“Three’s Company” hit the airwaves on this day forty-four years ago. The series featured some of the greatest comedic actors television had to offer. Looking back at the decades of syndication as well as how well the humor holds up, it’s hard to believe that it has been that long.
“Three’s Company” was one of what television critics of the time called jiggle shows. It featured beautiful actresses in skimpy outfits. At the same time, the comedy was a little racier than what you would find in other American network shows. Those things and a cast full of veteran actors made for a winning combination. It worked so well that the show lasted for eight years. It also spawned two less-successful spinoff shows.
The Premiere of “Three’s Company”
“Three’s Company,” was based on a British sitcom called “Man About the House,” which they referenced in the title of the premiere episode. In that episode, titled, “A Man About the House,” the show introduces the audience to the main cast and conflict of the show.
In the first episode roommates, Chrissy and Janet wake up after a farewell party for their roommate Elanor. To their surprise, a man is passed out in their tub. Instead of kicking the party-crashing culinary student out, they offer to let him stay. After all, living wasn’t cheap. A third roommate made things easier. The problem is that their overbearing landlord, Mr. Roper, doesn’t allow co-ed living. Even with a multi-bedroom apartment, he is firmly against the idea. However, after Janet tells Mr. Roper that Jack is gay, he relents and lets Jack stay.
Two things kept this premise fresh for eight seasons. Firstly, Jack Tripper wasn’t just straight. He was a bit of a lecherous ladies’ man. This led to all manner of shenanigans. Secondly, John Ritter, who played Jack, was a comedic genius. The rest of the cast was strong as well. It was Ritter’s comedic excellence that truly shined, though.
Successful British Imports
“Three’s Company,” is one of a handful of successful American sitcoms based on British shows, according to “The AV Club.” In fact, some of our funniest classic sitcoms were based on British shows.
“All in the Family,” was based on “Till Death Do Us Part,” a British series about a working-class bigot, according to IMDb. Carroll O’Connor read about the series years before they pitched him the character of Archie Bunker. At the time, he said that there was no way someone could get away with doing a show like that in the United States. Luckily for TV watchers across the country, he was wrong.
“Sanford and Son,” was one of the funniest shows on American television. Redd Foxx’s Fred Sanford is still one of the best characters to ever occupy the small screen. This show was based on “Steptoe and Son,” a sitcom set in London.
More recently, “The Office” was based on the British show of the same now. However, the original series only ran for two seasons. On the other hand, the American version ran for nine and has since become a cultural touchstone.
These shows, along with “Three’s Company,” are a great example of how some situations are universally funny.