Hey Ramblers, I’d like ya’ll to give a warm welcome to the newest member of the Retro Ramblings family, Brandon. Brandon is going to be filling out your Tuesday’s retro schedule for you with his reviews of retro television shows. Show him some love in the comments section here on his first piece, but try not to over do it. I really dig this review of Three’s Company, and look forward to see what show he follows it up with next week. If you have any suggestions for something you’d like to see get the rerun review treatment, drop him a line.
– Retro Rambler
Oh, hello. So, I’m Brandon, and this is my segment. I think we’ll call it “Retro Rerun Reviews.” And then, once we’re all comfortable and conversational-like, we’ll call it “RRR.” Maybe sometimes even, we’ll get real cool and call it “Triple R” like that portly, sunburnt chef on television might.
The idea is this: each week, I’m going to review an old television show. Now, this might be a show I’ve seen every episode of twice, or it might be a show I’ve never even heard of. I’ve written down 206 shows on individual pieces of paper, and I will randomly draw that week’s selection from a giant hat. (Don’t worry— the hat is plenty big; it looks like a weird Dr. Seussian hat that Lisa Bonet would occasionally wear on the The Cosby Show.)
So, without further ado, I’ll move on to this week’s show.
The Show: Three’s Company
Ran for: 8 seasons. 172 episodes from 1977 until 1984.
What it’s About: A pretend-homosexual named Jack Tripper who lives with two ladies in order to, I don’t know, save on rent? They’re in Santa Monica, I think, and he’s a cook, so maybe saving on rent is a big concern.
My Relationship with It: I don’t know that I’ve ever intentionally watched Three’s Company. It’s something I’ve seen, though, probably on a sick-day from school or in olden times when we only had a handful of channels from which to choose. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that I’ve seen probably six full episodes in my life, give or take, and snippets of countless others.
This episode: Season 2, Episode 17. “The Babysitters.”
Three’s Company, of course, has one of the best theme songs ever. Top 10, probably. And this one, after the singing ends, keeps going on a long musical interlude, and then goes back to the singing! It’s like an extended club mix, and, at 70 seconds, much longer than nearly anything else you see on television today.
It starts when the brown-haired woman, Janet, comes out of the shower in a towel and Jack makes a very rapey comment. The audience laughs a lot because in olden times, it was much more acceptable to make sexually unwanted advances on your opposite-sex friends. LOL, you know? Anyway, we learn that Janet is getting ready for a date. She asks Chrissy to borrow some clothes.
The phone rings and it’s a guy named Jerry Randall. He tells Chrissy that Janet is supposed to be coming to watch his kid. SHE PROMISED WEEKS AGO!!!
So, Chrissy offers to take Janet’s place, and Janet is like, “oh, you are the best, WOULD YOU” and Chrissy is all, “sure, where’s my date taking me” and the laugh track goes nuts. (THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT TWO DIFFERENT THINGS, GET IT?)
Janet asks Jack and he’s like, “no way, out of the question.” Mrs. Roper is broached, but she has the flu. This is good, because if she didn’t have the flu, the problem would be solved and this whole episode would be over.
Now we’re in the Roper’s bedroom. Mr. Roper is taking care of his sick wife but all the while making a big deal out of the fact that he is a man and this is a bad arrangement. She asks him to stay and talk, and he says “no, I gotta watch television, Name That Tune goes on in a few minutes.” That’s a really weird way to say that, right? “Goes on?” No one says that. It’s “comes on” or, short of that, “starts.” Anyway, they crack a couple of jokes and, because of some miscommunication, she thinks for a moment that they’re going to have sex which is something that she likes, I guess, and he does not. Then she sneezes and he panics and leaves.
Back at the Three’s Company House, Janet is still trying to talk Chrissy into taking the babysitting gig, but Chrissy suggests that her ineptitude will LITERALLY lead to the child’s death, so Janet volunteers Jack. He says he doesn’t want to go because he needs to watch the Lakers play the Trailblazers, but then Janet mentions that the Randall’s have a better television AND a bunch of “fancy cooking liqueurs” that Jack has wanted to try but can’t afford. This seems unethical, probably, but Jack is excited about it.
Janet’s date David arrives, and he appears to be a 47-year-old, super nerdy accountant. Their date, he announces, is a “performance of 14th century music” and Janet thinks that sounds horrid. She remarks to Chrissy, “maybe I SHOULD babysit instead,” only we know that won’t happen either, because again, this would be an eight-minute episode.
