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Series / Three's Company

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The girls just looove Jack's... er, foodstuffs.
"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."

Iconic late-'70s Roommate Com/slapstick sex farce/comedy of errors series. Frequently dismissed as the archetypal Jiggle Show, it's also marked by clever writing, strong performances and fantastic physical humor. Based on the Brit Com series Man About the House, it originally aired on ABC from 1977–84.

The premise: 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. Roper, in turn, frequently finds himself fending off the advances of his good-natured but sexually frustrated 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, and after Somers made shooting next to impossible, producers retaliated by showing her in no uncertain terms just how unwelcome she was (see below for details). 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.


"Come and knock on our tropes..."

  • 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. Somers was made to film these scenes several hours removed from the rest of the cast in a completely empty studio with a crew that was visibly angry at having to work late. When the season was over, Somers' contract was quietly let go and Chrissy was Put on a Bus forever.
    • Also, Janet doesn't appear in the Season 3 episode "Stanley's Hotline," leaving Jack as the only character to appear in every episode.
  • Afraid of Doctors: Mr. Furley refuses to go see a doctor about his aching back because he doesn't trust them. When he finally decides to see one, the doctor turns out to be Jack in disguise, trying to impress his grandfather who he lied to about being a doctor.
    Mr. Furley: I don't trust doctors. They stick in their needles and take out your money. They're all crooks, why do you think they wear masks?
  • After Show: Three's a Crowd, not to be confused with the inexplicable and deplorable Chuck Barris Game Show of the same name.
  • 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.
  • Ascended Extra: Larry started out as a guest star, but got more appearances over time and a promotion.
  • Bank Toaster: Parodied. Janet says that she's so terrible at accounting, her bank offered her an alarm clock to move her account elsewhere.
  • Beach Episode: Setting the show in Santa Monica gave the producers the perfect excuse to parade the female leads around in skimpy bathing suits.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: The trio tries to escape with one when trapped in the bedroom by diamond thieves, but they accidentally throw the whole sheet out the window.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Felipe, 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.
  • Breaking Bad News Gently: Jack lies to his grandfather about being a doctor to impress him, but it backfires when his grandfather visits and wants to see him at work in his office. When Terri refuses to sneak him into an empty office at the hospital, he attempts to guilt her into cooperating by calling his grandfather and pretending to leave a message telling the truth. He drags out the message, beginning by asking the hotel operator to ask his grandfather to sit down before reading it, until Terri finally agrees.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Mr. Roper would usually smile or laugh at the camera after making a crack about his wife.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Despite his clumsiness in just about every other setting, Jack is a very talented chef.
  • Camp Straight: Jack. This certainly helps when it comes to playing gay.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Several of them, including Larry, Mr. Furley, and often Jack himself.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Jack: "Oh lordy, lordy, lordy..."
    • Mr. Furley: "Now hear this!..." and "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.
  • Chained Heat: Jack and Chrissy accidentally handcuff themselves together, and Jack has a date to keep.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Jack Tripper
  • Christmas Episode: Season 2's "Three's Christmas".
  • Clip Show: "The Best of Three's Company", hosted by Lucille Ball.
  • Commuting on a Bus: Cindy does this in Season 6 before falling victim to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.
  • The Couch
  • Cougar: Lana definitely fits this description.
  • Cure Your Gays: Mr. Furley thinks his friendship with Jack did the trick when, in the finale, he moves in with a woman.
  • Dating Service Disaster: Jack, under the alias Duke Bradford, tries computer dating and is matched up with Janet, who is using the alias Desiree. After they find out what happened, they decide to continue the date anyway.
  • A Day in Her Apron: Inverted. The girls are used to Jack doing the cooking for them. But on one occasion when he's not around, they are forced to feed themselves. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The original Title Sequence has Jack running his bike off a beachfront sidewalk and tumbling into the sand as a result of this.
  • D.I.Y. Disaster: According to Helen, Stanley once fixed their freezer so that it defrosts every time the toilet is flushed.
  • Dumb Blonde: Chrissy and Cindy; Janet when she got her blonde wig.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Most noticable with Chrissy, who during the very first few episodes is not quite The Ditz that she later develops into.
