When ‘Three’s Company’ Jumped the Shark

What do Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and The West Wing have in common? These TV shows received massive critical and audience success and ended while they were still on top. For producers or television networks, choosing when to end a show can be difficult. End it too soon, and fans cry you’ve made a mistake. Push it too far, and you risk jumping the shark

Three’s Company is one of the most iconic sitcoms in TV history. At the time, the show pushed boundaries and made the stars household names. But throughout the series, several notable changes left fans longing for the show they’d come to love.

So when did Three’s Company jump the shark?

‘Three’s Company’ was a hit from the beginning

'Three's Company' cast Suzanne Somers, John Ritter, and Joyce DeWitt in 1977
‘Three’s Company’ cast Suzanne Somers, John Ritter, and Joyce DeWitt in 1977 | Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives

It takes the right mix of casting, directing, and timing to create television magic. In 1977, Three’s Company premiered on ABC. John Ritter, Suzanne Somers, and Joyce DeWitt starred as Jack, Chrissy, and Janet, three singles living together in Santa Monica, California.

At the time, a man living with two women wasn’t exactly the norm, so in a ruse to get their landlord, Mr. Roper, to accept their unconventional living situation, Jack pretended to be gay. And while Mrs. Roper quickly discovered the truth, much of the show’s comedy came from the trio’s attempts to keep Mr. Roper in the dark. 

From the beginning, it was clear Three’s Company was unlike anything else on TV. In 1978, the show received three Primetime Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Ritters’ performance, according to IMDb. During its run, the show also garnered two Golden Globes and a Primetime Emmy win. 

The show saw several cast changes

RELATED: Where Can You Watch ‘Three’s Company’?

The show’s fans likely recall Three’s Company went through several cast changes. Comedy legend and The Andy Griffith Show alum Don Knotts joined the series in Season 4 as Ralph Furley, replacing Norman Fell and Audra Lindley, who played the Ropers during the first three seasons. Fell and Lindley went on to star in the spinoff The Ropers. 

In 1981, Somers left the show after five seasons. Her departure followed contract negotiations for the show’s sixth season. At the time, Somers was making $30,000 per episode, while her male co-star, Ritter, was making $150,000 per episode. When Somers refused a $5,000-per-episode increase, she was fired. 

To make up for Chrissy’s absence, showrunners brought on Jenilee Harrison. She played Cindy Snow, Chrissy’s cousin, and moved in upon Chrissy’s departure. In Season 6, Harrison was out, and actress Priscilla Barnes was in as another blonde roommate, Terri Alden.

When ‘Three’s Company’ jumped the shark

Most fans agree the show jumped the shark when it began rotating in new blonde housemates in Seasons 6 through 8. The constant cast changes affected the stars’ chemistry, and by the time Barnes joined the show, the end was in sight.

The actor who played neighbor Larry on the show, Richard Klein, later blamed Somers’ departure on her husband/manager, who he says was too aggressive during contract negotiations. Somers was only advocating for what was fair and in line with male actors’ compensation, but the fight didn’t go her way. 

Though Somers’ departure might’ve contributed to the show’s eventual decline, it was arguably the right decision for her. According to CNBC, she enjoyed a successful career as a book author and fitness spokesperson.