‘Three’s Company’: ABC Forced Suzanne Somers to Work on Private Set After Contract Demands

by Suzanne Halliburton

Suzanne Somers thought she was opening a negotiation with ABC. She wanted a lot more money to play Chrissy Snow on “Three’s Company.” Instead, the network played hardball and cut her off from the cast.

Conditions got so bad in season five that ABC had Suzanne Somers in another studio to film her parts for this classic comedy. The show centered around three young, platonic roommates. Suzanne Somers, who played the pretty, but daffy blonde, became a breakout star.

She demanded more money in 1980, before the start of season five. Somers was backed by her husband, Alan Hamel, a producer and popular Canadian television host.

Suzanne Somers asked for $150,000 an episode and 10 percent of the profits, saying it was on par with the salary paid John Ritter, who played Jack. Somers was making $30,000 an episode. ABC countered with an extra $5,000. She called in sick as a way to protest. Negotiating never found common ground, so ABC decided to phase her out of the show.

ABC Wouldn’t Allow Suzanne Somers Around Other Cast Members

ABC even required Suzanne Somers to use a different entrance to the studio. Security escorted her. She filmed very short scenes on different days than the rest of the cast. None of the scenes lasted more than a minute.

“They would have a police guard come meet me at the back door,” Somers said. “Walk me in, I was not allowed to see anybody from the original show, only the wardrobe guy. (He) would bring me a pair of shorts and something. My set was a chair and a phone and a lamp and one camera.

“I would speak to myself on the phone and go, ‘I’m so sorry, I know, she’s still sick…wish I could be there.’ I did that to finish out the season,” she added. “I would usually leave in tears because it felt like I was being punished. Like I was a bad girl, brought up all of my old feelings of low self-worth. It was just a terrible time.”

Three’s Company Star Said She Was Trying To Help Other Women. But Did Her Husband Push For Too Much?

Suzanne Somers always contended she was negotiating for female actresses who discovered they weren’t as highly paid as their male counterparts.

 Suzanne Somers told Closer Weekly:

“At the height of my career, when I’m on the No. 1 show with the highest demographics of all women in television, I get fired for renegotiating, because I wanted to get be paid commensurate with the men. But they wanted to make me an example, the thinking being that if they could fire Chrissy Snow, every other woman on television beware. And it worked.

“It worked for a long time until Roseanne Barr. In today’s world, I could have sued their ass and owned ABC, but at the time there were no movements or anything. But I decided not to be a victim.”

Richard Kline, who played a flirty neighbor on “Three’s Company, Larry, told Closer Weekly that Somers’ husband “played the wrong hand” in negotiations.

Somers Went To Vegas As Chrissy Snow

Suzanne Somers said she instead decided to be Chrissy Snow in a Vegas show.

“I used my fame and the fact that people were craving to see Chrissy Snow again,” she says. “And I hired the best Hollywood writers and choreographers and put together this big act. I brought Chrissy to life on stage in the middle of the show and people would give her a standing ovation every night.

“And, in 1987, I walked on stage one night with Frank Sinatra. He was named Male Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year, and I was named Female Las Vegas Entertainer of the Year. So every time some big life event happens, I’ve used it to work for me and what’s happened is it’s worked for the better good, especially in the later incarnations.”

Suzanne Somers never achieved such lofty TV status again. But she eventually made nice with her fellow cast members. Suzanne Somers said she talked to John Ritter a week before his death in 2003. She said he offered her a part in his show “8 Simple Rules.” Then in 2012, Somers invited Joyce DeWitt to appear on her web series “Breaking Through.”