U.S. Situation Comedy
Three's Company, an enormously popular yet critically despised sitcom farce about a young man living platonically with two young women, aired on ABC from 1977-84. After a spring try-out of six episodes beginning Thursday, 15 March 1977, Three's Company ranked number 11 among all TV shows for the entire 1976-77 season–at that time, an unheard-of feat.
Set in Santa Monica, California, the series chronicled the innuendo-laden, slapstick-prone misadventures of the affably klutzy bachelor Jack Tripper (played by John Ritter) and the two single, attractive women–one a cute, down-to-earth brunette named Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt), the other a sexy, dimwitted blonde named Christmas "Chrissy" Snow (Suzanne Somers).
Jack, Chrissie, and Janet were the three main characters. The three shared an apartment in order to beat the high cost of living, but Jack was also present to provide "manly protection." Though he never broke his vow of keeping a "strictly platonic" relationship with his roommates (the three were really best friends who always looked after each other), the series was rife with double entendre suggesting they were doing much naughtier stuff. Antagonists in this domestic farce were the the trio's downstairs landlords–first the prudish Stanley Roper, an Archie Bunker-type played by Norman Fell, and later the comically swaggering "ladies man" Ralph Furley, played by Don Knotts.
The landlords were so suspicious of the "threesome" arrangement that they would not permit it until after Jack told them he was gay, a "lifestyle" against which, ironically, neither discriminated by refusing housing. Though Jack was a heterosexual with many girlfriends, he masqueraded as an effeminate "man's man" around the near-sighted Roper, who called him "one of the girls," and Furley, who often tried to "convert" him;
this comic device played heavily at first but was toned down considerably by the show's fourth season. When out of Roper's and Furley's reach, Jack and his upstairs buddy, Larry Dallas (Richard Kline), leered at and lusted after every female in sight, including, in early episodes, Janet and Chrissy. Chrissy, especially, was prone to bouncing around the apartment braless in tight sweaters when she wasn't clad in a towel, nightie, short-shorts or bathing suit.
The irony here was that even though sex was so ingrained in the Three's Company consciousness, nobody on the show ever seemed to be doing it–not even the show's only married characters, the sex-starved Helen Roper (Audra Lindley) and her impotent handyman husband, Stanley, the butt of numerous faulty plumbing jokes.