Lucille Ball Had Unique Connection to One ‘Three’s Company’ Actor

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Lucille Ball loved a certain goofy actor from Three’s Company.

So it seemed perfect that Ball should act with John Ritter, who could trip on the floor and get you to bust a gut laughing.

Lucille Ball asked Ritter to appear on one of her last sitcoms. This comedy was Life With Lucy. And the episode was entitled Lucy Makes a Hit with John Ritter. Ritter appeared with Ball in 1986, two years after Three’s Company ended its brilliant run.

But this Lucille Ball creation, the only series she made not on CBS, was a disaster in the ratings. ABC, which carried the show, canceled the series after eight episodes.

Ball played a widowed grandmother. Her husband owned half a hardware store. So Ball decides to work there with her husband’s partner, who was played by Gale Gordon. And, of course, we all know that Gordon played Mr. Mooney, Ball’s old boss, in The Lucy Show.

Lucille Ball Comedy Prompted by Golden Girls Success

The 1986 version of a Lucille Ball comedy actually was prompted, in part, by the success of the Golden Girls, which premiered the year before on NBC. The networks all wanted older, golden actors. So why not Lucille Ball? However, it just didn’t work.

The Ritter episode ran in September, 1986. It was the second one, but it didn’t help the ratings. It seems the show was no competition for Facts of Life, its main competition in the time slot. Ritter, playing himself, drops by Lucy’s hardware store. And after suffering some injuries, Lucy takes him back to her house. She then brings him to rehearsal for his play and insists on replacing an actress who had quit the cast.

During the episode, Lucille Ball feeds what she calls “health in a bowl” to Ritter. It was a mix of tofu, wheat germ and sauerkraut juice. Ritter’s reaction to tasting the healthy brew caused Ball to laugh so hard she broke character. Ball said it was only the third time in her long career she needed to yell cut because she was laughing too hard to continue.

Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers After A Taping of “Three’s Company” (Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Lucy Took a Turn on Three’s Company in 1982

In 1982, Lucille Ball showed her love for John Ritter when she narrated a Three’s Company anthology show. Ritter, dressed as Jack Tripper, came on set to greet Lucy, telling her he’s admired her for so long. Lucy tells him to “keep on talking.”

She then asks the one word that describes Three’s Company. He quipped “Classy.”

Lucille Ball quipped back “Like I said, its my kind of show.”

The two brilliant comedians also shared something else in common. And it was heartbreaking. Lucille Ball died in 1989 of an aortic dissection. She was 77. In 2003, Ritter died of the same heart condition. He was only 54.

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