The Twelve Best THREE’S COMPANY Episodes of Seasons One & Two

Welcome to a new Sitcom Tuesday! Today, we’re beginning our coverage on the best episodes from the first two seasons from one of the jiggliest sitcoms in primetime history, Three’s Company (1977-1984, ABC). I’m thrilled to announce that every single episode has been released on DVD. 

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Student chef Jack Tripper moves in with two single girls in an attempt to save expenses, but there’s a catch: he must pretend he’s gay to subvert the suspicions of their conservative landlord. Three’s Company stars JOHN RITTER as Jack Tripper, JOYCE DeWITT as Janet Wood, SUZANNE SOMERS as Chrissy Snow, AUDRA LINDLEY as Mrs. Roper, and NORMAN FELL as Mr. Roper.


It took three pilots to convince ABC to pick up this iconically risqué farce about two girls living with a guy. Adapted from the highly successful British series called Man About The House, the Americanized version of this misunderstanding-filled series would eventually come to personify that which conservative critics would jeer as “jiggle TV.” The show became known for its outrageous slapstick, titillating innuendos, and, eventually, juicy backstage strife (but that’s fodder for an upcoming post)The earliest pilot, which featured Ritter, Lindley, Fell, and two radically different female roommates (Valerie Curtin and Susanne Zenor), was co-written by Larry Gelbart and stayed closer to the spirit of the British series. Produced in March 1976, the show was just edged out of making the Fall schedule. Fred Silverman liked what he saw but decided that the show needed some tweaks, however ABC refused to shoot a second pilot. Finally, when the pilot was shopped to CBS — and picked up for a mid-season 13 episode run — ABC caved, agreeing to another pilot and five additional episodes for the spring. With the producing team of Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, and Bernie West (who’d done All In The Family and The Jeffersons) on board, Ritter’s two roomies were recast with Joyce DeWitt and a bubbly blonde named Susan Lanier. This second pilot, based on the second episode of the British series, was taped in November and made great use of Ritter’s capabilities as a physical comedian. But, ABC was still unhappy with the flaxen-haired roommate and production hurriedly searched for a replacement. Eventually they found her in Suzanne Somers.


Finally, in late January ’77, the show went into production on its first season of six episodes, five of which were based on Man About The House scripts. Although the show was practically an instant ratings hit, these early episodes are very clinical in comparison to the silliness that would come to typify the series. With only the Ropers serving as fully-realized comedically solid characters, the three “kids” spend the abbreviated debut season figuring out themselves and their relationships, and a potential romance between Jack and Chrissy, who’s yet to devolve into her full ditz mode of Seasons Four and Five, is sometimes hinted. Fortunately, this possibility is pretty much put to rest early in the second season, as the chemistry between the trio becomes more like that of siblings. While over a third of the scripts can be traced back to their British roots, the second season is a tremendous improvement over the first as every single character takes on a life of its own. In fact, the second half of the ’77-’78 season displays the show at its most joyously fresh. And in combat to the critics who decry the show as moronic, it must be noted that some of these scripts are surprisingly intellectual — with references to Eisenstein and Hedda Gabler. In this regard, Season Two illustrates the show before its memorably zany epoch. Nevertheless, it’s still a strong collection of episodes with some absolute classics. So I have picked two episodes from Season One and ten episodes from Season Two that I think exemplify these seasons’ strongest installments. For new fans, this list will give you a place to start. For seasoned fans, there might be a few surprises.

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Here are my picks for the best episodes of Seasons One and Two. (They are in AIRING ORDER.) Note that every episode these two seasons are directed by Bill Hobin (BH) unless otherwise noted.


Season One (Spring 1977)

01) Episode 3: “Roper’s Niece” (Aired: 03/31/77)

Roper asks Jack to take out his niece on Janet’s birthday.

Written by Paul Wayne & George Burditt

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As the only episode from the first season NOT adapted from a Man About The House script, this installment gains distinction for its honest (and frequently hilarious) development of the relationships between Jack, Janet, and Chrissy, which feels looser and warmer here than in any other Spring ’77 episode. (Not surprisingly: it was the last episode produced of the six.) The scenes between Jack and Roper’s niece are comedic highlights and there’s a great gag involving Jack and a can of beer. Also, note the very vocal and appreciative studio audience, who repeats lines and laughs uproariously.

