Here’s a Whole Lot of Behind the Scenes Facts About “Three’s Company”

“Three’s Company” was a hit sitcom during the ’70s and ’80s and became a helpful boost to the celebrity careers of the show’s stars, John Ritter, Suzanne Somers, and Joyce DeWitt. The plot of the show revolved around three roommates, Chrissy, Janet, and Jack, and their everyday lives sharing an apartment in Santa Monica.
Getty Images Photo by Ron Galella
Getty Images Photo by Ron Galella
The Fans loved the show for its unconventional plot and comedic moments, but there were some even more interesting happenings behind the scenes. Want to know more? Let’s knock on the”behind the scenes-door” to see what happened on the other side of the camera!

Loni Anderson Auditioned for the Part of Chrissy.

Actress Loni Anderson auditioned for the role of Chrissy on the show but ultimately lost the role to Suzanne Somers. However, it wasn’t at all a devastating blow to Anderson as she went on to play the character, Jennifer Marlowe, on the sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.”

 

The show landed her both Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.

There Were Three Pilot Episodes Made for The Show

A pilot is a sort of “first impression” of a new show for the audience and for “Three’s Company,” there were actually three of them.

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Surprisingly, ABC rejected the first two pilots submitted by the show, but finally picked up the third, which aired on March 15, 1977. Thankfully, the show made it past the pilot premiere to have a successful 8 seasons.

Billy Crystal Auditioned for the Part of Jack.

Billy Crystal (who probably would have made a great Jack) auditioned for the lead role that eventually went to John Ritter.

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But seeing how successful Crystal is today, it certainly wasn’t a major loss for the legendary comedian.

The Theme Song Was by The Same Composer Who Did “Sesame Street”

Some theme songs just get stuck in our heads, which is often how they are designed to be. The “Three’s Company” theme song became a very catchy tune and was actually created by the same composer who did the “Sesame Street” theme.

 

Composer Joe Raposo wrote the theme song for both of the shows, as well as for “The Electric Company.”

Stanley Roper Was Based on a Real Person.

The landlord-tenant relationship isn’t always the most congenial. The character of Mr. Roper was the high-strung landlord to the three roommates, but he wasn’t a complete work of fiction.

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Norman Fell, who played Roper, confessed that he modeled the character after someone he knew in real life. He summarized the character as someone who “just can’t do things right…and yet he thought he was the cat’s meow.”

Jeffrey Tambor Had Roles As Three Different Characters.

Actor Jeffrey Tambor became a familiar face on the show and ended up starring as three wildly different characters–a rich man, a psychiatrist, and a dentist.

 

But, as the plot of the show would have it, none of the roomies ever seemed to notice that these three “different” characters looked suspiciously similar.

Suzanne Somers Wanted More Money

Suzanne Somers was discontented with her given salary and faced the producers head-on to negotiate a better contract. Somers, who was already raking in $30,000 an episode, wanted to up the here salary to $150,000 per episode, the amount that Ritter got. Can’t blame her for fighting for equality!

 

The producers were not enthused by her request but Somers was unwilling to compromise. The ensuing drama led to Somers receiving the cold shoulder from her castmates and her character ultimately being written out of the show.

Heather Locklear Had an Embarrassing Audition

With the messy exit of Suzanne Somers, Producers were looking for someone to replace her. And, unfortunately for blonde bombshell Heather Locklear, it would not be her. In an interview, Locklear said that she was worried about sweating during the audition, so she had Kleenex under her arms.

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When she finished her audition, she heard laughter and realized she had forgotten to remove the Kleenex. Sadly, along with the embarrassment, she did not get the role.

John Ritter’s Son Made an Appearance On the Show

In the opening credits for the later seasons, you can see a child run up to Janet at the zoo. This little boy was actually Jason Ritter, John Ritter’s son.

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The moment made actress Joyce DeWitt laugh and became an endearing, unscripted encounter, which led producers to leave it in.

John Ritter Accidentally Flashed the Camera

Even after “Three’s Company” ended, it lived on in television through reruns. But one particularly observant viewer noticed a shocking wardrobe malfunction. Apparently, in a certain scene, John Ritter’s short shorts were a bit too short and showed more than they should have.

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It’s still unclear today if there was in fact, an unintended “cameo” in the scene but the shot was reedited just to be safe!

