By the end of season three, Three's Company had become a bona fide hit. And in Teeveeland, hits equal spin-off. Which is exactly what ABC had in mind - The Ropers left to flex their sitcom muscle elsewhere, leaving a sizable hole in the cast of their point-of-origin. In a genius coup, Don Knotts was successfully transferred from a life of Disney movies to a life of short shorts worn with pantyhose.
In a fair move, Richard Kline was given billing (you remember, him jumping into a bumper car, mistaking a dude with long hair for a babe) as neighbour Larry was written into a larger role. But in a well-intentioned, but ultimately failed move, Ann Wedgeworth was added to the cast in an attempt to create a love triangle - Mr. Furley has the hots for Lana, Lana has the hots for Jack, and Jack is just hot-to-trot. At the end of the season the writers admitted they'd pretty much done everything they could with the character, and she slinked off into the Santa Monica sunset.
As TV shake-ups go, this one was considerable, but mostly successful. The Ropers failed to take off, but Three's Company only grew in popularity.
I'm really surprised by how clean the Three's Company DVDs have been. Compared to something like Cheers, which is a relatively younger show, but shot on film, the video of Three's Company is crisp, mostly bright (damn the 70s and its love of earth tones in weird patterns!), and consistent throughout the entire series. The only downside is the very rare instance of hot spots, when the studios lights reflecting off of something shiny overwhelmed the video cameras. The effect is minor, but ugly.
How many speakers did TVs have when this show was on the air? That's right, one, to the side, underneath the volume knob and channel thingy. So, mono it is kids. However, it's nice and clean. In the interview extras it switches back and forth between mono recorded in the 21st century and mono recorded in the 20th century. It's strangely educational, for those with an ear for these things.
Well, this is a predicament. After an extras free first set (the hurried production left no time for them) and lots of cool extras on the second and third sets (including a look at a variety of Three's Company collectibles), the fourth set is sadly lacking. Well, not entirely lacking, but they're a little bland.
Chris Mann, author of Come and Knock On Our Door, and uber-fan, puts in time on yet another commentary on a favorite episode - "Chrissy's Hospitality." For those of you who might remember, this is the episode with the classic incidence of eavesdropping gone wrong, as Mr. Furely overhears Jack and Chrissy trying to put up a shower curtain and thinks it's all dirty.
Nancy Morgan Ritter Interview (19:56)
Joyce DeWitt introduces an interview with the widow of John Ritter. After listening to all of his co-workers talking about him, it's nice to listen to Nancy share her memories of her husband.
Don Knotts and Richard Kline Interview (8:08)
Continuing with the interviews featured on previous sets, Kline and Knotts reminisce about their time together and working with the rest of the cast and crew. It's the longest interview I've seen with Knotts in years.
Ann Wedgeworth (9:11)
Wedgeworth seems slightly nervous or off-put with the interview, which consists mostly of her talking about how she got the job and how ultimately the job went away at the end of the season. While forever linked to the popular sitcom, hers is one of the smaller notes in the class yearbook and from this interview one gets the impression she knows it.
Casting Don Knotts (3:56)
Producers George Sunga, George Burditt and writer Kim Weiskopf talk about the decision to spin-off The Ropers and replacing them with Don Knotts, a bona fide movie star no one thought they could ever get.
Casting Suzanne Somers (3:28)
Continuing from the above interviews, the discussion turns to Suzanne Somers, how she got on the show and after two sets of John Ritter worship, it's time to play lip service to Chrissy Snow. Before she walks away from the series forever.
Best of: Season 4
Jack, Chrissy, Janet, Larry, and Mr. Furley all get their own, individual clip bits. I'm against these - they barely qualify extras. "Redundants" would be a better term. I'm not even going to time them out. Stick that in your DVD, gang!
Anchor Bay has put out another solid, if minimal DVD set for season four, which is a shame, given the critical shift in tone the series took (with the addition of Mr. Furley, the farce machine was turned up all the way), not to mention the serious cast overhaul.
My only real complaint with the set is that the extras went suddenly limp. Other than the interview with Mrs. Ritter and Wedgeworth, the rest seems to be cut from the same interview sessions we've seen in previous sets. And don't get me started about the best-of clips. The last two sets had bloopers. This set has the same stuff we've already seen, only edited down.
I'm not a fan of the case, but there's something to be said for consistency. What's embarrassing though is the lack of commercial chapter breaks. A chapter break after each opening credits would be nice even, but the only breaks you get are between episodes, provided you selected the "play all" option.
I made a comment in the season three review that I hoped they wouldn't try to make every set the John Ritter memorial set and it seems they didn't. While Nancy Ritter does spend a considerable amount of time talking about John, it's a perspective we haven't heard before and there is genuine insight into the man. As well, Don Knotts and Suzanne Somers all receive more attention. Not enough attention, though I suspect with season five, when Somers leaves the show, the coverage for both actors will continue.