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ABC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
ABC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

16 Regal Facts About Three's Company

ABC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images
ABC Television/Courtesy of Getty Images

Based on the British sitcom Man About the House, Three's Company starred physical comedy champion John Ritter in his breakout role as Jack Tripper, a culinary student who crashes a party and wakes up in Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt) and Chrissy Snow’s (Suzanne Somers) bathtub. Janet and Chrissy and Jack end up becoming roommates, with Jack posing as a gay man in order to keep the coed living situation going. Here are some facts about the classic ABC sitcom that will impress your friends over at the Regal Beagle.

1. TWO OTHER PILOTS WERE MADE BEFORE THEY GOT IT RIGHT.

On the first attempt, M*A*S*H writer/producer Larry Gelbart wrote a Three's Company pilot script resembling Man About the House. John Ritter's character was named David Bell and was an aspiring filmmaker. The two female roommates were actresses named Jenny (played by Valerie Curtin) and Samantha (Susanne Zenor). A second unaired pilot was requested by ABC programming head Fred Silverman, written by All in the Family and The Jeffersons writer/producers Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernard West, and featured Joyce DeWitt and Suze Lanier-Bramlett as Chrissy. The third pilot filmed was the charm deemed worthy for broadcast; it premiered on March 15, 1977.

2. BILLY CRYSTAL AUDITIONED TO PLAY JACK TRIPPER.

Barry Van Dyke (Ritter hero Dick Van Dyke's son) and Michael Lembeck (later a director of sitcoms including Friends) also attempted to win the role. Crystal found employment on another ABC comedy a short time later, as Jodie Dallas in Soap (1977-1981).

3. LONI ANDERSON AUDITIONED FOR CHRISSY.

Anderson (later Jennifer Marlowe on WKRP in Cincinnati) didn't get the part. Ritter, who claimed she had a great audition, theorized that Anderson wasn't selected because no one would believe she couldn't live in her own apartment.

4. SUZANNE SOMERS WAS DISCOVERED BY ACCIDENT.

Desperately searching for the right Chrissy the day before production began, Silverman put in all of the audition tapes they had received and fast-forwarded through them. When he spotted Somers, he stopped the tape and liked what he saw. After never getting a clear answer on why she was passed on in the first place, Somers was summoned to the studio. "We got her in that day and she was on the set tomorrow and she was terrific in that part," the ABC programming chief remembered. "And that was an accident because she never should have gotten the part."

5. THE THEME SONG WAS COMPOSED BY THE SAME MAN WHO WROTE THE THEME SONGS FOR SESAME STREET AND THE ELECTRIC COMPANY.

Joe Raposo wrote it, but the producers of Three's Company flirted with the idea of having the stars of the show sing the theme. Despite their protests, Ritter, DeWitt, and Somers attempted it. "They didn't even come close," associate producer Mimi Seawell said. Ray Charles (not that one) and Julia Rinker provided the vocals instead.

6. THE BRUNETTE JACK LOOKS AT BEFORE FALLING IN THE OPENING CREDITS IS SUZANNE SOMERS IN A WIG.

"That brunette is Suzanne with a wig. You can tell by her little Suzanne buns," Ritter said. The bike Jack rode belonged to production associate Carol Summers.

7. NORMAN FELL BASED STANLEY ROPER ON A REAL GUY.

Norman Fell (who also played a landlord in The Graduate) based the character of landlord Stanley Roper on a man he knew back in his hometown of Philadelphia. "I was thinking of a guy I really know in Philadelphia,” Fell said. “The clothes are all wrong ... He was innocent and a guy who just can't do things right, whether it's being with a woman or fixing something. And yet he thought he was the cat's meow. He thought he was attractive, he liked his clothes. He thought people were looking at him because of how well-preserved he looked. He thought he was all things he's not.”

8. FELL WAS PROMISED HE COULD RETURN TO THREE’S COMPANY IF THE ROPERS DIDN'T LAST FOR MORE THAN ONE YEAR.

Fell wasn’t interested in leaving the very popular Three's Company, but Audra Lindley (Mrs. Roper) was game for a spin-off towards the end of the third season. To appease Fell, ABC promised him that if The Ropers was cancelled after one year, Fell and Lindley could return to Three’s Company. After The Ropers drew the second highest ratings for a series debut in television history at the time in March of 1979, it moved to Saturdays for the second season and viewership dropped enough for it to get cancelled. Fell wanted to return to Three's Company, but producers noted that The Ropers had technically lasted for one and a half years. Besides, the Ropers had already been replaced by Don Knotts as Ralph Furley.