Stanley Roper Got His Own Spin-off.

Sometimes a character will be so successful on a tv series that they will get their own show and that’s just what happened for landlord Stanley Roper and his wife. After three seasons, they starred in The Ropers.

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Actor Norman Fell was apprehensive at first but he was assured that if the show didn’t make it more than one year, he could return to “Three’s Company.” Sadly, The Ropers didn’t do well, but it did hang on for a year and a half, which unfortunately meant that Roper would never return to “Three’s Company.”

Suzanne Somers Was Hired at the Last Minute.

Many actresses auditioned for the coveted role of Chrissy Snow, but producers were not impressed with any of them who stopped by.

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However, while reviewing the tapes again, they developed a new-found interest in Suzanne Somers’ audition and cast her as Chrissy the day before production began. What a lucky break!

The Cast Almost Sang the Theme Song

The producers could look back at “Three’s Company” and see the show as a success but they almost made a highly questionable move in the sitcom’s development. Producers originally decided that they wanted Ritter, DeWitt, and Somers to sing the theme song.

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It was revealed later though, that the actors were, well, best at just acting so the actual singers’ Ray Charles (not the Blues musician) and Julia Miller were brought in instead.

John Larroquette Had a Memorable Guest Appearance On The Show.

John Larroquette (who would go on to star in “Night Court” and a number of other projects) landed the role of a police officer in one episode of “Three’s Company.”

 

Apparently, his face wasn’t supposed to be seen, but Larroquette boosted his cameo appearance by removing his hat so the audience could see who he was.

Somers Departure from The Show Hurt Her Friendship with Ritter and DeWitt

On-set tension can be a major test of an actor’s performance. After the major salary drama involving Somers and her departure from the show, she sadly ended her relationship with her co-stars.

 

It was revealed that things were rocky well before her exit as DeWitt and Ritter would not even speak to her during filming.

Suzanne Somers Shows Up in the Credits Wearing a Wig

In the opening credits for the show, viewers see Jack ride his bike past a brunette woman who has her back turned to the camera.

 

She is apparently very beautiful and makes Jack crash his bike. Well, the beautiful brunette was actually Suzanne Somers in a wig!

You Can See Boom Mics and Other Equipment In Multiple Episodes

Though “Three’s Company” was a professional production, it did have a rather surprising on-set slip-up.

 

In fact, in multiple episodes, you’re likely to catch a glimpse of a stray boom mic or crew member’s hand falling into the shot. Hey, it happens to the best of them!

Jack Tripper Got His Own Spin-off.

After the end of “Three’s Company,” there was yet another spin-off attempt by the producers of the show. ABC then attempted to launch the show, “Three’s a Crowd.”

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The plot centered around Jack Tripper moving in with his new girlfriend but (maybe because it was too similar to “Three’s Company”) this spin-off fizzled out as well.

Priscilla Barnes Got In Trouble For Her Hair Being “Too Blonde.”

Producers really struggled to find a replacement for Somer’s character. After the departure of Chrissy, she was replaced by Cindy, and after Cindy was written out of the show, she was replaced by Terri (played by Priscilla Barnes).

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According to Barnes, she said the producers didn’t want her because her hair was dyed “too blonde”. What’s a girl to do?

The Main Cast Didn’t Meet Until The Night of The First Taping.

Even though the plot centers around three roommates, the three cast members didn’t actually meet until the night of the first taping. This was partly because Suzanne Somers was such a last-minute addition to the cast.

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But the three actors proved their talents by creating collective, on-screen chemistry for the show.

Jack Tripper is The Only Character to Appear in Every Episode.

Even though the show had three stars, John Ritter was clearly number one (for both the writers and the producers apparently).

 

His character, Jack, was the only one to appear in every episode of the show. That might explain his big salary!

Don Knotts Was Nervous When He Got Hired

After the departure of the Ropers, Jack, Chrissy, and Janet needed a new landlord, that’s when actor Don Knotts was cast. Surprisingly, though Knotts was a veteran of TV, he said that he was nervous at first because the show was already so popular and the cast so funny.

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On the other side, many cast members confessed they were nervous to work with an actor as seasoned as Knotts.

Suzanne Somers Lied About Her Age.

John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt claimed that Somers told them she was 17 when she had her son, who was 11 at the time (which would have made her 28). However, when you do the math, her claim didn’t add up.

