Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, Three’s Company was an incredibly popular sitcom that helped boost the celebrity status of the stars John Ritter, Suzanne Somers, and Joyce Dewitt. The show centered around three roommates, Chrissy, Janet, and Jack, and their daily lives sharing an apartment in Santa Monica.
Fans immediately fell in love with the show and its characters. The unconventional plot and comedic moments got viewers hooked. However, things weren’t all dandy behind the scenes. The cast was not close; there were rivalries, contract disputes, drama, and a wage gap issue in full force.
Today, we’re going to take a look back at the behind-the-scenes drama that took place on the set of Three’s Company.
Loni Anderson Auditioned for the Role of Chrissy
Actress Loni Anderson actually auditioned for the part of Chrissy on Three’s Company but ultimately lost the role to Suzanne Somers, as we know. However, it wasn’t such a devastating blow to Anderson. It seemed like everything played out just the way it was supposed to…
Anderson went on to play Jennifer Marlowe on WKRP in Cincinnati, and it worked out great for her. The show ultimately landed the star both an Emmy and a Golden Globe nominations. The show lasted from 1978-1982, but the actress reprised her character for two episodes of The New WKRP in Cincinnati.
There Were Three Pilot Episodes
A pilot is a kind of a “first impression” of a new show. Sure, some pilot episodes are filmed more than once, but in most cases, it’s not worth the time or money for a show that might not even get picked up. But that wasn’t the case for Three’s Company.
There were actually three pilots. Surprisingly, the first two pilots that the show submitted were rejected by ABC, but they liked the third one and finally decided to pick it up. The pilot episode premiered on March 15, 1977, and the show went on to have eight successful seasons.
Billy Crystal Auditioned to Play Jack
Although it’s almost impossible to picture anyone but John Ritter playing Jack Tripper, Billy Crystal actually auditioned for the lead role as well. Crystal ended up on a different ABC sitcom, Soap, and everyone recognizes him as a cast member and frequent host of Saturday Night Live.
Seeing how successful Crystal is today, it’s safe to say the legendary comedian found his big break, and not landing the role of Jack didn’t really impact his career. He had a successful Hollywood career, and at age 73, he is still actively working in Hollywood.
Sesame Street Connection
Some theme songs just get stuck in our heads, and they are intended to do so. The Three’s Company song is certainly one of the ones you can’t help but sing along to. As it turns out, the catchy tune was created by the same guy who did the Sesame Street theme song.
Composer Joe Raposo is the brains behind both themes songs as well as the one for The Electric Company. Unfortunately, Raposo lost his life in 1989, but not before leaving some of the best theme songs for generations to enjoy.
Some People Can’t Do Anything Right
A landlord-tenant relationship isn’t always the friendliest, and that’s exactly how the dynamic was on Three’s Company. Mr. Roper was the the three roommates’ high-strung landlord, and he seems like an ordinary made-up character. But as it turns out, he wasn’t a complete work of fiction.
Norman Fell, the actor who played Roper, admitted that he based the character off someone he knew in real life. He described this person and his character as someone who “just can’t do things right… and yet thought he was the cat’s meow.”
Jeffrey Tambor Played Three Different Characters
Actor Jeffrey Tambor quickly became a familiar face on the show since he starred as three characters, three wildly different characters at that: a rich man, a dentist, and a psychiatrist. But as it seems from the plot, none of the roomies were suspicious or even noticed that these three “different” characters looked questionably similar.
After his time on Three’s Company, Jeffrey Tambor continued to have a successful acting career in television as well as movies. He appeared in classic hits, including the Hangover trilogy, and at 76 years of age, Tambor is still working in the industry.
Suzanne Somers Wanted More Money
Suzanne Somers was unsatisfied with her given salary. She argued with the producers and tried to negotiate a better contract, to no avail. The actress who was already raking in a nice $30,000 an episode wanted a $150,000 paycheck per episode, like her co-star John Ritter. Who can blame her for fighting for equality?
The producers were not thrilled with her request and her unwillingness to compromise. The subsequent drama led to the cast giving Somers the cold shoulder although they continued to work with her until her character was written off the show.
Heather Locklear Had an Awkward Audition
With Suzanne Somers’s dramatic exit, producers wasted no time to replace her. But unfortunately, for stunning, blonde bombshell Heather Locklear, it wasn’t going to be her. The actress auditioned for the role, but let’s just say it could have gone better.
During an interview, Locklear admitted that she was so worried about sweating at the audition that she had Kleenex under her armpits. After the audition, she realized she forgot to remove the tissues. So, not only did she embarrass herself, but she didn’t land the role either. Luckily, her career took off anyway. Don’t worry, we’ll get to all the drama surrounding Somer’s actual replacements.