9. JEFFREY TAMBOR PLAYED THREE DIFFERENT CHARACTERS.

After he starred as snobby neighbor Jeffrey P. Brookes III in The Ropers, Tambor found employment again and again and again in late-season episodes of Three’s Company. He was a rich man, Winston Cromwell III, who was after Chrissy in "Father of the Bride"; in “Two Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” he played Dr. Tom Miller, a psychiatrist who Jack and Janet confuse for a mental patient; he was also dentist Dr. Phillip Greene, a crazy dentist who was recently dumped by Terri.

10. WHEN JOHN LARROQUETTE GUEST STARRED AS A COP, HE CHANGED THE SCRIPT SO THAT THE AUDIENCE WOULD SEE HIS FACE.

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In the third season episode "Jack Moves Out" (spoiler: it doesn't last), Larroquette figured that because he was supposed to keep his cop cap on, nobody would get to see his visage. He rationalized it for The A.V. Club as such: "So I had to figure out a way to get my hat off. And this is all completely selfish and premeditated. So inside my hat, I've written the Miranda rights. So I take my hat off and tell him, 'You have the right to remain silent.' So my hat is off for the remainder of the scene, which allows you to see my face and my confidence, as it were. Had I not thought of that, it would have just been this hated cop figure for 30 seconds or whatever, and no one would have really known who he was." The producers clearly didn’t mind the change; they left the scene intact.

11. SOMERS LEFT THE SHOW BECAUSE SHE WANTED TO BE PAID AS MUCH AS RITTER.

Somers asked for an increase from $30,000 to $150,000 per episode, Ritter's salary at the time, as well as 10 percent of the show's profits. ABC was offering a $5000 pay raise. For the fourth season, after Ritter and DeWitt stopped speaking to Somers when she feigned a broken rib injury and the contract negotiations became a distraction, Somers was effectively written off the show. Chrissy was stuck in Fresno caring for her sick mother, calling back home to fill the last minute of episodes. (Jenilee Harrison played Chrissy's cousin, Cindy, that year.) After her contract expired at the end of that season, Somers was not asked to return.

12. HEATHER LOCKLEAR WAS LAUGHED AT DURING HER AUDITION TO REPLACE SOMERS.

Sweating in her peach silk blouse on her way to her audition, Locklear resorted to putting Kleenex under her arms. Despite performing a funny scene, nobody laughed at her audition. After hearing laughter as soon as she closed the door, the actress noticed the Kleenex had come out of her blouse. “So I guess they thought I stuffed my bra,” Locklear recalled.

13. PRISCILLA BARNES WAS CONSIDERED “TOO BLOND” SOMETIMES.

Barnes portrayed nurse Terri Alden, a replacement for Cindy (who was a replacement for Chrissy) for the final three seasons of the show. "Our bosses were very, very controlling,” Barnes told CNN in 2002. “If my hair was too blond, I'd get called up in the office.”

14. RITTER'S ONE-YEAR-OLD SON, JASON, WAS THE KID WHO RAN UP TO JANET AT THE ZOO.

The younger Ritter (later Dipper Pines in Gravity Falls and Mark Cyr on Parenthood) didn't remember the incident that was immortalized in the opening credits for seasons six through eight. "But the story is they were shooting a bunch of things at the zoo and I got away from my mom," Jason told The Huffington Post. “I just walked into the shot and it made Joyce DeWitt laugh so they kept it in the opening credits."

15. SOMEONE SAW MORE OF JACK TRIPPER THAN SHE WANTED.

In March 2001, a viewer claimed that a certain part of John Ritter's anatomy was briefly visible in the episode titled "The Charming Stranger.” The complaint was taken seriously enough that Nickelodeon edited the short scene out soon thereafter. In response to the controversy, Ritter infamously said, “I’ve requested that [Nickelodeon] air both versions, edited and unedited, because sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don’t.”

16. THERE WAS ANOTHER SPIN-OFF, CALLED THREE'S A CROWD.

After the events of the 1984 series finale to Three's Company, Jack moved in with his new girlfriend, Vicky (Mary Cadorette). The person who made his new digs a "crowd" on the show was Vicky’s father, who was also Jack's new landlord (Robert Mandan). The show lasted for one season.

