Starting in 1977, a trio of roommates Jack, Janet and Chrissy came into American living rooms each week and kept TV viewers laughing with their sexually charged brand of slapstick. The popular sitcom Three's Company lasted for eight seasons with John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt as the show's comic cornerstones.
The show premiered exactly 24 year ago, and to celebrate the anniversary John Ritter and Joyce DeWitt reminisced with CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Jane Clayson.
Reruns of the show are still a hit on Nick At Nite, which, like CBSNews.com, is part of the Viacom family.
"It is amazing how people remember it so clearly," said DeWitt. "People stop us on the street and will practically quote half of an episode. Everybody has their favorites. It is amazing what they remember, way more than I can remember."
Three's Company was based on a British show called Man About the House. Ritter played the male roommate, Jack Tripper, who was allowed to rent the apartment with two women because the landlord mistakenly thought he was gay.
Tripper was a self-employed caterer who later opened his own business; DeWitt played Janet Wood, his sensible roommate, a florist; and for four seasons Suzanne Somers was their daffy roommate.
The show dealt with sex and sexual situations in a very groundbreaking way. But would the show work these days, in the Sex and the City environment?
"Yeah, but the roommates would always have to be naked," quipped Ritter.
What was it like for DeWitt to work with Ritter?
"Crazy, fun, wonderful," said DeWitt. "John is a father. He's a husband. And he's a grown-up and all that stuff. There is a piece of him that wants to make sure that everybody has a good time and everybody is taken care of. And that's the part of him that he used for the character of Jack Tripper. So that nutty, crazy, wonderful, nut case of Jack Tripper shows up on and off all day long, every once in a while. It is like wacko and it is just John making sure everybody is having a good time."
DeWitt and Ritter also talked about the supporting cast and characters of Three's Company - among them the Ropers (played by Norman Fell and Audra Lindley), Jack's best friend Larry Dallas (played by Richard Kline,) Mr. Furley (Don Knotts); and the "daffy" roommates played by Priscilla Barnes, Suzanne Somers and Jenilee Harrison.
"We were blessed with such remarkable people. Norman and Audra as the Ropers were amazing. They were seasoned professionals that just brought in all of that history with them. And then for little Donnie Knotts to come in and bless our show with his wonderment..." said DeWitt.
Ritter said Knotts was "one of my idols - even way before I wanted to be an actor." He joked that the polyester suits Knotts wore were his real clothes.
No reunions are in the works for Three's Company. DeWtt said she would only consider it if there were a "killer script."
Anyway, as Ritter pointed out, "At this age, I could fall over a couch but I can't get up."
He recalled that he used to get hurt all the time, doing pratfalls. "When I slid under the table once, I smashed my head on the formica table and I knocked myself out for about a minute. The audience thought I was joking."
Ritter won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing Jack Tripper. Currently he's playing on Broadway in Neil Simon's The Dinner Party with Happy Days' Henry Winkler, and he's starred in more than twenty television movies. His theatrical film credits include Sling Blade, Skin Deep, Problem Child and They All Laughed. He's also appeared on Ally McBeal, Touched By an Angel and other TV shows.
In 1983 Ritter was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, next to that of his father, country music legend Tex Ritter.
Since the end of Three's Company, DeWitt has appeared on various specials including The Steve Martin Special, The Cheryl Ladd Special and the Perry Como Christmas Special. She's appeared on the TV shows Cybil, Living Single and the Love Boat, and has starred in numerous theatrical productions including the British farce Noises Off and a revival of Cole Porter's Anything Goes.
She's also active in fighting against worldwide hunger and homelessness.
Ritter praises Come And Knock At Our Door by Chris Mann as the best book about the show.
It's also the only book.
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