Ah yes, Three's Company. How I used to laugh at this show ... although back then I was only pretending to "get" the sexy material I didn't fully understand. (You did it, too!) But all a red-blooded American kid had to know about Three's Company was this: Suzanne Somers sure was jiggly and damn was John Ritter a funny guy!
To those who might be unfamiliar with the labyrinthine plot machinations and the Machiavellian narrative structures of Three's Company, here's the short version: three pals (two women and a man) share an apartment together, but are forced to pretend that the guy is homosexual so their landlord won't kick him out on his butt. That's pretty much it.
Even as I got older and I found much of the Three's Company dialogue to be the pinnacle of all things silly (at best) or moronic (at worst), there was always the light-hearted, good-natured, and seriously insane John Ritter to deliver some serious laughs. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I shed a few quiet tears when I learned of John Ritter's tragic death a few years back. With another actor in the lead, Three's Company would almost certainly have died halfway through its inaugural season. Sure, Joyce DeWitt has a sexy "girl next door" charm and Ms. Somers sure was easy on the eyes, but without John Ritter, the show has practically nothing.
And Season 4 contains some of Mr. Ritter's finest moments. Gone off to spin-off country were Mr. & Mrs. Roper, which opened the landlord position to Don Knotts and his perpetually funky Mr. Furley. No offense to Stan and Helen Roper, but Mr. Furley proved to be a great foil for Jack, Janet and Chrissy to play off of. Gawky and geeky, yet somehow convinced he was a disco-era swingin' man, Furley became a fan favorite in no time at all. Many of the scenes between Knotts and Ritter proved to be the crown jewels of their respective episodes, while the gals just sort of faded into the background.
Upstairs neighbor (and consistent lothario) Larry Dallas was back for the fourth season, and Richard Kline brought a leering charm to a character who could easily have been a real scumbag. Ann Wedgeworth joined Mr. Knotts as another fourth season newcomer, and her role as the Jack-hungry Lana gave John Ritter a chance to branch off into another direction: generally we don't see Jack Tripper saying NO to a woman!
Here's a listing of the episodes you'll find in Anchor Bay's Three's Company Season 4 collection. (Episode synopses come from each disc's onscreen text, which is a cool little addition indeed.)
Jack on the Lam - Jack Tripper, a chef for all seasons, turns out to be quite a dish himself when he disguises himself as roommate Chrissy to skirt FBI agents on his trail. (Original broadcast date: 09/11/79)
Love Thy Neighbor - Chrissy finds out that Jack has become a male escort and is running around with an older woman. (09/18/79)
The New Landlord - When the roommates meet their new landlord (played by new series star Don Knotts), they discover they have accidentally sold all his furniture, thinking it was the Ropers'. (09/25/79)
Snow Job - Chrissy gets a new job selling cosmetics door-to-door and unexpectedly finds herself in Ralph Furley's winner-take-all strip poker game. (10/02/79)
Jack the Ripper - It's no more "Mr. Nice Guy" after Jack learns how to get his way with Chrissy and Janet. (10/09/79)
The Life Saver - The trio's outrageous escapades result in an eviction notice from Furley, and they get ready to move into a luxurious rent-free penthouse. (10/23/79)
Old Folks at Home - 75-year-old veteran actor J. Pat O'Malley takes a lesson from the "youngsters" by forming his own "oldster-trio" in a geriatric apartment commune. (10/30/79)
A Camping We Will Go - Jack's weekend at Larry's boss' secluded mountain lodge turns into a hilarious scramble for beds when Chrissy and Janet show up with a crowd. (11/06/79)
Chrissy's Hospitality - Nosy landlord Furley misunderstands when he hears Jack and Chrissy laughing in the bathtub. (11/13/79)
The Loan Shark - Jack Tripper's cooking lesson with the seductive wife of a mobster becomes dangerously spiced with hot romance. (11/20/79)
The Love Barge - Jack's chance to join an ocean cruise as assistant chef cooks up sizzling comedy when Janet and Chrissy fight to see who'll join him. (11/27/79)
Ralph's Rival - Ralph Furley tries to impress his childhood rival by introducing Chrissy as his new bride. (12/04/79)
A Black Letter Day - A letter to a lovelorn column convinces Chrissy and Janet that the other is having a love affair with Jack. (12/11/79)
The Reverend Steps Out - Jack, Janet and Chrissy face having to split up when Chrissy's father, Reverend Snow, announced that their special living arrangement jeopardizes his appointment as the new local minister. (12/18/79)
Larry Loves Janet - Jack and Chrissy hatch an outrageous scheme to transform sensible Janet into a high-powered bombshell in order to cool off the amorous advances of Larry. (01/08/80)
