which was why the show was a perennial top ten hit for nearly the entirety of its eight seasons on the air.

Three's Company began life as a mid-season replacement in the spring of 1977.  It premiered at the 28th spot on the Nielsen ratings, and the next five episodes all placed in the Nielsen top ten.  The surprising popularity of these six episodes ensured a full new second season (and beyond) for Jack & company.  This DVD presents all six original half-hour shows from that first season, so read on below for a brief description of each episode!

Episode One: A Man About the House

"Are you sure it was a man, not a woman?  They all look alike nowadays."

Jack Tripper awakens one morning after a party to find himself in the bathtub of a strange apartment.  Janet and Chrissy, the apartment's two female occupants, are equally shocked to find him there and are uncertain what to do with him until they discover that he is an aspiring gourmet chef!  Yummy.  They decide to take him on as their new roommate, provided that Jack pretends to be gay so the landlord, Mr. Roper, will not object.  This was the third pilot filmed for Three's Company and was the one ultimately chosen to premiere on broadcast TV in March of 1977.

Episode Two: And Mother Makes Four

"With all the terrible things that go on in this town, it's such a relief to know that you have a man to protect you, or in this case, someone like Jack."

Chrissy's mother unexpectedly drops in town one evening, and Chrissy panics over how her mother will react to Jack's presence.  Fortunately, her mother has a chat with the misguided Mr. Roper and all is well again...sort of.  This episode marked the first appearance of the Reagle Beagle, the local pub that would become a favorite hang-out for Jack, Janet, and Chrissy.

Episode Three: Roper's Niece

"You saw what he was doing with my niece?  He was acting normal!  That's sick!"

The Ropers' delectably sexy niece comes to visit.  Mr. Roper wants her to enjoy a nice day out on the town, so he figures that she should be safe with gay Jack as a chaperon.  But surprise, surprise, Jack isn't really gay, is he?  And what would happen if Mr. Roper caught Jack kissing his niece?  This episode revealed that Three's Company wasn't always about comedy, as it also featured a fairly sweet sub-plot about Janet's birthday and Jack's gift for her.

Episode Four: No Children No Dogs

"Just because he calls himself 'Honest Larry' doesn't mean he's a crook."

Larry, a used car salesman, makes his first appearance in the series as Jack's swingin' bachelor buddy.  In this go-around, Larry gives Jack a puppy in exchange for cancellation of a debt.  Too bad Mr. Roper doesn't allow dogs in his apartment complex!  What are Jack, Janet, and Chrissy to do with their new puppy now?

Episode Five: Jack the Giant Killer

"You did the right thing, you stood up to him."

" - and then you sat down again."

Jack's self-esteem takes a blow when he is intimidated at the Reagle Beagle in front of Janet and Chrissy.  To make matters worse, Mr. Roper shows up later and stands up to the same bully after he tries to belittle the landlord as well.  Ashamed, Jack feels that he has to redeem himself, even if it means returning to the pub the next evening and getting stomped flat, much to the dismay of Janet and Chrissy, who prefer to keep their new roommate alive and healthy!  This may be the funniest of the first season episodes.  Check out the final shot, which has what appears to be an unintentional blooper that turned out so well it was left in; you can see the cast members genuinely laughing!

Episode Six: It's Only Money

"You've only been up a half an hour, but your tongue has already put in an eight hour shift."

Mrs. Roper nags her husband into being more neighborly and inviting the kids upstairs out to dinner.  However, Jack, Janet, and Chrissy have just been robbed and are out the $300 that they still owe Mr. Roper (for last month's rent!).  So, while Mr. Roper tries to corner them so he can invite them out, they do everything to avoid him, believing that he is actually after the rent money.

Three's Company's success eventually led to two spin-offs.  First, there was The Ropers, which followed the bickering misadventures of Stanley and Helen Roper after they sell the apartment complex to clueless landlord number two, Mr. Furley (the hilarious Don Knotts), and move to a new neighborhood.  Then, there was Three's a Crowd, which premiered after the finale of Three's Company and followed Jack Tripper's continuing adventures in a new apartment with his new girlfriend Vicky and his new restaurant, Jack's Bistro.  However, Three's Company was definitely the best of the trio of shows.  As even Lucille Ball, the First Lady of Comedy herself, once said of the show, "It didn't set out to change the world, it just made us laugh and that is why we love it."

Video **

Three's Company was videotaped in front of studio audiences.  The transfer of these videotapes to DVD varies somewhat in quality.  There are a few instances of graininess or softness of the picture, and the image is occasionally prone to mild bleeding of the colors, too.  However, this seems to be the case frequently with most videotape transfers, anyways.  In general, though, the episodes look fairly good and appear just as they would on regular television (except for episode three, which oddly enough looks more pixelated and fuzzy than the other episodes).  Fans of the show should be pretty satisfied here.

Audio ** 1/2

Not much to say in this category.  The six episodes are presented in 2-channel monophonic audio and sound exactly as they did on broadcast television, laugh track and all.  The overall impression is very much like watching a re-run, which is certainly great for nostalgia.

Features 1/2 *

I liked the way the menus are arranged!  The show's theme song plays over the main menu, and each individual episode comes with a brief synopsis.  The episodes do not come with chapter stops, but at approximately 24 minutes in length each, they are short enough not to require any.

As for actual extra features, there are essentially none, other than a couple of advertisement pages.  The first page announces the upcoming release of season two of the show on DVD in spring 2004.  The second page describes John Ritter's longtime commitment to United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) and also contains a link to a short commercial for the charity as well.  Coincidentally, portions of the sales of this DVD will be donated to UCP, so have a heart, grab a copy of this DVD, and do your part to support John Ritter's favorite charity!  You can enjoy Three's Company while knowing that you are also helping others who are less fortunate than you.  Remember, laughter is the best medicine!

Summary:

Three's Company was a very funny show in its heyday and has certainly retained its charms over the years.  Norman Fell, Audra Lindley, and John Ritter may no longer be with us, but the laughter they shared with us will always remain.  Knock on their door because they're waiting for you in season one of this hilarious and popular TV show!