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If you consider her birthday and the start date of the show, she was most likely in her 30s when she made the statement.

The Show Didn’t Get its Name Until The Last Minute.

In keeping with the last-minute theme of the show’s development, the producers admitted that the pilot episode was actually written before the show even had a proper name.

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But even though it was another quick idea, the title “Three’s Company” went over well with the audience.

Joyce DeWitt Was Left Out

Producers tried to keep the development of Three’s A Crowd (the soon-to-be failed spin-off) under wraps. But Joyce DeWitt accidentally walked in on the auditions, and when she discovered she wasn’t going to be a part of the show, she was very disappointed.

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Unfortunately from there, tensions between her and the rest of the cast and crew began to rise.

Suzanne Somers Was Replaced Twice

After Somers left the show because of her contract drama, the character of Chrissy was replaced by Chrissy’s cousin, Cindy (played by actress Jenilee Harrison).

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But it seems that Jenilee wasn’t a great choice for the part and, after poor performance numbers, Cindy was also replaced. The next replacement for Chrissy was then Terri (played by actress Priscilla Barnes).

Chrissy’s Full Name is “Christmas Noelle Snow.”

Another highly questionable choice made by the show’s producers was for Chrissy’s full name to be “Christmas Noelle Snow.”

 

Why? There seems to be no sensible reasoning behind this bizarre choice other than the producers wanted her to have a Christmas-themed name!

The Stars of The Show Didn’t Talk to Each Other For Almost 30 Years After The Show

Usually, co-stars can create enough of a relationship to stay connected after a show ends but, for the “Three’s Company” cast, it would be almost 30 years before they would reconcile.

 

Somers and DeWitt publicly reconciled on Somers’ talk show, and thankfully she and Ritter also reconciled shortly before his death. Considering how lighthearted the show was supposed to be, it’s wonderful the castmates were able to clear the tension between them.

Larry Dallas Was Just Supposed To Make a One-time Guest Appearance

The character of Larry Dallas (played by Richard Kline) was initially supposed to appear in a single episode. But after producers observed the chemistry between Kline and Ritter, they decided Larry should stay.

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After this, Larry Dallas became a consistent character on the hit show.

The Characters Rented Their Apartment For Only $300 Per Month

The apartment that the three characters shared was a spacious, two-bedroom apartment in scenic Santa Monica but they only paid a quaint $300 per month!

 

Certainly a work of fiction, viewers could only dream to play such an affordable rent for a pad like the one those three had.

John Ritter Remembered His Actor Father in a Unique Way

John Ritter is actually the son of a well known actor (from many western films) named Tex Ritter. Tex died before he ever saw his son on “Three’s Company” but John was still able to honor his memory on the show.

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In one episode he dropped the following line: “well, you know you have to learn to trot before you can gallop…who said that?”It’s believed he said this line to point to his father’s acting career in so many westerns.

Priscilla Barnes Recalled The Set Being Unpleasant

Priscilla Barnes (who played Terri, one of Chrissy’s replacements) said that the behind-the-scenes set of “Three’s Company” was not enjoyable at all.

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Whether it was the tension between the cast and crew or another disturbance to the work environment, she said that she almost left after she started on the show and that her time as Terri was the most miserable of her entire career.

John Ritter Tossed Another Cameo Line Into The Show

John Ritter had previously had a role on the wholesome, family show, The Waltons, as Reverend Fordwick. As a nod to this previous role, he dropped a line that was very well known from The Waltons.

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In one episode, John said “goodnight, John boy”. The audience definitely would have known where this line was from as it pointed directly to a final line often said in The Waltons.

Don Knotts Supported Suzanne Somers

While the rest of her castmates shunned her, Don Knotts actually empathized with Somers. He recounted a time where he also had a salary dispute with producers when he was on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

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He was disappointed to see her co-stars leave her to herself so Knotts actually made a point to speak with Suzanne on set as a demonstration of support.

The Show Was Based On a British TV Series

Interestingly enough, “Three’s Company” was actually based off of a British show from the 70s called “Man About the House.” “Man About the House” centered on two female roommates who (after a night of partying) wake up to find a man asleep in their apartment.

 

The three later become roommates, exactly like “Three’s Company!”

