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Saturday, September 17, 2011

TGI...S: Jack Tripper from Three's Company

Today is September 17, 2011, and because it's Saturday, I should be talking about Saturday Morning cartoons, right?

Not this week.

This happens to be the first day of the September Switcheroo. For one week, I take the theme days and mix them all up, to keep you readers guessing as to what the possible topics could be. This week will last from the 17th to the 23rd and here are the switches that will be happening this week.

Saturday Morning Cartoons changes to TGI...S.
Sunday Jukebox changes to A Sunday Across The Pond
Monday Matinee changes to Just Another Arcade Monday
Tuesday Leftovers changes to Tuesday Night At The Movies
Across The Pond And Beyond changes to Wednesday Afterschool Cartoons
Thursday Night At The Arcade changes to Anything Goes Thursday
TGIF changes to Friday Night Videos

These changes will only last for ONE WEEK and then will go back to the regular schedule beginning September 24.

So, for now, let's continue on. We had a feature on one sitcom star yesterday...we may as well have an encore of it today.

It's fitting that I am posting the first day of the September switcheroo on September 17, because it happened to be the birthdate of the actor who played today's featured character.

It seems hard to believe, but if he were still alive, John Ritter would be 63 years old today. The actor passed away eight years ago, on September 11, 2003 after suffering a heart attack caused by an aortic dissection. At the time of his death, he was filming episodes for the sitcom '8 Simple Rules (For Dating My Teenage Daughter), and his death was such a tragedy for those who worked closely with the actor, and knew him. What made it even more tragic was that he died on the same day as his daughter's fifth birthday. 8 Simple Rules continued on the air until 2005 with new characters added, and some of the film projects that he completed prior to his death were dedicated in his memory. Ritter's widow, Amy Yasbeck, has also spearheaded a research study to determine the factors that caused her husband's death, so that they could find a way to prevent aortic dissections from causing any further deaths.

Although John Ritter has been gone for eight years, his talent and his humour will continue to live on from his recurring role on 'The Waltons' to his last role in the movie 'Bad Santa'. He even had roles that attracted young children, as he was the voice of Clifford The Big Red Dog in the PBS series that aired from 2000-2003.

All of those roles certainly contributed to the success that he had as an actor, but his most famous role was one that he played on one show from 1977-1984, and then again in a spin-off that ran from 1984-1985.

When Three's Company first debuted on ABC on March 15, 1977, nobody knew how much of an impact the show would have on prime-time television. Almost immediately, the show skyrocketed in the ratings. The show first hit #1 on the Nielsen ratings on Valentine's Day, 1978, and the show as a whole hovered in the top ten for six of its eight seasons.

A large reason why the show worked so well was because of the chemistry between each of the cast members, although there were a couple of memorable ones in the show's eight season history. In 1979, the Ropers moved on from the show to star in their own short-lived sitcom, and were replaced by Mr. Furley (Don Knotts). And I'm sure everyone remembers the scandal surrounding Suzanne Somers' exit in mid-1981, which lead to her role being replaced twice (first by Jenilee Harrison, and then by Priscilla Barnes who played Cindy Snow and Terri Alden respectively).

There were two constants on the show that seemed to link everything together. One was Janet Wood, played by Joyce DeWitt.

The other one was the character that John Ritter played.

And what a character Jack Tripper was!

When Jack first hit our screens, we actually met him in the bathtub. And he wasn't in there getting cleaned up. He had actually passed out in the bathroom of the apartment that Janet Wood and Chrissy Snow shared. He had actually been snuck into the apartment by a friend who knew one of the gate-crashers. At the time, the girls had thrown a party for their departing roommate Eleanor. When Jack was found sleeping in the bathtub, Janet and Chrissy were shocked to find him there in the first place, but thanks to Jack's charm and the fact that the girls needed another roommate to keep paying the rent, they decided to let Jack move in.

There was one problem. The landlord at the time, Stanley Roper, would have had a major issue with an unmarried man living with two unmarried women, so to keep him from being an issue, Janet tells Mr. Roper that Jack is gay, and Mr. Roper backs off, even though the very conservative Mr. Roper often made jokes at Jack's expense. Stanley's wife, Helen knew the truth, and unlike her husband was okay with Jack, Janet, and Chrissy sharing an apartment together.

Now, Mr. Roper certainly gave Jack a lot of grief for the way he lived his life (not realizing that it was all a ruse), and he often kidded around with him because he displayed personality traits that were in his opinion not 'masculine' or 'manly', or 'tough'.

