‘Three’s Company’: Why Don Knotts Supported Suzanne Somers’ Salary Feud on the Show

(L - R): Suzanne Somers, Joyce DeWitt, Don Knotts, and John Ritter in a scene from 'Three's Company,'  1979
(L – R): Suzanne Somers, Joyce DeWitt, Don Knotts, and John Ritter in a scene from ‘Three’s Company,’ 1979 | Dennis Plehn/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

In 1980, Suzanne Somers was part of a winning cast on the ABC hit comedy Three’s Company. Consequently, the actor asked the network’s executives for a raise.

Viewers loved her naïve and goofy Chrissy Snow character on the show. Somers assumed asking for a pay hike would not be out of line since she’d helped make the show a success.

She assumed wrong and endured a great deal of conflict because of her request. One of the few people firmly in her corner was her co-star, Ralph Furley actor Don Knotts, and here’s why.

Suzanne Somers’ pay raise request

Joyce Dewitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers as Janet, Jack, and Chrissy on 'Three's Company.'
Joyce Dewitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers as Janet, Jack, and Chrissy on ‘Three’s Company.’ | ABC PHOTO ARCHIVES

Three’s Company began airing on ABC in March of 1977. Only six episodes had been ordered for its first season but soon the network knew it had a hit on its hands. The chemistry between John Ritter as Jack Tripper, Joyce DeWitt as Janet Wood and Somers as Chrissy Snow wasn’t lost on viewers and the show was a ratings success.

Somers asked for more money in 1980 after the completion of four seasons. The comedy showed no signs of lagging and the actor felt her pay should be equal to that of her male co-star Ritter. Unfortunately, ABC execs disagreed and refused to raise her pay.

The actor dug her heels in. She was being paid $30,000 an episode while Ritter received $150,000 for each show. As Somers told People in 2020, the experience caused strife for her personally and with her cast mates.

“I probably would have never left network series,” she said. “I would have kept on going and probably been in every sitcom after that were it not to end the way it ended. But I was ostracized. So I went away.”

Knotts was denied ownership in ‘The Andy Griffith Show’

Don Knotts knew some of what his co-star Somers was going through.

He had joined The Andy Griffith Show cast from its first episode in 1960 and didn’t see a substantial pay raise in his five years on the comedy.

“The producers signed [Knotts] to a single season, and then to a five-year contract, at a starting salary of $1,250 an episode, or about $35,000 a year,” Kelly wrote.

Knotts’ manager, Sherwin Bash, was quoted by Daniel de Visé in his 2015 book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic American TV Show as saying, “I worked out this terrible deal for [Don Knotts], where he ended up making no money in five years.”

Andy Griffith and Don Knotts
Andy Griffith and Don Knotts | Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

RELATED: Don Knotts Said ‘It Took Me a While’ to Get Used to Working on ‘Three’s Company’

Before Knotts left the show, he tried one more time to get Griffith to have him stay but this time with a stake in the ownership of the show. The show’s ownership belonged solely to Andy Griffith and show producers Sheldon Leonard and Danny Thomas.

According to de Visé, “Don had told Andy he was ready to continue on the Griffith Show – if he could be Andy’s partner.”

Griffith said, “I wasn’t going to share the ownership of the show 50-50 with him. It was my show.”

Knotts left to pursue his film career having tried to make a go of it with Griffith.

Knotts was there for Somers

A scene from 'Three's Company'
A scene from ‘Three’s Company’ | Bob D’Amico/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

As de Visé wrote about this time during Three’s Company, “Don empathized with Somers, who was, in his view, being punished for seeking a raise, a scenario Don himself had experienced a decade earlier with the producers of The Andy Griffith Show.”

In particular, Knotts refused to exclude Somers as the rest of the cast reportedly was.

“He didn’t like the way the rest of the cast was shunning her. One day, he strode up to John and Joyce and said, ‘Excuse me, I’m going to talk to Suzanne.’ Later, Don traveled to Las Vegas to help Somers launch her solo act.”