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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entertainment
15 Things You May Not Know About Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

We are not alone. Here are a few facts about Steven Spielberg’s 1977 UFO classic, on its 40th anniversary.

1. IT WAS INITIALLY A VERY DIFFERENT FILM.

Spielberg’s initial story outline involved UFOs and shady government dealings following the Watergate scandal, which became a script entitled “Watch the Skies.” The idea involved a police or military officer working on Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s official study into UFOs in the 1950s and 1960s, who would become the whistleblower on the government cover-up of aliens. There were numerous rewrites—Taxi Driver scribe Paul Schrader even took a crack at it, penning a political UFO thriller titled “Kingdom Come” that Spielberg and the movie studio rejected—before the story we know today emerged.

2. IT’S NAMED AFTER LEGITIMATE UFO RESEARCH.


Columbia Pictures

Spielberg partly based his idea on the research of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, a civilian scientific advisor to Project Blue Book who eventually admitted that 11 percent of the study’s findings about unidentified flying objects could not be explained using science.

The title (which is never specifically explained in the movie) is actually derived from Hynek’s own alien close encounter classification system: A close encounter of the first kind is sighting of a UFO; the second kind is physical evidence to prove the existence of an alien; and the third kind is actual contact with alien life forms.

3. THERE’S A CAMEO FROM THE GODFATHER OF UFO RESEARCH.

Hynek, who also served as a technical advisor on the movie, makes an uncredited cameo in the final scene of the movie. You can spot him pretty easily—he’s the goateed man smoking a pipe and wearing a powder blue suit who pushes through the crowd of scientists to get a better look at the aliens.

4. NOBODY WANTED THE STARRING ROLE.

Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Columbia Pictures

The director first offered the part of Roy Neary to actor Steve McQueen, who turned it down because he said he couldn’t cry on cue, something he saw as essential to the character. Spielberg then went to Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, and James Caan who all turned him down as well before asking his friend Richard Dreyfuss, who previously worked with Spielberg on Jaws, to take the part.

5. BUT IT WASN'T THE MOST DIFFICULT ROLE TO CAST.

Spielberg approached French actors like Lino Ventura, Yves Montand, and Jean-Louis Trintignant to play Claude Lacombe—who was based on famous UFO researcher Jacques Vallée—before settling on director and sometimes-actor François Truffaut. The initially skeptical Truffaut, who was nervous about appearing in a big budget Hollywood movie, accepted the role because he wanted to compile research for a book about acting (he never did write the book).

6. MERYL STREEP COULD HAVE PLAYED ROY'S WIFE.

Many actresses—including a then-unknown Yale Drama School grad named Meryl Streep—auditioned for the part of Roy’s wife Ronnie, but he ultimately cast actress Teri Garr because he saw her in a coffee commercial and loved the way she was able to convey a wide range of emotions in a 30-second clip.

7. THEY SHOT IN A DISUSED AIR FORCE HANGAR.


Columbia Pictures

Spielberg wanted to shoot in real suburban locations rather than studio backlots, but the production had trouble finding locations. The biggest question: Where could Spielberg shoot the climactic canyon sequence with the mothership?

The production looked for huge indoor enclosures that would allow for the massive scale of the scene, though they only found ones with center support dividers that spoiled the openness Spielberg wanted for the UFO runway. The only location producers found without center dividers was a 300 foot by 300 foot disused hangar that had been used for dirigibles during World War II at Brookley Air Force base in Mobile, Alabama.

8. THE TEAM BOUGHT A HOUSE FOR THE PRODUCTION—AND SOLD IT FOR A PROFIT.

The Nearys' house, which is located at 1613 Carlisle Drive East in Mobile, was actually purchased by the production for $35,000 so they could do whatever they wanted with the interiors. It was later sold for $50,000 after production wrapped, netting a $15,000 surplus that went back into the film’s budget.

9. THE MEMORABLE 5-NOTE TONES TOOK A LONG TIME TO FIGURE OUT

Composer John Williams worked with Spielberg to come up with the movie’s distinct five-note musical method of communication between humans and aliens—which Spielberg partly based on the Solfège system of musical education—a year before shooting began.

