It's been over two years since the death of John Ritter, the charismatic actor/comedian who fell victim to an unknown heart complication at the young age of 54. Although he appeared in films as varied as Sling Blade and Problem Child, Ritter was best known for his starring role in Three's Company, the popular sitcom from the late 70s-early 80s. Running for a total of eight seasons (from 1977-84, to be exact) with a total of 172 episodes, Three's Company also spawned The Ropers (1979-80) and Three's A Crowd (1984-85), two short-lived spinoff series met with only a fraction of the original's popularity.
There's a reason Three's Company was so successful: it was a good show, made funnier with terrific performances by John Ritter and the rest of the cast, and certainly more than the sum of its parts. Though it was never really a staple of mine growing up (even in syndication), it's a fun diversion that seems to have held up fairly well in the last 25-odd years. Three's Company's reliance on sticky situations was hardly anything new by sitcom standards, but the risqué double entrendres really pushed the envelope back then---and who knows, it might even raise a few eyebrows in today's world of PC television. Either way, Three's Company really clicked with audiences and has maintained a strong following over the last few decades. It may not be in the same league as I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners, but it's a fine example of a sitcom that proved to have real staying power.
Last year's release of Season Five on DVD, courtesy of Anchor Bay, was yet another solid collection of episodes paired with a few interesting bonus features. Looking back, though, it was a bit of an uncomfortable middle ground for the series: Suzanne Somers (as "Chrissy Snow") parted ways with the cast, though newcomer Jenilee Harrison (as Chrissy's cousin "Cindy") did an admirable job in her new role. Still, it wasn't until Season Six that the show really got back on its feet, as Harrison's character stepped back a bit to make room for Terri Alden (played by Priscilla Barnes). Barnes' character was quite different than Cindy and Chrissy: quick-witted and sharp as a tack, she created a smoother character balance with Jack and Janet. Though Barnes' rumored disagreements with the show's producers resulted in her part being scaled back during the final two seasons, she took the "demotion" in stride and honored her contract. For this reason, though, many fans feel Season Six to be the best of the bunch---or, at least, the best since the early days.
So what happens during this season, which ran from October of '81 to May of '82? The very first episode (a two-parter, "Jack Bares All") sees Cindy off to school and the introduction of Terri. The next few episodes naturally establish the new roommates' relationships with one another---not to mention the returning Mr. Furley (played by the late Don Knotts) and Larry Dallas (Richard Kline). We're also introduced to Greedy Gretchen ("Lies My Roommate Told Me"), we see Jack flirt with a nun ("The Holy Guest") and pose as a head chef ("A Friend in Need"), while Janet goes blonde ("Janet Wigs Out") and tries to impress a rich man ("Up In the Air", for which John Ritter won his first Emmy)…and much, much more. It's probably the most consistent season thus far, so those with fond memories of Three's Company's later years will find much to enjoy. Here's the complete episode listing:
Complete Episode Listing
(22 episodes on 4 single-sided discs)
1. Jack Bares All* (2-part episode)
2. Terri Makes Her Move
3. Professor Jack
4. Some of That Jazz
5. Lies My Roommate Told Me
6. Two Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
7. Eyewitness Blues
8. Boy Meets Dummy
9. Dates of Wrath
10. Macho Man
11. Strangers in the Night
12. The Matchbreakers
13. The Holy Guest
14. Maid to Order
15. Hearts and Flowers
16. Urban Plowboy
17. A Friend in Need
18. Jack's 10
19. Doctor in the House
20. Critic's Choice
21. Paradise Lost
22. And Now, Here's Jack
23. Janet Wigs Out
24. Up in the Air
25. Mate for Each Other
(Also includes Bonus Features)
* - Includes Audio Commentary with director Dave Powers
Aside from boasting a strong run of episodes, Season Six throws a few more bonus features into the pot---and even better, those who've collected all the full-length seasons thus far should notice this 4-disc set has an even lower price point than the others (under $30!). The technical presentation is just as good---if not slightly better---this time around, so the total package is probably the strongest yet for Three's Company fans. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
Easily on par with the past five volumes, the video presentation for Season Six gets the job done, as each episode (presented in the series' original 1.33:1 aspect ratio) looks quite good for a 25 year-old show. Although the image still seems a bit soft---even by early 1980s TV standards---the colors are bright and there are no digital problems to be found. The basic audio mix (presented in the series' original Dolby Digital Mono) features clear dialogue, music, and sound effects. Unfortunately, in typical Anchor Bay style, no English captions or subtitles have been included with this release.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:
The menu styles for this season are consistent with those from the first five: appropriately themed backgrounds paired with the opening music to create the proper vintage atmosphere. While it's disappointing that these episodes still lack chapter stops, this is a relatively minor complaint for an otherwise excellent presentation. Menus and bonus features, like the show itself, are all presented in a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. The packaging is also similar to past seasons, as this four-disc set is housed in a digipak case with a partial slipcover.
First up to bat is a double-length Audio Commentary with director Dave Powers during the season premiere, "Jack Bares All". Powers speaks fondly of the cast and crew, often taking time to point out nice bits of trivia and share a few personal memories. It's a shame he couldn't record a few more (not to mention the rest of the surviving cast members, of course). The remaining two extras are on Disc Four, starting with Lucille Ball Presents "The Best of Three's Company" (48:24, below left); essentially, it's a clip-heavy recap of the series history thus far. Incidentally, this special originally aired soon after the Season Six finale, "Mate for Each Other", and is less informative than it is just plain entertaining (and a neat piece of TV history to boot!).
Bringing up the rear is "Laughs Around the World" (8:29), a short piece that emphasizes the show's international appeal. The main feature here is a clip from a Polish adaptation of the series (Lokatorzy, above right); specifically, clips from Epsiode #21 ("Paradise Lost") intercut with the American version. It's a nice inclusion…though again, it's more of an interesting novelty than anything else. Either way, it's great to see that Anchor Bay has continued to include a few extras with each season; with any luck, they'll finish strong.
Anchor Bay continues to impress followers of this classic sitcom with another solid 4-disc package. It's probably the strongest of the six collections yet, combining plenty of great episodes with a few interesting bonus features…and, of course, a lower price point. Though all of the Three's Company season sets have been worth getting thus far, Season Six is the first one to truly stand out. Overall, fans of the series can easily consider this release Highly Recommended.
DVD Talk Review Link: Previous Seasons of Three's Company
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.