Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Joyce Dewitt: In the eye of the “Three’s Company” storm

The original three in "Three's Company". From left
are Joyce DeWitt, John Ritter, and Suzanne Somers.
There’s something to be said about keeping your head about you when everyone around you is losing theirs. I’m not sure that was actually the case, but that was what it looked like whenever we caught a glimpse of life behind the scenes of the sitcom “Three’s Company”.

It seemed to be a three-ring circus, but through the entire run of the show, there was Joyce Dewitt. It was her birthday recently, and it sent me back 30 years to the world occupied by her character florist Janet Wood, Jack Tripper, Chrissy Snow, Teri Alden, the Ropers, and Mr. Furley.

Three’s Company
There’s something to say about consistency, and there was never no more a consistent comedy than “Three’s Company”. It was another one of those American shows that aired on CBC, something we haven’t seen in years.

Although the premise was a bit risqué, a man pretending to be gay so he could room with two women, it never really took any chances. Show in and show out, there was the standard physical comedy of Jack Tripper (played by John Ritter), coupled with some sort of misunderstanding that is resolved in the last five minutes. As predictable as it was, “Three’s Company” was still funny.

The circus is coming to town
All good things come to an end, and there was never a more apt case than the run of Suzanne Somers on “Three’s Company”. To some extent, much greater in her own mind than reality, her character Chrissy Snow had become a central focus of the show. So much so that, coupled with some bad advice from her agent and husband Alan Hamel, she thought she could hold out for more money and the producers would crumble.

The post-Suzanne Somers cast. In back from left
are Richard Kline; Jenilee Harrison; and Don
Knotts; while in front from left are Priscilla
Barnes; John Ritter; and Joyce DeWitt. Through
all the trials and tribulations, Joyce DeWitt
stuck it out for the show's entire eight-year run.
It was just not the case, as she was essentially written out, although making brief appearances weekly for the final year of her tenure. It was later revealed she did not even tape those spots anywhere near the rest of the cast.

She would be replaced by Jenilee Harrison, a former Los Angeles Rams cheerleader, who played Chrissy Snow’s klutzy cousin Cindy. That only last a couple seasons before she herself was replaced by relative TV newcomer Priscilla Barnes, who played new roommate and nurse Teri Alden.

Watching all that turmoil, and simply going about her business, was Joyce DeWitt, playing Janet Wood.

An unfortunate end
It turned out the producers were even more ruthless. As the eighth season of the show wound down and everyone was notified it would be the show’s last, the producers never told DeWitt or Barnes, that there would be a spin-off with Ritter continuing his role as Jack Tripper in “Three’s a Crowd”. DeWitt only find out by accidentally walking in on auditions for “Three’s A Crowd”.

Parting thoughts
Janet Wood would get married and walk off into the sunset, a slightly better ending than Chrissy Snow.
It was still not an honourable way to end the show for the character, because Joyce DeWitt had stuck it out through eight years of drama, much more offscreen than on.

She deserved better, but it just showed how ruthless television, and its producers, could be.

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