  • End-of-Episode Silliness
  • Executive Meddling: In universe when Jack is invited to a televised cooking demonstration. A producer moves around the items Jack placed cue cards in, causing him to mess up the demonstration.
  • Farce: The Trope Codifier for sitcom farce; many ordinarily non-farcical sitcoms will explicitly reference this series when they make forays of their own into the genre.
  • Fake Twin Gambit: Jack pretends to be his own twin, "Austin" the macho cowboy, in order to fool Mr. Furley so he can date his niece.
  • Faking the Dead: Jack pretends to be dead to escape a man who is determined to kill Jack for looking at his girlfriend. Believing it to be a ruse, he goes to see Jack's body and apologizes for terrorizing Jack. Jack gives himself away by habitually replying, "That's OK."
  • Fashion Dissonance: The show's from The '70s, so there's bound to be a bit of this. Especially pronounced are Mrs. Roper's assortment of caftans and Mr. Furley's polyester-intensive "swinger" outfits.
  • 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, he really doesn't act any different, but Mr. Roper and Mr. Furley both seem to be convinced that Jack is this trope. However, whenever Jack accidentally gives some indication of his true sexuality, he does invoke the trope a bit in order to Maintain the Lie.
  • 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.
  • Girl of the Week: Subverted for Jack, as he never got far with any of them.
  • 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.
  • Happy Ending Override: One early episode has Chrissy's mother visit, with her being afraid of her parents knowing that a man is living with her and Janet, so Jack has to stay out of the apartment while she is there, and when she decides to spend the night, Jack has to hide in Janet and Chrissy's room. But they find out that the Roper's had told her about Jack and was okay with him living with them, as she felt they needed a man to protect him in the neighborhood they live in. A later episode has Chrissy's father coming over, and it turns out that while her mother was okay with the situation, her father, a minister, did not know.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: This series probably marks the point where the word 'gay' passed from Hollywood and Theatrical slang into the popular lexicon. Lampshaded in an episode in the middle of the series:
    Judge: Are you gay?
    Jack: Well, I can be sad sometimes, too.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Felipe
  • High-Class Call Girl: Chrissy's friend Darlene happens to be one, but Chrissy doesn't know. When Janet and Jack find out, they try to hide it from Chrissy to avoid disappointing her (since Chrissy looks up to Darlene highly.) They lie and convince Chrissy she is an airline stewardess, which becomes a problem when Chrissy decides it would be fun to go to work with Darlene to see what her job is like.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: A quite infamous one where Jack falling onto a bed while wearing shorts resulted in one of John Ritter's testicles briefly being visible. It was digitally covered up in syndication, to which Ritter had the priceless response that they should alternate both versions, since "Sometimes you feel like a nut and sometimes you don't" (a Shout-Out to the Almond Joy/Mounds jingle of the era).
  • How Many Fingers?: Jack and Janet administer this test to Chrissy after she falls and hits her head in the bathtub. They are shocked to hear Chrissy reply "five" when Jack is only holding up two fingers, but Chrissy clarifies that two fingers are straight up, and three are folded behind Jack's hand.
  • 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....
    • In a Season 6 episode, Cindy is mixing something in a bowl when Jack comes along and eats it before she can tell him it's glue.
  • Idiot Ball: Everyone at some point, usually thanks to mishearing a conversation or misinterpreting a situation.
  • I Have to Wash My Hair: A lady who Mr. Furley has a date with uses this excuse to cancel their date. Janet suggests Mr. Furley ask her to go out the next day, to which Mr. Furley replies that she told him that was the day she dries her hair.
  • Improbable Food Budget: The main characters often have trouble paying the rent, but they always have plenty of delicious food. It's justified by Jack being a cooking student and needing the practice (blowing a significant portion of his budget on food) and, in fact one of the reasons the girls accept him as a roommate is the food.
  • Informed Ability: Jack was supposedly a boxer in the Navy, but the closest we ever see him come to actually using this skill is when he calls a tough guy's bluff and the situation ends without a fight. It's hard to imagine him being that coordinated, given how clumsy he usually appears.
    • This is explained in a later episode when Jack ends up in a boxing match. Larry wonders why someone who boxed Golden Gloves would be afraid and Jack admits he lost every fight he was in.
