2003 marked the surprising death of John Ritter, a 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, a popular sitcom from the late 70s-early 80s. Well, perhaps 'popular' is a bit of an understatement: it ran for an unprecedented eight seasons (1977-84) and featured a total of 172 episodes. There were two (sort of) spinoff series as well: The Ropers, which ran briefly from 1979-80; and Three's A Crowd, which ran after Three's Company ended (1984-85).
Needless to say, this show had a lot of fans.
There's a reason it was so successful: it was a good show, made funnier with great performances by John Ritter. It was never a staple of mine growing up (even in syndication), but I found it to be a refreshing diversion from whatever else was on at the time. Here's how the show started: Two women (Janet and Chrissy) are looking for a roommate, and a guy (Jack) quickly jumps at the chance to move in. Problem is, the landlords wouldn't go for this, so he only gets to move in after pretending to be homosexual. There were plenty of misunderstandings and other amusing situations that made up the bulk of the comedy; in fact, I'm actually surprised it lasted as long as it did. In this day and age, I'm not so sure Three's Company would have done nearly as well in the ratings. Heck, I doubt anybody would have even bought the pilot (but you never know!). Still, it's pretty obvious that this show walked a very delicate line back then too, especially to be aired prominently on network TV.
Unfortunately, the DVD debut of Three's Company was a little shaky at best. Essentially, the first season was a somewhat rushed single-disc release that didn't offer very much to fans, save for the first six episodes. The video wasn't as good as it could have been, and there were no extras worth mentioning. Thankfully, Anchor Bay has really stepped up to the plate with this 4-disc boxed set of the show's second season: it's an improvement in nearly every department, and will hopefully prove to be everything that fans have been waiting for. Although it's unfortunate that John Ritter wasn't around to make this release even better, it's as good as fans can hope for, given the circumstances. All in all, there are 25 episodes included here, spread out over 4 discs. Here's a brief rundown of what we get:
Disc One: Ground Rules, Jack Looks For a Job, Janet's Promotion, Strange Bedfellows, Chrissy's Date, Alone Together.
Disc Two: Roper's Car, Cyrano de Tripper, Chrissy's Night Out, Stanley Casanova, Janet's High School Sweetheart, Jack's Uncle, Helen's Job.
Disc Three: Three's Christmas, The Gift, The Rivals, The Baby Sitters, Home Movies, Jack in the Flower Shop, Jack's Navy Pal.
Disc Four: Will the Real Jack Tripper…, Days of Beer and Weeds, Chrissy Come Home, Bird Song, and Coffee, Tea, or Jack. NOTE: This fourth disc also includes the never-before-seen Pilot Episode #1, which is covered in more detail under the Bonus Features section below.
Overall, the episodes I sampled were as entertaining as ever…I've never considered myself a "fanatic", but I've seen enough episodes to understand why Three's Company remained successful throughout its eight-year tenure. Although it's not as socially relevant as it was over two decades ago, there's a certain charm that makes this show a classic of television sitcoms. Long story short, there are enough laughs to make this DVD a great buy for any fan of TV comedy, and a must-have for fans of the show. With that said, let's see how this 4-disc set stacks up:
First up, and the most interesting extra, is the never-before-seen Pilot Episode #1. This was shot before Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers were cast as the role of Janet and Chrissy, and two other women can be seen in their place (the character names are also different). Basically, this is the same pilot episode as seen from Season One, although much of the dialogue is a little different. Additionally, some of the set designs are totally new, and we even get alternate opening credits at the beginning! This is an interesting little piece of television history, and will be a very surreal viewing experience for hardcore Three's Company fans.
Next up is a tribute documentary, John Ritter: Always Leave Them Laughing. This was newly created for the DVD, and is hosted by Joyce DeWitt. Although it tends to get a little saccharine at times, this was a thoughtful inclusion and a nice tribute to John Ritter's life and career. Also here is the documentary Eight Years Of Laughter, another Ritter tribute. Specifically, this piece is a modest collection of Ritter's funniest moments during the show's eight-year run.
Another interesting bonus features is an Audio Commentary for the episode Days Of Beer And Weeds with Chris Mann, author of the book "Come And Knock On Our Door". Mann is well-prepared for the track, and offers plenty of insight for this episode…it's a shame there couldn't have been more of these. With any luck, he'll be invited back next season, and maybe they'll get some of the cast and/or crew to participate as well.
Next up is a series of three "Best Of" Highlights from the season, featuring Janet, Chrissy, and the Ropers in separate sections. Although this is essentially a rehash of episodes we've already seen, it's still better to have than not. Also included are two self-explanatory extras: a Blooper Reel and a Trivia Game, as well as two Photo Galleries, which include a series of stills and memorabilia from the show. Last but not least, we're given a series of Talent Bios for the cast.
While it's not the most exhaustive set of extras for a TV show, Three's Company: Season Two features a great little mix of goodies that are sure to please fans of the show. Here's hoping that Anchor Bay keeps the trend going for future season releases, as this lineup of bonus features was a definite improvement over Season One.
What a nice little package! In short, this 4-disc set does a great job of satisfying the void left by the bare-bones Season One release. From a modestly-improved technical presentation to a solid set of bonus material, this is one set that fans are going to enjoy! Combine this with a very reasonable MSRP (which will no doubt be even more affordable on release day), and you've got one of the better examples of TV on DVD this year. Recommended.
John Ritter filmography at IMDb
Three's Company: Season One DVD review
Randy Miller III is a part-time cartooning instructor based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in an art gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.