The True Story of ‘Three’s Company’ Short-Lived Spin-off ‘The Ropers’

The Ropers Norman Fell, Audra Lindley, 1979-80
Everett Collection

Do you remember that the iconic sitcom Three’s Company spawned not one but two spin-off series? Three’s Company starred roommates played by John Ritter, Suzanne Somers, and Joyce DeWitt, trying to navigate living together. The show ran for eight seasons and was based on a British sitcom called Man About the House, which also had several spin-off series in the UK.

During the height of Three’s Company‘s success, a first spin-off was introduced called The Ropers, based on the landlords Stanley and Helen Roper, played by Norman Fell and Audra Lindley. It didn’t work out well for Fell and Lindley as The Ropers never quite took off and was canceled after a season and a half. They were already written out of Three’s Company and replaced by Don Knotts, so they were out of luck.

Three's Company (top): Audra Lindley, Norman Fell, (bottom): Suzanne Somers, John Ritter, Joyce Dewitt, 1977-84

Everett Collection

So, why did The Ropers not achieve the same success as Three’s Company? Some blame the time slot, when it was moved to Saturdays at 8 p.m. Fell even begged ABC to move the show to a better time slot but they didn’t listen and the show continued to see low ratings. Soon, ABC canceled The Ropers and Fell tried to get back on Three’s Company. ABC had already replaced the pair and didn’t want to pay two actors to play landlords when they could pay only one.

Three's a Crowd John Ritter, Mary Cadorette, Robert Mandan, 1984-1985

ABC Television/Everett Collection

Fell and Lindley did make one final appearance on Three’s Company in season five. A few years later, there was an idea for a spin-off of The Ropers called Three Apartments, which would also star Fell and Lindley but it never came to fruition. However, another spin-off happened called Three’s a Crowd starring Ritter, Mary Cadorette, and Robert Mandan. It premiered just a week after Three’s Company ended in 1984. Three’s a Crowd did about as well as The Ropers and only aired for one season. There was potential to film at least another half-season but Ritter declined.

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March 2023

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