  • 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 '70s 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.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Larry.
  • Jiggle Show: Probably one of the Trope Codifier examples. Chrissy is frequently shown jumping up and down in celebration, for no apparent reason. Jack likes watching her and even comments that she cheers better than anyone he knows.
  • The Klutz: Jack and Cindy.
  • Local Hangout: The Regal Beagle
  • Locked in a Freezer: Jack and Mr. Furley are locked in one in "Baby, It's Cold Inside".
  • Locked in the Bathroom: Jack's date locks herself in the bathroom while Jack is having a food critic over for dinner. Unable to convince her to come out, Mr. Furley, attempts to unlock the door with his credit card, which she takes when he pushes it through the crack.
  • Mean Boss: Frank Angelino is this for Jack.
  • Mistaken for Gay: The whole case between Jack and the two landlords, though it's not so much "mistaken" as it is "deliberate deception".
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: Jack receives a minor cut at work and Felipe accompanies him to the hospital. Although Jack is already nervous about the injury, Felipe's comments cause him to barge into the treatment room while the doctor is treating a more serious patient and demand to be seen.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Season 3's second episode has Janet and Mrs. Roper 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.
    • When this episode plays in syndication, The Tag is cut for time. In it, the building inspector appears and sees the three kittens the roommates have collected. Mr. Furley says he is taking them straight to the pound, and the building inspector, aghast, takes the three kittens home with him. The little girl says she'll try raising goldfish instead, and leaves. But we never do find out what happened with the original kitten. It's never spoken of again in the series.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Often happens when Mr. Furley or Mr. Roper walks in at a bad time.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: This is pretty much how every wacky situation happens. In one episode Mr. Roper overhears Chrissy talking about removing a wart on her finger and believes she is getting an abortion.
    • In another, Janet plans to redecorate their bedrooms, but Jack and Chrissy think she's hiring a man to father her baby.
    • In a third episode, Jack plans to remove a tattoo he got while he was drunk. Janet thinks he's getting a vasectomy.
  • Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: As mentioned above, this premise was the plot of roughly 2/3s of the episodes. Here's an example that Ralph Furley overheard in the bathroom:
    Jack: Okay, Chrissy, I'll get in the tub with you then we can get it on.
    Chrissy: Stand next to me, I'll show you what to do.
    Jack: This isn't exactly the first time I've ever done this.
    Chrissy: Maybe so, but girls are better at this than boys.
    Chrissy: Okay, you do your part and I'll do mine. [pause] I don't think it'll reach.
    Jack: Of course it won't. You've got to unfold it first.
    • They're hanging up a shower curtain.
  • 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.
  • Pie in the Face: "The Bake-Off"
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: Season 3's "An Anniversary Surprise", which sets up The Ropers by revealing that Stanley has sold the apartment building so he and Helen can move to a new, nicer place across town.
    • An offshoot is the actual pilot to The Ropers itself ("Moving On"), which is often shown as part of Three's Company in syndication complete with the Three's Company opening and closing credits.
    • The end of the final episode sets up the premise for Three's a Crowd.
  • Porky Pig Pronunciation: Stanley tries to type up a bill of sale for his car and realizes the U key is missing from his typewriter.
    Stanley: How am I supposed to spell "automobile" without U?
    Helen: C-A-R.
  • Porn Stash: Mr. Roper has one. He calls it "putting them somewhere convenient".
  • The Pratfall: Jack Tripper was legendary for these.
  • The Problem with Pen Island: Janet once misread the word therapist on a business card as "the rapist."
  • 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.
    • The character's name in Man About The House was "Robin Tripp", a pun on Ribbentrop.
    • Chrissy's given name is "Christmas Noelle Snow".
    • Janet Wood worked in a flower shop.
  • Put on a Bus: The Ropers, Chrissy, and Cindy.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Suzanne 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, Felipe, 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.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: In one episode, Jack becomes worried for Janet when he sees her seemingly friendly dance instructor coercing a married woman to go to his house, and assumes that he will do the same to Janet. Later it's revealed that the young woman was the instructor's sister who was being convinced to practice her dancing at home. Jack feels bad for painting the guy as a sexual predator, and shows up one night to the dance studio to apologize for the mistake, only for him to see Janet's dance instructor hitting on her [Janet] for real.