Mighty Mouth - Chrissy and Janet's efforts to get Jack into prime physical condition succeed beyond their wildest expectations when their voluptuous gym teacher falls for him. (01/15/80)
The Love Lesson - Jack faces eviction from the apartment when he inadvertently reveals to Furley his great passion for the opposite sex. (01/22/80)
Handcuffed - When an absent-minded policeman leaves his handcuffs at the trio's apartment, Chrissy and Jack playfully slap the cuffs on each other and then discover there's no key. (01/29/80)
And Baby Makes Two - When Janet develops a sudden interest in having a baby, Jack and Chrissy hold some hilarious interviews with the men they think have answered her advertisement for a father-for-hire. (02/05/80)
Jack's Bad Boy - Jack Tripper finally meets his match when a devilish 12-year-old boy wins the girls' sympathy and moves into the apartment. (02/12/80)
Lee Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother - Jack feels that he can't compete with his handsome and talented brother, Lee, and becomes quite enraged when Lee decides to romance Chrissy. (02/26/80)
The Root of All Evil - Chrissy's good fortune at the racetrack leaves the three roommates with money to burn, but tempers sizzle over the distribution of the wealth. (03/04/80)
Secret Admirer - Chrissy, dying to learn who is sending her secret love notes, sets up a rendezvous at the Regal Beagle pub. (03/11/80)
The Goodbye Guy - Jack, Janet and Chrissy throw a lavish party to help their landlord snare a luscious blonde. (03/25/80)
Jack's Graduation - Chrissy and Janet have to solve a gourmet mystery to help Jack graduate from cooking school. (05/06/80)
Video: The episodes are presented in the original Full Frame format, and they sure look a hell of a lot better than they do on late-night UHF channels! Fans should be quite satisfied with the video quality.
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono, which does contain some of the old fuzz found in this type of late-70's sitcoms. But the dialogue and the omnipresent audience giggles are still quite crisp and clear, for the most part.
Chris Mann, author of the Three's Company guide, "Come and Knock On Our Door," delivers an audio commentary on "Chrissy's Hospitality" (disc 2, episode 2). Mr. Mann discusses the season four cast changes, explains a rather odd "pantyhose" controversy, points out various guest actors, and basically displays a strong affection for Three's Company - without taking it too seriously. Too bad this is the only commentary track presented by Chris; I would have enjoyed a few more!
The rest of the extras reside on disc 4:
Nancy Ritter Interview - Joyce DeWitt introduces an interview segment with John Ritter's wife of many years, who describes the celebrated funnyman with equal parts affection and sincerity. Fans of Mr. Ritter (and c'mon, who isn't?) will find this a sweet little retrospective piece on a great comic actor who died way too young. (19:53)
Don Knotts & Richard Kline Interview - Landlord Ralph Furley and Neighbor Larry Dallas sit down together and enjoy a few looks back at their time in the Three's Company sun. (8:06)
Ann Wedgeworth Interview - The ever-lovin' Lana Shields shares some recollections from her one-season Three's Company stint. (9:08)
Casting Don Knotts - Producers George Burditt & George Sunga and writer Kim Weiskopf explain why the Ropers were moving on to their own show, and remember their concerns about who they could get to replace them. They all wanted a "Don Knotts type" - until someone actually picked up the phone and called Don Knotts! (3:56)
Casting Suzanne Somers - Burditt, Sunga and Weiskopf focus on how Ms. Somers came to the series (rather late in the game), but there's no mention here of the gal's controversial contract dispute and resignation from the show. (3:28)
Best of Jack: Season 4 - Clips of the shows you can now watch (in their entirety) whenever you want. (6:40)
Best of Chrissy: Season 4 - Chrissy clips. (7:13)
Best of Janet: Season 4 - Guess what? Yes. Clips. Of Janet. (6:35)
Best of Larry: Season 4 - Hey cool. I always liked Larry. More clips. (6:15)
Best of Furley: Season 4 - Knotts clips. (6:16)
Three's Company, at its core, was not much more than a bunch of goofy gags, silly misunderstandings, dippy double entendres, and comedy schtick as old as vaudeville itself. But it also had a great cast of characters and an ensemble that really had some strong chemistry together. The series' fourth season still stands as one of the best, mainly because Season 5 is when Somers lost her mind and jump-started the cycle that saw the eventual arrivals of Jenilee Harrison (as Cindy) and Priscilla Barnes (as Terri). Nothing against those beautiful blondies, but a lot of the Three's Company magic ended when season 4 did. Anchor Bay continues to do this cult classic proud by releasing the full-season DVDs in fine fashion.