02) Episode 4: “No Children, No Dogs” [a.k.a. “No Children, No Pets”] (Aired: 04/07/77)

The trio must hide their new puppy from Roper.

Written by Paul Wayne & George Burditt | Based on a script by Johnnie Mortimer & Brian Cooke

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This is probably my favorite installment from the premiere season because it introduces two hallmarks of the series. First, this episode marks the debut of Jack’s morally questionable used car salesman friend, Larry. Secondly, the script features a great misunderstanding as a result of an overheard conversation (a first for this series) as Janet mistakes Jack and Chrissy’s puppy feeding conversation for something much more nefarious. So while the premise would never be considered clever or particularly notable, the introduction of a great character and the script’s inherent humor make the episode a winner.


Season Two (1977-1978)

03) Episode 7: “Ground Rules” (Aired: 09/13/77)

The trio devises an apartment schedule for private entertaining.

Written by Richard Orloff | Based on a script by Johnnie Mortimer & Brian Cooke

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The second season opens with an enthralling confidence, which only adds to the seemingly effortless comedy and contributes to the show’s overwhelming sense of joy. The premise of needing an evening schedule is one that would naturally arise between three single twenty-somethings sharing an apartment, as nobody wants to be surprised while entertaining a love interest. A lot of great moments abound, including Jack’s hilarious pick-up line (“Would you like to swing on a star?”), a tortured metaphor about shelves, and Roper finally deciding to romance his wife. A lot of fun — uncomplicated and breezy.

04) Episode 8: “Jack Looks For A Job” (Aired: 09/20/77)

Jack seeks employment to make his contribution to the rent.

Written by Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, & Bernie West | Based on a script by Johnnie Mortimer & Brian Cooke

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Much of this episode’s enjoyment comes from Ritter’s performance, as Jack tries to find a job that will allow him to help contribute to the monthly rent. The comedic centerpiece of the episode, which occurs in the middle of the installment rather than at the climax, has Jack going in for a photo shoot that turns out to be for a nude magazine — in which Jack is to pose with a woman. The second part of the installment has Jack selling encyclopedias and, as you might expect, there are some nice jokes about some of the dirtier terms one might look up in a tome such as that. Enjoyable lighthearted late ’70s fare.

05) Episode 10: “Strange Bedfellows” (Aired: 10/04/77)

With Janet and Chrissy away, Jack throws a swinging party — to Roper’s chagrin.

Story by Alan J. Levitt | Teleplay by Paul Wayne & George Burditt

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There’s a scene in this episode that boasts the longest laugh in the entire season (maybe even the entire series) and it’s completely warranted, as Jack and Mr. Roper wake up in bed together after a night of drunken revelry. Roper’s reaction, in particular, serves as the comic crux of the episode, and Fell’s performance is never better. Also, the characters begin to show a real depth as Jack threatens to jeopardize his living arrangement by “coming out” to Roper as straight, just to ease Roper’s mind. Great episode for both Ritter and Fell and their characters. Very highly recommended — one of my favorites.

06) Episode 14: “Cyrano De Tripper” (Aired: 11/08/77)

Jack agrees to secretly cook dinner for Chrissy and her date.

Written by Paul Wayne & George Burditt | Directed by BH & Michael Ross

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Although this episode has a very obvious undercurrent of a potential romance between Jack and Chrissy (evidenced by Jack’s jealousy), this episode features an all-time classic premise, as Jack agrees to hide out in the kitchen and cook for Chrissy and her unassuming date. Great recipe for comedic complications. What’s really smart about the script is its incorporation of the central premise: Jack’s feigned gayness, as Roper misunderstands and thinks Jack is romancing Chrissy. Then there’s a big laugh at the end when Roper finds out that Jack “stole” Chrissy’s gourmet date. Hilarious.

07) Episode 17: “Janet’s High School Sweetheart” (Aired: 11/29/77)

Janet finally scores a date with her old high school crush.