  • Roommate Com: The show revolves around Jack Tripper and his two female roommates, Janet Wood and Chrissy Snow, who is later replaced by her cousin Cindy followed by Terri Allen. Their apartment is owned by married couple Mr. and Mrs. Roper, who later got their own sitcom and were replaced by Ralph Furley. Jack originally had to lie about his sexual orientation to Mr. Roper since Mr. Roper would not allow him to move in with the two women if he were straight.
  • She's Got Legs: Joyce DeWitt had a gorgeous set of gams and always wore pantyhose on the show, refusing to appear bare-legged even when her character Janet was supposedly naked under a towel. She even appeared in several commercials for L'eggs.
  • Skeleton Key Card: Jack's date gets upset at Jack and locks herself in the bathroom. Mr. Furley tries to help by unlocking the door with his credit card, but Jack's date takes the card when he slides it through the crack between the door and the frame.
  • Sleepwalking: Chrissy starts doing this in one episode.
  • Sneeze of Doom: Jack fakes his death in an episode to escape from a jealous boyfriend who's intent on revenge after spotting him looking at his girlfriend. He needs to resist sneezing while in the casket after one of his "mourners" brings flowers.
  • 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.
  • Spiritual Successor: Modern Family, which also has most of its comedy revolve around wacky misunderstandings, also features gay characters (except they're actually gay), and is just as popular as Three's Company was back in the day.
  • Starving Student: This is why Jack moves in with the girls. He's a starving cooking school student.
  • Strongly Worded Letter: In "Out on a Limb," a food critic comes into Jack's Bistro, takes a quick bite, and leaves, causing Jack to worry that the critic hated the food and is going to give him a bad review. Larry suggests that Jack send the critic an angry letter, with Janet typing it. Larry starts the letter with "Dear Sleazebucket," and it goes downhill from there.note  Of course, the critic loved the food and gives Jack a great review, so the gang has to retrieve the letter before the critic can see it. Oh, and Janet actually toned it down.
    • In another episode Mr. Furley says that he's written many strongly worded letters to his brother complaining about not having enough money to maintain the building. He then says that if his brother doesn't shape up soon he's going to start mailing them.
  • 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.
  • Supreme Chef: Jack, presumably. It would certainly explain why they keep him around instead of finding a female roommate (or, you know, an actual gay guy).
  • Sweater Girl: Jack was often distracted by sweater girls on this show, resulting in Freudian Slips on several occasions: "You need to separate the yolk from the sweater." "I just came to button up my coffee."
  • Thematic Theme Tune / Title Theme Tune: "Down at our rendezvous / Three is company, too!"
  • Throwing Out the Script: Mr. Furley does this to the over-the-top sentimental speech Larry wrote for him to read at the trio's moving away party.
  • 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.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: of the series and both spinoffs!
  • The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Bart Furley is rather short. His daughter is full-sized and very attractive.
    • An early episode had Jack getting involved with Mr. Roper's hot niece.
  • 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 Janet gets married to another man while Jack moves in with Vicki.
  • Vow of Celibacy: In one episode Jack makes a bet with the girls that he can refrain from having relations with women for a certain amount of time. The girls then try to find ways to make him lose the bet.
  • Watching the Reflection Undress: In one epsiode Jack and Chrissy are temporarily sharing the bedroom normally used by Chrissy and Janet, but there's a mouse in the room that Janet is afraid of. Chrissy tells Jack to turn away so she can get into bed, so he turns and looks right at a mirror which shows him Chrissy in her skimpy nightie.
  • Wedding Day: The first half of the two-part series finale depicts Janet's wedding to Phillip, a guy she met at the flower shop.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: In one episode Jack is having a noisy party. Mr. Roper arrives to tell him to quiet down, ends up joining in the festivities, and wakes up the next morning in bed with Jack.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Mrs. Roper has a parakeet in the first season, and the gang gives her a puppy that Larry has manipulated them into taking. No mention is made of the pup after that episode, although it's a fair assumption she still has the parakeet.
  • You Are Number 6: One scene has the girls gossiping with Mrs. Roper about various tenants having affairs with each other, and they refer to all the tenants by their unit number.


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