At the Randall’s house, we learn that the wife’s name, inexplicably, is “Punkin’” or “Pumpkin.” She is pregnant with their second child and there are some random jokes about how babies kick. Chrissy and Jack arrive and Jerry is completely cool with a person he barely knows and this person’s friend watching his child, apparently. About the fetus, Chrissy says, “is it going to be a boy or a girl?” which is a perfectly reasonable question when talking to a pregnant lady, I think, but Pumpkin Randall responds, “I certainly hope so.” This garners big laughs and I am not sure I understand how this is a joke.
Jack learns the television is out for repair, because of course it is, and Pumpkin or Punkin’ says “help yourselves to a drink,” which is a weird thing to say to someone who is caring for your 1-year-old child, or maybe that’s me being a prude. Jack pretends to watch the television and then learns the liqueurs cabinet is locked up. WHAT A REGRETTABLE NIGHT FOR JACK!
The phone rings and it’s Mr. Pumpkin and, wouldn’t you know it, Child Two Who We Certainly Hope is a Boy or a Girl is on its way. Strangely, the news made Mr. Pumpkin look like he did a bunch of blow, and maybe he did because that was sort of the style at this time. He tells Jack he’ll “be a little later than planned” (??) and then Jack mentions the locked liqueur cabinet and Mr. Pumpkin tells him the key is in the desk drawer. Jack gets off the phone but then finds out the desk drawer is locked, too! He slams his fists on the desk in unnecessary anger and Baby Boy Randall begins crying and it is the weirdest noise ever. Seriously, it is like you explained the sound of crying to a deaf person and then made them do it from the stage at a haunted concert hall.
Chrissy and Jack look at each other and, in tandem, say “that’s all we needed!” No one has ever intentionally said the same thing like this on purpose in the history of mankind. I’m actually mad about this.
Then we go to commercial, and when we come back, Jack is rocking the baby and singing him dirty limericks. I swear. Then Chrissy feeds the baby while Jack reads him a story. The baby, it is now clear, is a loosely wrapped bundle of sticks. The prop budget must have been small in the 2nd season. The sticks fall asleep and Chrissy drops them unceremoniously into the crib. (They could have at least told her to pretend like it’s a baby.)
The phone rings and it is the dad and he has found a way to do even MORE cocaine. His tie is lower than before and his eyes are wild and scary. He explains that his wife wants him there for the birth and he seems very put out by this fact.
Back at the Three’s Company Apartment, Janet is getting home from her date with the boring guy. She tries to shoo him out by saying her roommates are home, but when she goes to shut the door, and the phone rings and she goes to answer it, it doesn’t shut all the way and he SNEAKS BACK IN and it is a genuinely scary moment. He realizes that it is Chrissy on the phone, so, after the call ends he says “so, you’re all alone, huh?” and I’m starting to wonder if this is a Very Special Episode where Janet gets kidnapped and murdered? But then she manages to kick him back out, so I guess that’s that.
Meanwhile, at the Pumpkin residence, the bundle of sticks is inconsolable. Jack and Chrissy are doing a lot of harried, witty banter, just like two people would be in real life. Chrissy calls Mrs. Roper because Janet told her “she used to work at a hospital.” Turns out, she worked in the laundry room. WHOOPS. She starts giving out suggestions anyway, like, “oil him up and sprinkle powder on him” and “try putting some honey on his nipple” and Mr. Roper is now awake and FREAKING OUT about this conversation. Jack comes out of the baby’s room and says “it’s okay, the baby let out a burp and went to bed.” They hang up on Mrs. Roper because that joke is over now.
Jack makes another very uncomfortable, lecherous reference, this time about the fact that “we’ll have to sleep here, and there’s only one bed,” as in, “get it? We’re gonna be doing it later, me and you.” We cut to a scene of him asleep on the couch, alone. The laugh track goes wild.
It’s the next morning and Janet shows up. Then, while she’s trying to figure out what happened the night before, Pumpkin’s mother shows up. She looks like a cartoon, or a small Asian man in a weird wig playing a slightly aristocratic 1970’s mother. The truly strange thing is that she’s not there to like, take over or help— she thinks that Jack, Chrissy and Janet are hired nannies, or something? It is all very confusing and I think it’s supposed to be funny. Jack and Chrissy abandon Janet who is then stuck with this sneaky, bossy Asian man.
Some time later, Janet shows back up and she is exhausted. She is upset that Grandmother Pumpkin bossed her around instead of helping. She collapses on the couch and strangely, this is the end of the episode.
Would I Watch Another Episode?: Well, on a sick day, perhaps. People loved Three’s Company and it is still well-regarded from a critical standpoint. The late John Ritter is great and the rest of the cast is fine. It is a very traditionally written and paced sitcom. It’s hokey, and tacky, but mostly harmless. (Well, you know, except for all the casual rape chat.)