Williams initially wanted a seven-note sequence, but it was too long for the simple musical “greeting” Spielberg wanted. The composer enlisted a mathematician to calculate the number of five-note combinations they could potentially make from a 12-note scale. When that number proved to be somewhere upwards of 134,000 combinations, Williams created 100 distinct versions, and they simply whittled the combinations down one by one until they had a winner.

10. SPIELBERG USED TRICKS TO GET THE PERFORMANCE OUT OF HIS CHILD ACTOR.


Columbia Pictures

Cary Guffey, who plays little Barry Guiler, had never acted before, so Spielberg set up ways to coax a performance out of the 3-year-old. To get a shot of Guffey reacting to the aliens first approaching the Guiler house, Spielberg slowly unwrapped a present for the young actor just off camera, making him smile. Guffey even exclaims “Toys! Toys!” in the final take.

To get the boy to react to the aliens offscreen, Spielberg had Guffey walk up to his mark where—unbeknownst to the little actor—two crewmembers were dressed as a gorilla and a clown standing behind cardboard blinds. When Guffey entered the kitchen, Spielberg dropped the first blind revealing the clown to scare him, and then dropped the other blind to reveal the gorilla, which scared him even more. The gorilla then took off his mask, revealing the film’s makeup man, Bob Westmoreland, who Guffey recognized, causing him to laugh and smile in the final take.

11. THE MOVIE NEARLY FEATURED VERY EARLY CGI.

Spielberg originally toyed with the idea of using computer generated images to create the aliens and their ships, even going so far as to have animator Colin Cantwell create a CGI test of three UFOs floating over a stadium. The single-shot test, which took three weeks to complete and was one of the first computer generated images ever created for a film, proved to be unfeasible for the whole movie—so the idea was dropped.

12. THERE WERE SOME UNORTHODOX IDEAS FOR CREATING THE ALIENS.

Spielberg wanted the aliens to be non-human beings that glided instead of walked, and he had a weird idea to pull it off: An orangutan dressed in a specially-made suit. For a screen test, the production team outfitted an orangutan in grey spandex and strapped it into roller skates. The orangutan immediately took off the skates and crawled to its owner, so a full test couldn’t be completed, and the team scrapped the idea. The majority of the small aliens in the final movie were played by local elementary school girls from Mobile in specially made grey suits and masks who were heavily backlit to create the final alien silhouette effect.

13. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS FEATURES A PRECURSOR TO E.T.


Columbia Pictures

To create the alien who bids farewell using the musical hand signals at the end of the film, Spielberg enlisted the help of Italian special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi, who designed a fully articulated steel, aluminum, and fiberglass animatronic puppet that Spielberg nicknamed “Puck.” Puck’s expressions were based on photos of Guffey. The puppet was operated by a crew of seven puppeteers, with Spielberg himself controlling the final articulation before the alien leaves to go to the mothership.

Puck would help inspire E.T. after Spielberg asked himself, “What if this little guy didn’t get back on the mothership?” Rambaldi would also go on to design the character of E.T.

14. SPIELBERG BET AGAINST HIS OWN MOVIE—AND REALLY CASHED IN.

Spielberg and his buddy George Lucas both had new movies coming out in 1977; Lucas’s was a little movie called Star Wars. Lucas thought his ramshackle space movie wouldn’t make back its budget, and he knew his friend’s new movie would break box office records just like Jaws had done, so he offered Spielberg a friendly wager. Both agreed to give the other 2.5 percent of the profits of their respective films. Lucas grossly underestimated his movie, which went on to become the second highest grossing movie of all time if adjusted for inflation (in comparison, Close Encounters is #71). The difference ended up being $40 million.

15. SPIELBERG DIDN'T LIKE THE VERSION THAT WAS INITIALLY RELEASED.

Spielberg wanted to release Close Encounters in the summer of 1978, which would have given him ample time to edit the film and finish its special effects—but Columbia Pictures, which was going through major financial troubles, insisted he have it ready for a November 1977 release, leaving the director with a final cut on a movie he didn’t feel was completely ready. 

Three years later, the company allowed Spielberg to “finish” the movie under one condition: That he show the inside of the mothership, which would give the studio’s marketing department an angle to sell this new version. The director capitulated, adding new scenes and cutting others to create a “Special Edition.” The director was unhappy with the scene, though, and later cut it for the Collector's Edition home video release.

ADDITIONAL SOURCES:Blu-ray special features; Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Making of Steven Spielberg’s Classic FilmClose Encounters of the Third Kind Diary.

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