Stanley & Helen Roper Leave Jack, Janet & Chrissy for Their Own Series

Norman Fell as Stanley Roper and Audra Lindley as Helen Roper in The Ropers (1979-80)
Courtesy Everett Collection
Norman Fell as Stanley Roper and Audra Lindley as Helen Roper in The Ropers (1979-80)

The Ropers leave Three’s Company for their own self-titled spinoff, Dick Loudon fills in for “Pirate Pete” and chilling late-night calls arrive from the Twilight Zone.

Classic TV on Today: Wednesday, March 22

All Times Eastern.

Three’s Company: “An Anniversary Surprise” & “Moving On” (The Ropers)

Antenna TV, 7pm & 7:30pm

The Three’s Company episode “An Anniversary Surprise” first aired on ABC March 13, 1979, during the classic sitcom’s third season, and it marked the departure of popular characters Stanley and Helen Roper (Norman Fell and Audra Lindley), who were Jack (John Ritter), Janet (Joyce DeWitt) and Chrissy’s (Suzanne Somers) landlords.

In one of the series’ many hilarious cases of misunderstanding, the episode finds Helen and the three roommates mistakenly believing that Stanley is having an affair. But the supposed “other woman” is actually a real estate agent (Ruta Lee) who has been working with Stanley to sell the building and help find a new home for himself and his wife in another part of L.A.

The episode set up the Ropers’ departure into their own sitcom, The Ropers, which originally also debuted on ABC March 13, 1979, following the Three’s Company “An Anniversary Surprise” installment. The first episode of The Ropers, called “Moving On,” often appears in syndication — as it does in this Antenna TV airing — as an extra Three’s Company episode.

“Moving On” finds Stanley and Helen settling into the upscale Cheviot Hills area, and while the social-climbing Helen tried to fit in with their new neighbors (including the particularly snobbish realtor Jeffrey P. Brookes III, played by Jeffrey Tambor, who lived right next door), Stanley being Stanley could not have cared less about impressing them.

The Ropers Jeffrey Tambor Norman Fell Audra Lindley 1979-80

(l-r) Jeffrey Tambor, Norman Fell, Audra Lindley in The Ropers (Courtesy Everett Collection)

The Ropers ended up not being nearly as successful as its parent series, lasting only two seasons. Stanley and Helen returned to Three’s Company once more, in a Season 5 guest spot, and, of course, by then, the trio’s new landlord — Ralph Furley (Don Knotts) — had settled in as a popular addition after arriving early in Season 4. There was a little talk in the late 1980s of bringing the Ropers back in yet another spinoff called Three Apartments, but that never proceeded.

Newhart: “Pirate Pete”

Decades, 12:30am (late-night)

In this hilarious episode that originally kicked off the fourth season of Bob Newhart‘s second beloved CBS sitcom on Sept. 30, 1985, Newhart’s Dick Loudon fills in as a substitute for local kiddie-TV host “Pirate Pete” (aka Mr. Pittman, played by guest star David Wayne).

The show isn’t quite as “sophisticated” as producer Michael (Peter Scolari) assures Dick that it is, and after stammering through the program’s inane intro in a delightful manner that only Newhart can pull off, Dick ends up shocked by the show’s gross commercialism. He tries to steer this ship toward more educational content, but he inadvertently ends up getting Pirate Pete canceled.

Meanwhile, George (Tom Poston) plays a prank on Stephanie (Julia Duffy) by adjusting her scale a couple of pounds and causing her to believe she has gained weight.

Bob Newhart in the "Pirate Pete" episode of <i>Newhart</i> (1985)

*speaks in hesitant Newhartian stammer*: “Ahoy, mateys. Shiver me timbers, if it isn’t time for Pirate Pete’s Cartoon Lagoon.” (

The Twilight Zone: “Night Call”

Syfy, 2:28am (late-night/early morning March 23)

You may need to DVR this very late airing of a classic episode from the fifth season of Rod Serling’s original anthology series, but it is worth it. And it is also so creepy, and somewhat heartbreaking, that even if you do stay up to watch it live, you may find it hard to go to sleep afterward.

That ambiance is courtesy of writer Richard Matheson, who adapted his own short story “Long Distance Call” (which ends differently and in an even more terrifying manner) and director Jacques Tourneur, who also helmed classic atmospheric chillers on the big screen such as Cat People (1942) and Curse of the Demon (1957).

“Night Call,” which originally debuted on CBS Feb. 7, 1964, stars Gladys Cooper as a disabled elderly woman who starts receiving anonymous, and disturbing, phone calls; are they coming from beyond the grave?