Written by Dixie Brown Grossman

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This sleeper episode, centered around Janet (who truthfully doesn’t get her fair share of stories during the Chrissy years) really surprised me on my last few viewings, particularly with regard to the strength of the script. Not only was I impressed with the humor that runs consistently through the dialogue, but there’s a real honesty in the writing, particularly DeWitt’s Janet, who goes from elation to disgust — believably. Meanwhile, Jack and Chrissy, for maybe the first time, get long extended unromantic scenes, where their Laurel and Hardy-esque repartee, that will run for the next three years, first materializes.

08) Episode 20: “Three’s Christmas” (Aired: 12/20/77)

The trio commits to spending Christmas with the Ropers.

Written by Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, & Bernie West | Based on a script by Johnnie Mortimer & Brian Cooke

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Regular readers of this blog will know that my sentiments regarding holiday themed episodes are sometimes complicated. (I have a real aversion to gratuitous saccharine.) Thankfully, this, the series’ only Christmas episode, eschews hokum in favor of comedy, and, as a result, earns its place as one of the second season’s best. What makes the episode work, aside from the palpable joy in the Christmas morning scene, is that the story forces all five principals to be in one room together for an extended period of time together. Naturally, this is a great set-up for comedy, and the script easily delivers.

09) Episode 24: “Home Movies” (Aired: 01/24/78)

Chrissy makes home movies and Larry purchases a porno.

Written by Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, & Bernie West | Based on a script by Johnnie Mortimer & Brian Cooke

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Given the show’s (sometimes deserved) reputation for imbecilic writing (which often exists not in the scripts themselves, but in some of the characters’ motivations), episodes in which several story threads come together cohesively show a real mastery, and thus, help give the series credibility. Case in point: this episode, in which the A-plot involving Chrissy’s home movies (made with the 8mm camera gifted to her by a new beau) collides with Larry’s desire to show his recently purchased stag film. It’s deliciously ’70s as the tittering naughtiness of an episode about pornos infuses the episode with a giddy sense of taboo.

10) Episode 27: “Will The Real Jack Tripper…” (Aired: 02/14/78)

A woman comes to the apartment claiming to be pregnant with Jack’s child.

Written by Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, & Bernie West | Based on a script by Johnnie Mortimer & Brian Cooke | Directed by BH & Michael Ross

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Without a doubt, this is one of the most adult episodes of the entire series. While future installments will deal with mistaken pregnancies, this is the only installment to play it with a sense of genuine drama, making Jack’s seemingly harmless flirtations a real adult matter. Of course, the woman that calls looking for Jack is really an old girl of the ‘never give them your real name’ Larry. But Jack thinks his girlfriend, Linda, is the one expecting. (How did that happen, Janet inquires, “telepathy?”) It’s a very funny episode, with high stakes and mature statements about the otherwise innocent characters.  (Oh, and Chrissy debuts her trademark snort.)

11) Episode 28: “Days Of Beer And Weeds” (Aired: 02/21/78)

Jack and Chrissy think they’ve found marijuana in Roper’s garden.

Written by Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, & Bernie West | Based on a script by Johnnie Mortimer & Brian Cooke

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This installment, probably more than any other this season, typifies the youthful ebullience of Three’s Company in its early, freshest days. A minor story about Jack getting drunk on Roper’s homemade beer meets the main plot about Jack and Chrissy mistakingly thinking they’ve found marjuana in Roper’s garden with a very funny scene in the police station as a tipsy Jack makes a fool of himself. The script takes its well-integrated plotting to another level, as the A-story gets a big pay-off in a scene at Mrs. Roper’s flower arranging class. Very funny episode; an absolute classic that’s humor excuses any motivational shortcomings. The year’s best.

12) Episode 30: “Bird Song” (Aired: 05/09/78)

Jack and Chrissy suck up to Janet in hopes of scoring Frank Sinatra tickets.

Written by Don Nicholl, Michael Ross, & Bernie West | Based on a script by Johnnie Mortimer & Brian Cooke

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Praise for this premise’s originality should go to the British scripters, who’ve crafted a simple, but enjoyable, story about two roommates (Jack and Chrissy) competing for tickets that another roommate (Janet) has been gifted by her boss to a Frank Sinatra concert. The episode, a rather unspectacular affair, trucks along with effortlessness, allowing the characters, and more specifically, the players, to enjoy the little character moments. With great physical comedy, and a generous helping of laughs, this is a perfectly charming and underrated installment. Iconically Season Two.


