Spinoff Stories -- Three’s Company (Article VIII)


It may not be in the same league as I Love Lucy or Seinfeld in terms of popularity, but Three’s Company is still well-known for its risqué humor and behind-the-scenes controversy. Of course, the show's innuendo-laced brand of humor seems like child's play when compared to the content in comedy television today. Nevertheless, the show sparked controversy and pushed boundaries back in the late 70's. The John Ritter vehicle was the 2nd highest-rated show on television in its fourth season and remained in the top 10 for six of its eight seasons. With massive commercial success comes an opportunity for the network to milk the show for all it's worth. ABC ended up producing two follow-up comedies in an attempt to duplicate the original's success. In a word, it would be an understatement to say that things did not work out.


The Original Hit Machine -- Three's Company (1977-1984)

Based on the British sitcom Man About the House, Three's Company followed Jack (John Ritter) becoming roommates with Janet (Joyce DeWitt) and Chrissy (Suzanne Sommers) and pretending to be gay in order for the Ropers (Norman Fell and Audra Lindley) to allow him to stay with the girls. Just like the once controversial jokes, the premise of the series is wildly dated. With that said, the show's comedic value still holds up. The slapstick humor and rapid-fire sex-based jokes are certainly well-done. The show went through many cast changes during its eight-season run, but it remained one of the top programs on television until it couldn't even crack the top 30 for its closing season.

The First Spinoff -- The Ropers (1979-1980)

Three's Company was at the height of its popularity during its third season. So, it made perfect sense that the network would capitalize on it by producing a spinoff based solely on the landlords. Fell and Lindley departed the show at the tail-end of season three and took on a sitcom of their own. The Ropers focused on the elderly couple attempting to fit into a new community after selling their apartment building. Aside from those two, no other prominent characters from the original series made an appearance. The spinoff was an adaption of British series George and Mildred. Initially, the follow-up show did remarkably well. In fact, the six-episode first season was the 6th highest-rated sitcom of the 1978-79 television season. Unfortunately, a move to a less desirable Saturday slot caused the program's ratings to take a nosedive. It bowed out with a mere 28 episodes under its belt. To the former Three's Company cast members, this meant that they were essentially out of a job for good. In the end, whether it was the quality or simply the timeslot shift, the series did not deliver.

The Second Spinoff -- Three's a Crowd (1984-1985)

After the mothership series came to a close, the alphabet network was quick to get another spinoff on the air. The final episodes of the original series set up the premise and everything was good to go. Based on the British series Robin's Nest, this spinoff centered on the titular character (Jack Tripper) living with his girlfriend Vicky and butting heads with her father. Despite still being John Ritter's sitcom, viewers did not tune it. At best, the series had fairly mediocre ratingsThree's a Crowd was axed after just one season and twenty-two episodes. It ended up having six fewer episodes than The Ropers. It may not have been intentional, but the title of the series essentially foreshadowed its fate. 


Future

In April 2016, there were talks that a Three's Company movie was in the works and that New Line Cinema would be producing it. Unless the reboot took place in the 70's, a film or television series revival would be a disaster. The premise of the series is comically outdated and simply wouldn't work in a modern-day setting. Aside from that, I doubt any actor could successfully replace the late John Ritter. 


Tie-Ins

None of the main cast members were featured in The Ropers. Lary Dallas (Richard Kline) who played Jack's best friend in all 8 seasons of the original series made a guest appearance in the 'Deeds of Trust' episode of Three's a Crowd

Why These Spinoffs Failed

Like most spin-offs, these failed to replicate the same chemistry that the original had. The grumpy Ropers played incredibly well off of the energetic trio of Jack, Chrissy, and Janet. But, their dysfunctional relationship simply couldn't hold together a half-hour sitcom. It'd be the equivalence of giving I Love Lucy's Fred and Ethel Mertz their own show. Both couples worked well with livelier counterparts, but their loveless marriage routine just isn't meant to be the main focus of a series. Content aside, the Saturday move definitely put a dent in it. Three's a Crowd had the same problem. Even though it featured the same protagonist, the ensemble cast just couldn't compare. Someone like Vicky's dad or E.Z. simply couldn't hold a candle to classic characters like Mr. Furley (Don Knotts) or Larry. Additionally, the hype for Three's Company had essentially died down by the mid-80's. The final season was the lowest-rated of them all and it just wasn't the hot topic it was in years past. 


What did you think of this article? Were you a fan of the original or any of the spinoffs? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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