Thanks to its relatable characters and comic themes, the American sitcom Three's Company was a hit the moment ABC aired the first series in 1977, and its surging popularity eventually spawned one of the biggest ever audiences for a television show.
In fact, after its initial six-season run, Three’s Company went onto become the highest-rated midseason show ever broadcast on American television, with Janet, Chrissy, and Jack's escapades proving a constant source of amusement with viewers, and it wasn't until 1984 that the show drew to a conclusion.
But what happened to its stars? And what made the show so successful?
1. Landlord Stanley Roper was based on someone Norman Fell knew
Artists often draw from experience when performing, and Norman Fell thought he could be better acquainted with his grumpy character by imitating a man he had come across in his past life.
Much like Stanley Roper, Norman described this man as misunderstood and explained that his delusions of grandeur were similar to Norman's. “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,” Fell said in a past interview.
2. Norman Fell remained a household name on American television until his death
Long after Fell was replaced on the show by Don Knotts, he remained a staple presence on American television, appearing in many TV shows like The Naked Truth, The Boys, Catch-22, Matlock, Magnum P.I. and many others.
Despite Fell's excellent career post- Three's Company, he will always be synonymous with the legendary show. Sadly, only one year after his retirement from acting in 1998, Fell passed away, aged 74.
3. The blonde bombshell Chrissy Snow proved a hit with viewers
Most hit shows have at least one star whose good looks are hard to take your eyes off, and in Three's Company's case, that someone was Suzanne Somers’ character, Chrissy Snow.
But it wasn't only her looks that made her a fan favorite. Owing to her ditzy, naive and innocent outlook on life, Chrissy, much like Pheobe from Friends, was beloved for her klutzy mannerisms and laugh-out-loud personality.
4. Suzanne Somer's casting was a last minute decision
Castings for pilot shows can be long affairs due to the sheer pool of acting talent in Los Angeles, and casting directors for the show certainly had a headache when choosing the right actress to portray Chrissy Snow.
Indeed, Suzanne Somers wasn't actually cast in the role until a day before filming started! Having reservations about casting Loni Anderson, producers knew something wasn't right until they saw Suzanne's audition tape and knew that she was born to play the role.
5. After the show's surging popularity, Chrissy Snow demanded equal pay to her co-stars
Before Jennifer Lawrence and other notable stars took a stand against Hollywood's gender pay gap, Chrissy Snow took umbrage with the producers after discovering that John Ritter's character was making $150,000 an episode, while she was only making $30,000.
Yet despite her reasonable protests, they refused her demands, which culminated in the end of her beloved character. Unfortunately, this bitter dispute also led to both John and Joyce cutting ties with Suzanne for 30 years.
6. Despite her departure from the show, Suzanne Somers would go onto worldwide fame
Suzanne Somers wasn't short on lucrative offers when she left the TC, and she soon shot to worldwide fame in several TV and movie roles. She also became known worldwide for lending her face to an iconic series of 80s adverts promoting the Thighmaster.
Notable shows the actress went on to star in included She’s The Sheriff, and Step By Step, which saw her play an attractive mother and win her yet more male fans.
Both these shows ran for seven years and gave Somers a level of fame generally reserved for movie stars. Today, Somers promotes health products and has overcome cancer twice.
7. Janet Wood
While Chrissy Snow often stole the show from the more reserved Janet, Joyce DeWitt's more intelligent and mature character proved to be a good roommate and companion for the ditz Chrissy, and they ended up making for an unlikely pair of friends.
Because of Chrissy's good looks, Janet often felt inferior to her, and would often play the role of mother to Jack- who she eventually fell for- by reprimanding him whenever he found himself in trouble.
Certainly the most responsible of the trio, it was, however, Janet Wood who lied to Stanley Roper by convincing the arriviste landlord that Jack was gay so he could live with them!
8. Janet Wood's career after Three's Company wasn't as eventful as her co-stars
Much like her character, Joyce DeWitt was certainly more reserved, and wasn't as interested in the show business side of things as her co-stars were, and this was reflected in her career after the show, with DeWitt fulfilling her creative urge by starring in a number of off-Broadway hits such as Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage.
