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TELEVISION & RADIO | TUNED IN

'Company' rife with strife

May 12, 2003|Mark Sachs | Times Staff Writer

It's been nearly 20 years since the lamely lascivious sitcom "Three's Company" ended its eight-season run on ABC, and it's reportedly been equally as long since two of the show's original cast mates, Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers, last spoke to one another.

The silent streak doesn't figure to be broken after Somers gets a gander at tonight's purported expose on the series. "Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of 'Three's Company' " (9-11 p.m. on NBC), narrated and co-produced by DeWitt, casts Somers and her minions as megalomaniacal heavies fueled by a deranged ambition to build Somers into the next Farrah Fawcett.

The series, which grafted the jiggle from "Charlie's Angels" onto a concept lifted from an English TV show, starred Somers as sexy dim-bulb Chrissie Snow, DeWitt as dependable roomie Janet Wood, and John Ritter as randy chef-in-training Jack Tripper.

The hook was that cash-strapped Janet and Chrissie needed someone to share their beachside apartment, and because of strait-laced landlord Stanley Roper (Norman Fell), Jack had to pretend he was gay if he was going to be a roommate. The series was a ratings winner from the get-go.

But when Somers reportedly threatened to leave after five seasons unless her weekly salary was bumped from roughly $30,000 to $150,000, it brought long-simmering tensions to a boil, and that's the thrust of tonight's drama.

The actors portraying the threesome (Melanie Deanne Moore as DeWitt, Bret Anthony as Ritter and Jud Tylor as Somers) do a credible job, but for a movie that rips into Somers for believing she was the focal point of "Three's Company," tonight's expose scarcely has a scene without her.

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