Becoming a part of the popular conversation in the mid-1970s was the phrase “Jiggle Television,” which was designed by NBC to be an insult to ABC’s programming of the time. Instead, it became a short-hand, if you will, to describe shows like Lynda Carter‘s Wonder Woman, the ladies of Charlie’s Angels, and, of course, Three’s Company. The latter focuses on Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers), Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt) and Jack Tripper (the late John Ritter), living together platonically and pretending that Jack is gay to keep their landlords, the Ropers (Norman Fell and Audra Lindley), at bay. The show would turn out to be a combination of slapstick humor and sexual innuendo usually arising from misunderstanding — and it was a huge hit.
“If you look back to ’70s sitcoms,” explains Chris Mann, author of 1998’s Come and Knock on Our Door: A Hers and Hers and His Guide to Three’s Company (which is being readied for an updated edition coming next year) in an exclusive interview, “you had All in the Family, which was so huge, and political and raw and real. And the same people who did Three’s Company had been writers on that show and went on to create and produce The Jeffersons, which was a spinoff of All in the Family. But they put that show in a lighter, more whimsical manner, so the time was right for a show like Three’s Company. So I think that Three’s Company initially resonated because it titillated viewers with sexual innuendos, sight gags, and really provocative banter about sex that had not been traversed so much in sitcoms.
“At the same time,” he continues, “it became and stayed a Top 10 hit because it was hysterical farce that made people laugh out loud. Once John Ritter’s physical comedy took over, and the show became more of a comedy misunderstanding — sexual and otherwise — it gave people a chance to feel liberated through laughter. The thing about Three’s Company is that people always assume the worse about others, and whether it was Mr. Roper fearing they were having orgies or whatever, it kind of showed us how we do jump to conclusions. Unless it’s a really sort of tragic situation, in general, there’s something innately funny about that.”
Not quite so funny was the behind-the-scenes drama that took place on the series, tearing relationships apart and threatening the longevity of Three’s Company as a whole.
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