Four’s Company, Kline’s A Scribe

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week marks the 78th birthday of actor Richard Kline, best known for playing used car salesman Larry Dallas on all eight seasons of Three’s Company (1977-1984, ABC) — a role he helped define and elevate significantly. This month also marks the 45th anniversary of his character’s debut, in the series’ fourth aired episode, which was first broadcast on April 07, 1977. So, in celebration of Kline and Larry, I have a special treat to share — with subscribers who comment below to alert me of their private, non-commercial interest. It’s access to a spec Three’s Company script written by Richard Kline himself!

A “spec script” is a script written on speculation — that is, a script written by someone who’s not on staff of a TV series but is hoping that the producers of that show (or another show) will take a look at it and give him/her a job. Some of you might remember several years ago when I shared a spec Mary Tyler Moore Show written by Beverly Sanders, who’d guested a few times on that series as Rayette the waitress, a character whom she emphasized when writing her script. Well, this effort — entitled “Larry Loses His Job” and written by Kline — is similar, as it emphasizes Larry. Now, there’s no precise date on my copy, but I am confident placing it during the 1979-’80 season (Three’s Company’s fourth) for a few reasons. To begin with, it features Chrissy and includes a reference to Mr. Furley. That narrows things down considerably. Second, there are published articles from 1979 that explicitly discuss Kline’s efforts to make Larry a more regular presence on the show, and there’s even mention of him pitching ideas to the writers — including one story about the trio helping him shoot a commercial for his used car lot. And, lastly, in the Three’s Company tell-all book, it is said that when Kline approached the writers/producers to talk about his character — somewhere around “the fourth or fifth season” — they punished him with a quiet suspension. Based on the entries where he’s “credit only,” that would have occurred in… Season Four. So, using all of these clues, Four is my pick.

The plot of Kline’s opus is about Larry losing his job, annoying the trio, and then causing a ruckus down at Janet’s flower shop when she hires him as a temporary assistant… until it all works out in the end and he returns to the used car lot. Although the series had already done a segment in Season Two where Jack makes a mess of things at Janet’s work, rendering this idea somewhat unoriginal, its concept is not a bad one… particularly if it would have provided an opportunity to go down to the used car lot and meet Larry’s boss. (That would be revealing!) Unfortunately, that’s NOT what happens in Kline’s teleplay — the happy ending occurs off-screen, without the necessary comic climax that every good episode of Three’s Company requires. What’s more, the flower shop routine is so brief that the producers probably wouldn’t have built that whole set for such a small moment. In this regard, while the premise is solid, the storytelling doesn’t quite “get” the series’ needs. As for the writing itself, Kline really nails all the character voices and has a healthy sense of comedy. Yes, there’s a little too much reliance on topical jokes — specifically about Disney characters, and then a gag about “Celebrity Fishing” that is nothing more than a chance for a Dolly Parton reference — but otherwise, if Kline had been able to develop his skills more as a writer, I think he could have been an effective creative voice for this series. So, it’s not a great script, but it shows genuine promise. Here’s an excerpt.



Also, farewell to the great Robert Morse, who passed away last week at the age of 90! Rest In Peace! 



Come back next week for a new Wildcard! And stay tuned Tuesday for more Roseanne!