A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this still-hilarious '70s sitcom relies on sexual innuendo, silly physical humor, and monumental misunderstandings for its well-earned laughs. Throughout the series, Jack pretends to be gay so that his traditional landlords will allow him to live with two single women. There's no substantive negative commentary on homosexuality (though Jack sometimes camps it up a bit), but the masquerade is played for humor time and time again. The onscreen chemistry between Janet, Chrissy, and Jack (who fancies himself a ladies' man but rarely enjoys great luck with them) brings the subject of sexual attraction to the forefront, but the constant slapstick comedy keeps the tone light enough for family viewing with tweens. Even the innuendos seem pretty tame by today's standards; Chrissy's dumb-blonde shtick might raise more eyebrows among modern parents. Some kids might find the characters' constant mix-ups stressful.
What's the story?
For eight seasons in the late 1970s and early '80s, THREE'S COMPANY effortlessly combined slapstick, physical humor, and double entendres. The show (which was based on the British hit Man About the House) centers on aspiring chef Jack Tripper (John Ritter), who shares an apartment in Santa Monica, Calif., with two female roommates -- slightly neurotic florist Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt) and ditzy blonde Chrissy Snow (Suzanne Somers). In later episodes, after Somers left the show amid salary disputes, Chrissy was briefly replaced by her cousin, Cindy Snow (Jennilee Harrison), and then by the much more grounded Terri Alden (Priscilla Barnes). While the trio's co-ed bunking situation works well for them, their conservative older landlord, Mr. Roper (Norman Fell), thinks otherwise. He decides to live with it only after Jack lets Mr. Roper believe that he's gay -- when, in truth, Jack is happily heterosexual and even prides himself on his attraction to the ladies (though his roomies would probably disagree).
Is it any good?
As you can imagine, a premise based on one major misunderstanding just begs for more to follow -- and they certainly do. The name of the game here is comedy of misheard comments, misinterpreted situations, slapstick clumsiness, and drawn-out double entendres. Over the course of the show's eight-year run, Jack & co. weathered many personnel changes (including the memorable addition of Don Knotts as new landlord Mr. Furley), but their onscreen chemistry held strong.
Although plenty of Three's Company's humor has sexual tones, the mood is so light and silly that it's really pretty harmless. Kids old enough to pick up on the flirting and longing gazes likely will understand their place in the overall comedy, and younger tweens will miss most of it amid the clumsy physical humor that's so prevalent. The only thing to really watch out for is the mild teasing that surrounds Mr. Roper's belief in Jack's homosexuality. While even that's kept very light, it's pretty frequent (he often refers to Jack as "one of the girls") and may raise questions from kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about getting along with siblings (and/or roommates). How does sharing living space with someone affect your relationship with them? What challenges does it bring? Families can also discuss the dangers of prejudging people. Have your kids ever felt like they were unfairly judged or labeled? How does it make them feel? How do they respond if they're teased? Also, what's the best way to handle a misunderstanding?