Joyce DeWitt Never Wanted Her Bare Legs Shown

For whatever reason, Joyce DeWitt refused to let her bare legs be revealed while starring on the show. Whether it was modesty or self-consciousness, DeWitt never went without a pair of pantyhose when her legs were being shown.

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She was so dedicated to concealing her legs that she even landed an endorsement deal with the pantyhose brand L’eggs!

More Than One Script Was Made During Somer’s Contract Drama

Much of the behind the scenes drama revolved around Somer’s contract debacle. Producers were so vexed by Somer’s demands that, during the negotiation, two scripts were created for the cast.

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As in one including the character of Chrissy and one without her!

There Was Another Roommate Before Jack

Yes, you heard it right, before Jack, Chrissy and Janet had another roommate. Before Jack, their roommate was named Eleanor and she actually made an appearance in the episode, Eleanor’s Return. She was played by Miriam Black.

 

In the episode, her visit to her former apartment actually had Jack a little nervous he would be replaced.

The Show Had at Least One Famous Fan

Accolades from those already in show business say a lot about the success of a show. Lucille Ball was apparently a big “Three’s Company” fan and even hosted a “best of Three’s Company” show.

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Actor Jim Parsons (of “The Big Bang Theory”) is also said to be a fan.

There Were a Bunch of Continuity Errors

Unfortunately, it can be easy, with all the busyness of a film set, for show creators to miss important things. There were actually a number of continuity errors on the show, one of which, was pretty significant.

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In one scene, Jack has leaves all over him that appear to change color when the camera cuts back to him. There were some other sloppy mistakes such as items on set disappearing between takes.

The Apartment Address Kept Changing

Observant viewers would have noticed that, during the exterior shots of the apartment, the numbers on the building kept changing. This is because the area where the show was filmed had three different addresses during the show’s duration.

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Funnily enough, the apartment complex name (Hacienda Palms) remained the same throughout the entire series.

Jack Lived At a Well-known Location Before He Moved In

Before Jack crashed with Chrissy and Janet, his character’s life story had a bit of a rough patch.

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Jack was actually staying at the Y.M.C.A. before he found a new home with the girls at Hacienda Palms.

Jack and Larry Weren’t “Young Guys” On The Show

Though the series was supposed to feature twenty-somethings navigating everyday life, John Ritter was actually in his early thirties when he was on the show and Richard Kline was over forty!

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Thankfully, the age inaccuracies didn’t seem to affect the engagement of the audience.

One of the First Pilots Had Some Surprising Differences

In one of the earliest pilots, there were some notable differences that devoted fans may have forgotten about. Jack was originally introduced as David Bell, (a filmmaking newbie.)

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in one of the pilots, the theme song had no lyrics in the beginning and the character of Mrs. Roper had an entirely different personality!

There Were Many “Suzannes”

That’s right, there were three Suzanne’s in the beginning! The first was Suzanne Zenor, then Suze Lanier and the last of course being Suzanne Somers. And they all, you guessed it, played the character of Chrissy, were blonde and ended up being fired by the producers.

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Sounds like that named was just cursed. It sure was rough to be named Suzanne back then!

There Were Special Cameras for Chrissy and Jack

Yet another on-set drama when it was revealed that there were apparently “special cameras” for Jack and Chrissy’s characters.

 

Joyce DeWitt was reportedly upset at the discovery that there were cameras especially angled on Suzanne and John but not on her.

The Show Was Rumored to be a Precursor for Friends

It was thought that much of the success and longevity of the show, “Friends,” can be owed to “Three’s Company” setting the stage for the plot.

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Both shows center on co-ed, twenty-somethings navigating young adult life.

The Title Was Taken From a Popular Saying

So where was the title, “Three’s Company,” taken from anyway? Well, though the producers chose it at the last minute, the title was adapted from the saying “two’s company, three’s a crowd.”

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The expression really summed up the essence of the show so the producers went with that title without a moment’s hesitation.

Mrs. Roper Was Really a Blonde

Though, as Helen Roper, she sported red, curly hair on the show, it was actually a wig!

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Actress Audra Lindley was a pin-straight haired blond in real life.

John Ritter’s Passing Boosted Popularity

After John Ritter passed at the early age of 54, fans were shocked and heartbroken. Due to the desperation of mourning fans, the DVD release of the first season of “Three’s Company” was rushed to store shelves.

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The beloved character of Jack Tripper will most likely always be what John Ritter was known for.