Away from acting, DeWitt has been heavily involved in charity work, most notably involving herself with causes that aim to rectify homelessness in America.
9. Jack Tripper quickly became the show's breakout star
While Chrissy Somers was a hit with male audiences, Jack Tripper was loved by everyone, and it was his comic inability to live a normal adult life that saw him involved in the show's funniest scenes- including his very first scene, which sees him wake up in Janet and Chrissy's bathtub.
Played by Jonn Ritter, Jack Tripper is a culinary student who can't seem to grow up, and fast became the most popular character on the show, which led to his mammoth $150,000 a show pay packet.
10. Billy Crystal auditioned for the role of Jack
Though Billy Crystal would find movie stardom in the hit romcom, When Harry Met Sally, his gregarious nature could easily have landed him the role of Jack Tripper in the hit show if it wasn't for producers preferring Jack Ritter's portrayal of the character.
Luckily for Crystal, he soon found work as Jodie Dallas on another ABC comedy, Soap (1977-1981). Though not as successful as Three's Company it would prove the launchpad for Crystal's movie career that soon followed.
11. The theme song was composed by the same guy who composed Sesame Street and The Electric Company
Joe Raposo, the brainchild behind some of America's most-loved theme songs including Sesame Street and The Electric Company also composed the theme song for Three's Company. Fans of the show are probably unaware that the producers intially entertained the idea of the stars singing the song themselves.
However, Ritter, DeWitt, and Somers's rendition was so awful, "They didn't even come close," associate producer Mimi Seawell said. Ray Charles (not the super-famous one) and Julia Rinker provided the vocals instead.
12. Legendary screen actor Jeffery Tambor portrayed three different characters
After coming to mainstream attention as Jeffrey P. Brookes III in The Ropers, Tambor managed to secure many guest spots on Three’s Company playing three different characters.
The first character he played was a wealthy man by the name of Winston Cromwell III, who romantically pursued Chrissy in "Father of the Bride." In the episode, "Two Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” he portrayed Dr. Tom Miller, a psychiatrist Jack and Janet mistake for a mental patient.
However, his funniest role arguably came as the erratic, lovesick dentist Dr. Phillip Greene who gets dumped by Terri.
13. The show was based on a British television series called Man About the House
In an attempt to successfully Americanize the popular British series, a total of three pilots were filmed before a series was finally commissioned by ABC on the third attempt, and in that time the show had undergone various cast and crew changes.
One of those pilots was written by esteemed M*A*S*H writer/producer Larry Gelbart. However, John Ritter's character was named David Bell, and instead of being a culinary student he was an aspiring filmmaker. The two female roommates were also given more glamorous occupations, with both being actresses. They were named Jenny (played by Valerie Curtin) and Samantha (Susanne Zenor).
However, after realizing they probably wouldn't appeal to Middle America, a second unaired pilot was requested by ABC programming head Fred Silverman. Despite significant changes, it also scored lowly. Eventually, network heads deemed the third pilot worthy of broadcast; and it premiered on March 15, 1977.
14. Towards the end of the show, tensions were incredibly high
Despite the show's immense success, Chrissy's anger over her male co-star's higher salary made for a toxic working environment, so much so that writers even color-coded her lines to warn others when she would be in the same room.
A similar story recently emerged concerning the cast of the hit HBO show Sex and the City after Kim Cattrall, who played the sassy maneater, Samantha, admitted that she never got on with Sarah Jessica Parker and her other co-stars towards the latter end of the show's hit run.
15. Don Knotts- Worthy replacement and loyal co-star
When Norman Fell left the show, a big void was no doubt left, but Don Knotts stepped up to the plate and delivered his own, unique take on the legendary landlord who proved more affable than his predecessor.
While playing a different character in Ralph Furley, Knotts still managed to capture the chemistry and relationship Fell had with the trio of roommates by simply being someone entirely different! A quasi-playboy who was always played around by Jack, Chrissy, and Janet, Furley eventually found out about Jack's actual sexual orientation but wasn't as phased by the discovery as Stanley Roper would have been!
Away from the screen, Knotts built up a reputation as one of the show's nice guys, and this extended away from the camera too, so much so that he even remained close with Chrissy Somer, despite her presence dividing most of the cast due to her wage demands.