Introducing Jason Ritter
In the later seasons’ opening credits, you can see a kid run up to Janet at the zoo. It turns out, the little boy is Jason Ritter, John Ritter’s son. Actress Joyce Dewitt couldn’t help but laugh at the moment, which ended up becoming an endearing, unscripted encounter, so the producers chose to leave it in.
But that wasn’t the only time Jason appeared on camera. He actually has a pretty lengthy acting resume beginning in the ‘90s. He never reached the level of success his A-lister father did, but it’s clear that talent runs in the family (especially considering his grandfather, Tex Ritter, was also a superstar).
John Ritter Flashed the Camera
Even after Three’s Company came to an end, the sitcom lived on through television reruns. In 2001, one particularly observant fan noticed a hilarious and shocking wardrobe malfunction. Apparently, the viewer called Nickelodeon to bring that briefly risqué scene to their attention.
So, which scene was this exactly? Nickelodeon wouldn’t reveal the exact episode, but some reports reveal it was The Charming Stranger episode. Basically, Ritter’s shorts were a bit too short and showed off a bit too much, if you know what I mean. How could this mistake go over everyone’s head? To stay on the safe side, the shot was reedited.
Stanley Roper’s Spin-Off Show
Sometimes a fictional television series character can be so popular with fans that they get their own show. Well, that’s exactly what happened with landlord Stanley Roper and his wife. After three successful seasons on Three’s Company, they starred in The Ropers.
At first, actor Norman Fell was a little bit apprehensive, but he was promised that if the show didn’t make it more than one year, he would be able to go back to Three’s Company. The Ropers didn’t do that well but managed to hang on for a year and a half. Unfortunately, that meant that Roper would never return to Three’s Company.
What It Could Have Been, or Should Have Been
Countless hopeful actresses auditioned for the coveted role of Chrissy Snow, but producers weren’t very happy with most of the contenders. But while reviewing the tapes for the second time, they gained a newfound interest in Suzanne Somers. They cast her just one day before production started! That’s a lucky break if I’ve ever seen one.
Interestingly, Three’s Company wasn’t originally an American show. Well, technically it was, but the sitcom was based on a ‘70s British show called Man About the House. The show focuses on two female roomies who spend a night partying and wake up to a man sleeping in their apartment.
The Stars Almost Sang the Theme Song
We know the Three’s Company theme song was created by the same composer who made the Sesame Street theme song. But that’s not the only interesting thing about the sitcom’s opening tune. Looking back at the show’s success, it all could have gone very differently if the producers went with their original decision.
Originally, they wanted John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt, and Suzanne Somers to sing the theme song. It didn’t take long for them to realize that their specialty was acting… and certainly not singing. Julia Miller and Ray Charles (not the Blues artist) ended up singing the jam instead.
Guest Appearances and Cameos
You may recognize John Larroquette from his starring role in Night Court as well as other notable projects. Well, the actor’s recognizable face appeared on a single episode of Three’s Company, where he played a police officer. Apparently, his face wasn’t even supposed to be seen on camera. But the actor wanted his cameo to be a little bit more memorable. He made a point to remove his hand so viewers would realize exactly who he was.
Larry Dallas, the character played by Richard Kline, was originally only meant to appear in a single episode. However, the producers were impressed by the chemistry between Kline and Ritter and weren’t going to let go of that so quickly. They decided they wanted to keep the actor, and that’s how Larry Dallas became a consistent character on the popular sitcom.
Tension in movies and television sets really affects an actor’s performance, and unfortunately, beef between co-stars is not uncommon. Three’s Company is a perfect and famous example. After that messy salary drama which led to Somers’s departure from the show, it also ended her friendship with her castmates.
She still had to continue filming so that they could write her character off the show, so it was pretty awkward. As you can imagine, tensions were flying high in the last few episodes she was in, to the point where DeWitt and Ritter wouldn’t even speak to her unless they were filming a scene together.
Suzanne Somers Played a Brunette
We already learned all the juice about the opening theme song, but what about the opening credits that come along with it? Well, on Three’s Company, we watch Jack ride his bike past a pretty brunette, but she has her back facing the camera.
This woman is apparently so beautiful that Jack gets distracted and crashes his bike. As it turns out, this hot brunette is actually Suzanne Somers… in a wig! This is pretty funny but also a little unnecessary. I wonder why did they do this? I’m sure they could have afforded an extra.
