Don Knotts shared the screen one last time with his “Three’s Company” co-star John Ritter shortly before Ritter passed away in 2003.
Knotts made a cameo on Ritter’s sitcom “8 Simple Rules” in 2002. That sitcom revolved around Ritter’s character raising his three children. During a memorable episode, Knotts appeared in a dream sequence as his Mr. Furley character from “Three’s Company.” Ritter’s character had a hilarious nightmare during the episode’s closing. Rather than his wife, he finds Knotts in bed beside him when he pulls back the covers.
Both men scream at each other to comedic effect before Ritter’s character wakes up. Knotts, of course, turned a scene-stealing role as Mr. Furley on “Three’s Company.”
Knotts and Ritter became lifelong friends after “Three’s Company,” and Knotts was the last actor from that show to share screen time with Ritter. It’s almost fitting that it was a homage to their previous successful sitcom. On Sept. 11, 2003, the actor became ill while rehearsing for an upcoming episode. Ritter died later that day at the hospital due to an Aortic dissection.
Knotts learned of Ritter’s death while doing a stage show “On Golden Pond” in Kansas City. He flew out to attend Ritter’s funeral four days later.
Don Knotts and John Ritter on ‘Three’s Company’
Producers of “Three’s Company” approached Don Knotts about appearing on the show. The actor revealed that he didn’t actually audition for the part because the sitcom’s creators were well aware of Knotts’ comic appeal. In addition, Knotts had been a huge fan of Ritter and his comedy.
“John Ritter was very funny, I thought they were all funny,” Knotts said. “It was a very broad comedy show, lots of broad jokes, lots of physical humor. John Ritter is a physical comedian, he could do great falls. I found myself doing falls on the show.”
One of Furley’s biggest character aspects was his fashion choices. Knotts admittedly enjoyed the various colorful costumes he wore, something he wore again for his “8 Simple Rules” cameo.
“They had a running gag where [Ralph Furley] wore these loud, ridiculous clothes,” Knotts continued. “We had a guy in the costume department, it was his job every week to pick out the most outlandish costume he could think of. The loudest colors, the craziest designs. Bright blue, bright red. Just ridiculous stuff.”