"The Waltons" ..."Three's Company"...
and "8 Simple Rules" have their own pages)
John had a recurring role as Rev Matthew Fordwick in the long running US family dramaThe Waltons from 1972-1977, which began with his arrival on 'Waltons Mountain' as the new young minister. It followed his progress in the community, his courtship of schoolmistress, Rosemary, their subsequent marriage and later, the birth of their baby. Because he didn't appear every week, John was able to continue his career with numerous other projects, yet he became a firmly established character in the series which has endured and (in 1999) is still being screened in the UK (although in its latter stages and without John's participation unfortunately).
WhileThe Waltons ranks as John's first TV series, he wasn't the lead, and it was another show, which after a shaky start, began its lengthy run in 1977 and made John an instant TV superstar.
From 1973-76, there was a very different, very funny little half-hour sitcom being screened in England; it was called Man About The House and starred Richard O'Sullivan as Robin Tripp, Paula Wilcox as Chrissy and Sally Thomsett as Jo.
The originals...the English cast...this is how it all began...
(With the exception of the 3rd photo, the others are from an episode where Robin is trying to help Chrissy pass her driving test - of course trouble is just around the corner when she drives over a man's bicycle and, trying to help, Robin ends up in court on a drink/driving charge after drinking too much of George Roper's home-made beer. In typical Man About The House/Three's Company fashion, on the day of Chrissy's test, the examiner turns out to be the man whose bicycle she mangled!)
The show was witty, original and innovative. Popular at home, it also attracted major attention from network chiefs in the USA, and in 1977 (running until 1984) the third pilot show filmed (!) finally made its debut across the Atlantic, emerging as Three's Company and starring John Ritter in the Richard O'Sullivan role; Joyce de Witt in the Paula Wilcox role and Suzanne Somers in the Sally Thomsett role. For some reason, in Three's Company the female roles/personalities were reversed and Chrissy became the 'ditzy blonde'. I'm curious as to the reason for that. The first show was exactly the same as the pilot Man About The House, and in fact several storylines were also very similar. Richard O'Sullivan was nowhere near as handsome as John, but he was very lovable. One noticeable difference in the American show was that the humour changed to farce and employed a lot more physical comedy.
Unlike most shows that have attempted the transition (either way), Three's Company became a mega hit in the USA, (much bigger than Man About the House actually) catapaulting John, already a well known face to TV viewers (and, to a slightly lesser degree, the two virtually unknown actresses) into fame and fortune.
Prior to 1987 I suppose, in my ignorance, and basing my opinion mostly on Three's Company, John Ritter's name evoked a 'comedy actor' whose rather naive character (albeit very handsome!) kept falling over objects, rushing in and out of doors (reminiscent of a 1950's British Brian Rix farce) and trying to hide things from his roomies. I'm ashamed to say that for some reason I never really thought of John as particularly sexy (I guess the old hormones must have been a little out of sync for a while!). He was, of course; he was adorably cute, handsome, and as sexy as the sit-com allowed him to be, but I think for me personally, not being a fan of farce, the rather inane characters which surrounded him in that particular show, kind of obscured his sexuality. But whether or not you like Three's Company, its continuing success cannot be denied. Today, 23 years after the pilot was first screened, there are literally thousands of fans mourning the fact John prefers not to do a 'Reunion'...thousands still taping furiously in the US (which will, in 2000, still be screening the series) in order to complete their episode collection; a whole army of new, young ("twenty-something") fans who have been captivated by the show ...and numerous pages on the Internet for fans to enjoy and with which to feed their habit.
And there can surely be no doubt as to the main reason for the success of the show. While the actresses are competent in their roles, I personally find it hard to believe the show would have enjoyed the huge success it has, without John's ability for physical comedy and timing. Would it have survived 8 seasons with another lead actor? I don't think so, but I would emphasise that this is purely my personal opinion. Three's A Crowd only lasted for one season (as did its 'parent/mentor' show, Robin's Nest, and George and Mildred...which emerged as The Ropers in the US). Interestingly, though, both Man About the House and George and Mildred were made into feature films, something which didn't happen for Three's Company.
NOTE: Three's Company addicts, there is an extremely comprehensive book available in the US (not sure if you can get it in other countries). It's called Come and Knock On Our Door and its author, Chris Mann, has done a superb job, with the co-operation of the stars and others involved in the show's production. It includes masses of information and trivia from behind the scenes; the laughter and heartache associated with a hugely popular TV show; the well-documented split with Suzanne Somers, and an episode guide to all eight seasons (plus Three's A Crowd andThe Ropers). This is a MUST for every John Ritter fan, and even someone for whom the magic of the show is less apparent, like myself, will love this book.
In 1987, however, another shining light appeared in the TV skies... Hooperman hit our screens...and everything changed. Suddenly, John Ritter wasn't just a 'comedy actor' any more (to me); he was an extremely talented and versatile actor; and drop-dead gorgeous! This time his character wasn't silly at all. Although the show was a comedy drama with hilariously funny moments, Harry Hooperman was an Inspector with the San Francisco Police Department. He was overworked, poorly paid and his generous, easy-going nature was frequently abused by his colleagues and friends. Women found him extremely attractive (how could they not!) but they always seemed to let him down. He was, quite simply, an incredibly endearing lead character. He was a reluctant 'hero' on the streets; an "Average Joe" merely doing his job without expecting any recognition for laying his life on the line whenever the need arose. A trick he used on potential suicide victim was to drop a water-melon off the ledge of a high building. The idea was that Harry would crawl out on the ledge with the person and let him/her see what happened to the fruit when it exploded on impact with the street below, in the hope of preventing the jump. It was a cute ploy; an unusual technique which invariably worked.
Like 'Hearts Afire', 'Hooperman' was the product of another great talent, in this case, Steven Boccho, who, after co-starring his wife, Barbara Bosson as Hooperman's sometimes over-the-top 'Captain Celeste Stern', went on to spearhead the hugely successful L.A. Law and N.Y.P.D. Blue'.
Movies Page 1
Movies Page 2
"Three's Company" Photo Gallery
John Ritter on stage
"Hearts Afire" Page
"Hearts Afire" fan fiction
"8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter"
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