Other notable episodes that narrowly missed the list above include: “A Man About The House,” the pilot episode, in which Jack meets Janet and Chrissy, “And Mother Makes Four,” the second episode, in which Jack moves in and Ritter gets to do great physical comedy, and from Season Two, “Alone Together,” in which the idea of a Jack/Chrissy pairing is (mostly) retired, “Chrissy’s Night Out,” which plays like a small cast one act, and “Stanley Casanova,” in which Lindley and Fell shine (and came closest to making today’s list).

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*** The MVE Award for the Best Episode from Seasons One and Two of Three’s Company goes to…..

“Days Of Beer And Weeds”

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Come back next Tuesday for the best from the third season! And tune in tomorrow for a new Wildcard Wednesday post!

21 thoughts on “The Twelve Best THREE’S COMPANY Episodes of Seasons One & Two

  1. This is going to be a very interesting review. Personally I think that the show found itself in the third season. However my favorite seasons are the fourth and sixth one.But I’ll wait til you cover those.

    • Hi, Track! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Having been in my collection for a long while, this is one of the shows for which my episodic and seasonal preferences have evolved. Even in the writing of these posts, my sentiments regarding the best year are still not as crystallized as they once were. For instance, I think the Roper years are the “golden era” — the show at its easiest, breeziest, and most memorable. But the show probably becomes funnier after their (and Somers’) departure, as more and more material is thrown to Ritter and his slapstick expertise (until the premise wears itself out in the last two years and the series limps along at a “good, but not great” quality). Laughs are still paramount for me, but in a series like THREE’S COMPANY, there’s a limit to which I can suspend my disbelief regarding a character’s lack of self-awareness. When stories are completely without clear behavioral motives (in which there’s room for logic to co-exist), the comedy becomes irrelevant. It’s a tricky balance for this series, especially as it progresses to sillier stories (and characters), but nevertheless, more abundant guffaws.

      Stay tuned next week for my thoughts on Season Three, along with my selections for the year’s best episodes!

  2. One of my all-time favorite series, thank you for covering this! I never understood all of the dislike people have for this show. Not all sitcoms have to have an agenda or make a social statement, and to me that is what makes There’s Company so special – its only purpose was to have fun and make people laugh. I agree with “Days of Beer and Weed” as the top pick, with “Home Movies” coming in a close second for me.

    Also, don’t leave out what I consider a hallmark of the Roper years: Norman Fell and the fourth wall. I think Mr. Roper smiling into the camera when he zings Mrs. Roper is – outside of George Burns – the only time a TV character was successful in breaking the fourth wall.

    • Hi, Ben! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      I never find it valid when people devalue shows merely by comparing them to others. While this exercise is beneficial (and necessary) in determining personal preference, there are so many different standards of quality that can be applied to any series, all of which are subjective. For THREE’S COMPANY, I believe you’re absolutely right: there are no social aims. It’s reason for being is simply comedy, and that’s refreshing. While I’ll never claim the series is without its flaws (especially, as I noted in response to Track, during the times in which logic is absent from the characters’ motivations), there is so much to enjoy if one is receptive to its unique and individual charms!

      Looking forward to sharing my thoughts on Season Three next week! Stay tuned…

  3. Say what you will about THREE’S COMPANY, but I have one thing I have to say in the show’s defense: Norman Fell – comedy gold.

    • Hi, Guy! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      No argument from me regarding the talents of Mr. Fell — and Ms. Lindley for that matter. The uncomfortable tragedy of THE ROPERS is no reflection on their abilities.

      But stay tuned next Wednesday for more on this ill-fated (and perhaps ill-making) spin-off!

      • Not only did THE ROPERS have Norman Fell and Audra Lindley, but it was the first showcase in the career of the great Jeffrey Tambor, one of the best character actors of all-time. And it was still, despite that, one of the most cheaply made, blatantly mailed-in efforts you’ll ever see in a sitcom. The whole thing, right from an opening credit sequence “idea” which looks like it took someone 30 seconds to think up, looked like a rushed, half-hearted attempt at a spinoff.