Careless Editing Mistakes
Although they didn’t hire a brunette for the opening credits, Three’s Company was a professional production. That’s why it was quite shocking when they made such a big mistake in that scene where John Ritter accidentally flashed the camera, and the whole world got to see his junk.
However, that wasn’t the only surprising on-set slip-up. Other than actual errors that somehow made it past the editors, you can see stage props! In multiple episodes, you can catch a glimpse of a mic or even crew members’ hands slipping into the shot.
Three’s a Crowd
After the conclusion of Three’s Company, there was another attempt at a spin-off. Why wouldn’t the producers want to continue the success of the extremely popular sitcom? That’s when ABC tried to launch Three’s a Crowd, starring John Ritter.
The plot was focused on Jack Tripper moving in with his new girlfriend and was meant to be a popular series. However, this spin-off fizzled out as well. Perhaps because the plot was too similar to the original Three’s Company. You know what they say: You can’t beat the original.
Priscilla Barnes Was “Too Blonde”
In addition to the drama that came with Somers’s departure, producers really struggled to find a replacement for her character. When Chrissy left, Cindy replaced her. But when Cindy was written off the show, she was replaced by Terri, portrayed by Priscilla Barnes.
According to the actress, the producers didn’t want her at first because her hair was dyed “too blonde,” but luckily, they went with her. She is best known for her role as Terri on the sitcom, but she went on to work on some movie projects as well.
No Chemistry Read
Since the plot centers around three roommates, you would assume that they have known each other for a while. I mean, you need a little chemistry to make audiences believe you live together, right? Apparently not.
We mentioned how Somers was cast only one day before production, and it turns out that the whole cast didn’t actually meet in person until the night of the first taping. Aren’t there supposed to be chemistry auditions? The three actors didn’t disappoint, though. They proved their talents by creating their on-screen chemistry for the show.
Jack Tripper Was in Every Episode
The main character of the show is Jack Tripper, played perfectly by John Ritter. Although they were three leads, John Ritter was undoubtedly the star of Three’s Company. He was popular among fans and with producers, too, apparently.
First of all, Jack was the only character to appear in every single episode of the show. It might explain the beloved star’s huge paycheck. With all his acting success after the show, it’s clear that he left a wonderful impression on television watchers all over the world.
Don Knotts Was Nervous
After the Ropers left the show, Jack, Chrissy, and Janet needed a new landlord. That’s when producers decided to cast Don Knotts. Knotts was already a television veteran, which is why it comes as a surprise that he was extremely nervous at first.
Despite his talent and fame, Knotts was worried about joining the hilarious class because the show was already popular. On the other hand, many of the Three’s Company cast members were scared to work with such a gifted and seasoned actor like Don Knotts.
Lying About Her Age
So, apparently, when Somers’s son, Bruce Jr., was 11, she told John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt that she was 17 when she gave birth to him. I’m no mathematician, but that would have made her 28 at the time of that statements.
However, her claim didn’t add up. If you consider her birthday (October 16, 1946) and the premiere of the show (March 15, 1977), that would make her at least 30 when she met her co-stars, let alone had this conversation. But it’s no crime to lie about your age, especially in an industry that is unkind to aging women.
Joyce DeWitt Felt Left Out
When producers were developing Three’s a Crowd, the soon-to-be failed spin-off, they kept the projects under wraps. However, Joyce DeWitt accidentally walked in on the auditions, and she was understandably hurt and very disappointed when she found out that she wasn’t going to part of the show.
Unfortunately, from that point on, tension began to rise between her and the rest of the cast. And who could blame her? She didn’t miss out on much, though. She must have been thrilled to see how unsuccessful the show ended up being.
Suzanne Somers Was Replaced… Twice
We know that Somers left the show after some contract drama, so her character Chrissy was replaced by Chrissy’s cousin Cindy (portrayed by actress Jenilee Harrison). It’s no secret that recasting on a successful show could be detrimental.
As it turned out, Jenilee wasn’t the best choice for the part, and audiences had a tough time connecting to her character. So, after low-performance numbers, Cindy was replaced as well. The next replacement was Terri, played by Priscilla Barnes, who proved to be more popular with fans.
Christmas Noelle Snow
This is yet another questionable choice the producers of Three’s Company made. You would assume that the name Chrissy is short for a name like Christine, Kristin, or Christina, but that wasn’t exactly the case for Chrissy from the show.
They decided her full name should be Christmas Noelle Snow. Nonetheless, there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable explanation for this odd choice… other than that the producers wanted a holiday-themed name.
The Cast Didn’t Talk for Almost 30 Years
When you look at long-running sitcoms, the cast tends to get super close and truly become family. I mean, you see these people all the time. It only makes sense that you have developed enough of a relationship to stay in touch for a few years after the show ends. But it would be almost three decades before the Three’s Company cast would reconcile.
Somers and DeWitt squashed their beef famously on Somers’s talk show. And luckily, she and John Ritter also made up shortly before he passed away. Considering how fun and lighthearted the show was, it’s nice that they finally put their differences behind them.
If Only Rent Cost That Much
Can you believe that awesome special two-bedroom apartment that the three characters rented in Santa Monica only cost them $300 in rent per month?! This is certainly how you could tell this is a work of fiction. I mean, viewers can only dream of having that kind of apartment at that kind of price.
The theme of the show’s development was kind of a last-minute decision, and producers admitted that the pilot episode was written before the show even had an official name. The title Three’s Company was a quick last-minute idea but went over surprisingly well with audiences.
Remembering His Father
John Ritter’s father is a country superstar and a well-known Western film actor named Tex Ritter. Sadly, Tex died before getting to see his son on Three’s Company. However, John still wanted to honor the memory of his father on the show… so he did.
In one episode, the actor said this: “Well, you know you have to learn to trot before you can gallop… who said that?” Reportedly, John said this line to acknowledge his father’s career with many Westerns on his acting resume.
Priscilla Barnes Said Her Experience Was Unpleasant
So, remember Terri? One of Chrissy’s replacements… the one played by Priscilla Barnes. Well, the actress said that behind the scenes The Three’s Company set was not very fun. In fact, she found the environment unpleasant.
It’s unclear what made it so miserable, but perhaps it was the tension between the cast and crew. Of course, there are other disturbances that might have been the reason her experience wasn’t the greatest. She said she nearly left when she first started working on the show, and her time as Terri was the most miserable of her career.
John Ritter Tossing Cameos In
Although John Ritter was the star of Three’s Company, it wasn’t his first rodeo. Before taking on the role of Jack, he was on the wholesome, family show, The Waltons, as Reverend Fordwick. He dropped a line as a nod to his previous role.
If you watched The Waltons, you’re already familiar, but those of you who haven’t, he said, “goodnight, John Boy.” Audiences likely knew where the line came from as it pointed directly to a line that was often used in The Waltons.
Don Knotts Understood Suzanne Somers
When all that contract drama was going on with Somers, all her castmates shunned her. Well, all but one. Don Knotts actually empathized with Somers and understood where she was coming from. He looked back at a time where he too had a salary dispute with producers when he was on The Andy Griffith Show.
Knotts was sad to see Somers leave, and he was disappointed when her other co-stars didn’t have her back. Knotts felt so strongly that she was being treated unfairly that he made a point to speak to Suzanne on set while everyone else gave her the cold shoulder.
No Bare Legs on Camera
Joyce DeWitt decided she didn’t want her bare legs to be shown while she was on the show, for whatever reason. It could have been modesty or a self-conscious thing, but she didn’t really give an explanation.
Either way, the actress never went in front of the camera without a pair of pantyhose for any scene where her legs were being shown. DeWitt was so passionate about her decision and so dedicated to concealing her legs that she earned herself an endorsement deal with the pantyhose company, L’eggs! Good for her!
It comes as no surprise that most of the drama revolved around Somers’s contract fiasco. Producers were so irritated with the actress’s demands that during negotiation, they created two scripts for the cast. One included her character Chrissy and the other did not!
Praise from people who in show business truly says a lot about the success of a show. Lucille Ball apparently used to be such a huge fan of Three’s Company that she hosted a “best of Three’s Company” show. The Big Bang Theory actor Jim Parsons is also said to be a fan.
Before Jack Moved In
So, before Jack moved in, Chrissy and Janet had a different roommate, a girl named Eleanor. Before Jack, their roommate Eleanor showed up in the episode Eleanor’s Return. She was played by actress Miriam Black. In the episode, Jack was actually nervous that he would be replaced by the old roommate.
Before crashing with Chrissy and Janet, Jack’s character went through a bit of a rough patch. Before finding a wonderful home with the girls at Hacienda, he was staying at a location you may have heard of, the Y.M.C.A.
With all the commotion usually happening on set, it’s easy to see how professional show creators make mistakes too, and sometimes miss important details. We mentioned a few instances that went over the editor’s heads. But there was one continuity error that was quite significant.
There is one scene where Jack is covered in a bunch of leaves. When the camera cuts back, though, you’ll notice that the leaves are different colors. There were other sloppy mistakes similar to this one, like items suddenly disappearing in between takes.