  4. A couple of my favorites from this season are “Chrissy’s Date” (I loved seeing Dick Sargent & Joyce Bulifant in it.) and “Chrissy, Come Home”, which introduced Chrissy’s dad, who appeared a few more times. Did you like them, or do they have weaknesses to you (like too much melodrama)? I also love how Chrissy christened her date w/ a cup of coffee when she left him. :)

    • Hi, Jon! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      As I wrote to Track, I’ve lived with this series longer than others I’ve covered, so my opinions have changed over time. “Chrissy’s Date” was an early favorite of mine due to both the guest stars and the focus given to the beginning-to-blossom Somers. I still think it’s an amusingly enjoyable episode, just not spectacular in comparison to the stronger installments from the year. (I’m also probably turned off by the subtle Jack-Chrissy romantic undertones that pervade through this and several other of the 1977 episodes. Of these installments, “Cyrano De Tripper” is one of the few in which I think there’s comedy that rises above this trite angle.)

      Regarding “Chrissy Come Home,” you’re right: I’m not so satisfied by the dramatics, especially since the Reverend’s appearance is no actual threat to the series’ premise. We know how it’s going to end; thus the drama doesn’t play. But this also speaks to one of the things that I think came to hinder both this series and the two spin-offs — the consistent usage of regular antagonists. Comedy can’t exist without conflict, but the set-up was always ‘beloved protagonist’ against ‘another less liked regular/recurring character.’ So it was difficult to appreciate the ensemble as a whole. (This is particularly true of the spin-offs, but this series also ran out of stories that used the landlord as the bad guy, seemingly recognizing the limitations.) While this point may be tangential to the inclusion of Reverend Snow in the episode, this installment and the other one in which he plays the villain who intends to break up the trio have never been among my favorites.

      As for his third season appearance… stay tuned for next week!

  5. Hi Jackson, I would love to have the 1993 Weill Concert Hall version of Gay Divorce by Cole Porter. Thanks, Roland

  6. I just remembered that perhaps my least favorite of the entire series was from this season. I hate “Jack’s Navy Pal” mainly because of the nastiness of Jack’s “pal” (an ironic title) and his ability to get away with no punishment for his actions. (Couldn’t Jack have pushed him down the stairs maybe, or at least knocked his sunglasses off?) This same actor had just months before played Edith Bunker’s attacker (for which his character was justly punished), though I don’t think he’s at all recognizable as the same person, due to this character’s beard and sunglasses. I watched the TV Land version years later hoping that something in the previously deleted tag scene came back to bite him, but no. What was supposed to be funny about this plot? I thought it was a violation of the since-discarded Television Code to do this. Did you find anything to like in this episode yourself?

    • Jon,

      Great example! The premise of this episode features exactly the design that I wrote about earlier. How can we be anticipated to enjoy a comedic episode in which the crux of the story is supposed to hinge on the interactions between our protagonist and an unlikable villain? We may celebrate our hero’s triumph (if that happens), but re-watchability, due to the unpleasantness, is not likely. However, I think there are a few good physical bits and the dialogue is more comedically replete than some others. So I share your distaste for this installment (particularly its story), and it’s not one I regularly watch, but I definitely think there are worse offerings.

      • No arguments from me regarding this episode’s weaknesses, but there were some really dire offerings produced in the last few seasons, most of which suffer in both story and comedy. Stay tuned…

  7. These episodes are hugely enjoyable, if low-key (for this show, anyway), but I also think Season 3 is when the show took off, with the change of direction and more Larry, more Ropers and more slapstick. It also has my favorite episode and scene of the entire series – can’t wait to see if you include it.

    Favorite of these : No Children, No Dogs

    • Hi, Jake! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I too share your enthusiasm for the third season, and I’m looking forward to sharing my favorites next week!

  8. Also I forgot to mention, I believe this show bought back the physical comedy dominance of I Love Lucy and Dick Van Dyke Show

    • Indeed, Track! Even Lucille Ball was impressed with Ritter’s slapstick expertise. Another show from the time that regularly employed physical comedy is LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, which premiered the season before.

      • I feel that tht sixth season retrospective was Lucille Ball way of passing the torch to Ritter.

        Most definitely agree with you on LAverne And Shirley.
        Also speaking on Lucille Ball, I heard she was also a fan of Cheers

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