Though if you really want my honest opinion, I thought that it was those very qualities that made Jack Tripper the great person he was. In fact, I would have to say that Mr. Roper couldn't be further from the truth when it came to his overall impressions of Jack Tripper.

Let's start with one quality right off the bat. Jack Tripper loved to cook. Part of the reason why Janet and Chrissy agreed to take Jack on as a roommate was because of his cooking skills. Jack loved baking and cooking. His hobby soon developed into a passion, and he enrolled in cooking school. A lot of the early episodes of Three's Company were centered around Jack's ability to cook, and his adventures during cooking school, which lead to him eventually opening up his own bistro. In most cases, Jack was incredibly confident about his cooking abilities and he often had great success with it. There were a few blips along the way though. It's hard to forget the time where he was in a cooking contest dressed as a woman (as the contest was only open to women), and he ended up making cookies that were flavoured with cough drops. And then there was this mishap that occurred when Jack entered a pie-baking contest. Clicking on this link will take you to a clip of the episode 'The Bake-Off', originally airing on February 27, 1979, where you'll see one of these mishaps in action.

The point is that while Mr. Roper may have dismissed a man knowing how to cook as being feminine, in all actuality, it make Jack more of a man. Certainly any of the women who he dated over the show's eight season one appreciated the fact that they were dating a man who knew his way around the kitchen. Sure enough, in a few cases, Jack wooed them over with the promise of a gourmet dinner, or a dessert, or what have you. He certainly did a better job of attracting the women, whereas Mr. Roper likely hadn't had any sort of intimacy with Mrs. Roper since 1957 (much to her chagrin).

In all honesty, I wish I had as much talent as Jack did in the kitchen. I probably would find a way to burn ice. But, hey, Jack Tripper gives all of us guys hope that we all can become great chefs, and be respected for it.

Another thing that Mr. Roper used to chide Jack on was the fact that he avoided conflict to the point where he was seen as being wimpy.

I actually don't believe this to be completely true.

Yes, it is very much true that Jack would rather not deal with conflict through physical means. When one of Jack's 'buddies' from the Navy came by for a visit, Jack was shocked to find that he had become blind. He was even more shocked to find that his 'buddy' wouldn't leave until Jack hit him! For the whole length of the episode, Jack waffled on the idea, which of course made the audience howl with laughter. Finally, when Jack developed the courage to finally try to hit him, he was flattened by the guy!

With 'buddies' like him, is it any wonder he avoided resolving conflicts with physical force?

The real irony of this is that while Jack served in the Navy, he took up the sport of boxing! Yet he hated having to use physical force in order to defend himself.

According to Mr. Roper, Jack Tripper was a wimp.

According to myself, Jack Tripper is a lot like me.

I am what you say a fairly big guy. 6'2”, around 230-ish. By all accounts, I should be a powerhouse. But I actually don't like physical violence to settle a score. It's just not my thing. I much prefer the art of conflict resolution through spoken word, or by writing it out.

Mind you, as a result of not fighting back, I tended to get beat up in the schoolyard where kids tried to give me wedgies and 'Hurtz Donuts', but that was who I was. I certainly don't consider myself to be a wimp for that. I just prefer not to resolve conflicts by force.

And neither did Jack.

Though one thing I will say about Jack (and this is a fantastic quality to have in my opinion) is that he is fiercely protective of his female roommates. Certainly he wasn't possessive or hovering...he did let them have their space. But if someone tried to hurt them, Jack could be set off.

Sometimes, it backfired on him. Jack attempted to subdue a drunk person at the Regal Beagle, but when he failed, Terri ended up taking care of the goon with her newly acquired karate skills. Had Mr. Roper still lived at the apartment complex, he probably would have never let Jack live it down.

Or, there was the time when Chrissy came home in tears because her date mistook her friendliness for something else, and the 'guy' happened to drop by the apartment. Jack wanting to protect Chrissy ended up punching the guy in the face. What Jack didn't realize was that the man he punched was a police detective. Ironically enough, Mr. Roper convinced the detective to drop the charges.

So, Jack's intentions were good, but his klutzy nature kind of worked against him. Still, there were other times where his protectiveness towards Janet and Chrissy was receptive. He helped Janet a few times by making her see that some of the guys that she was interested in were using her. This included a high school friend that Janet had a crush on, but who ended up treating her like nothing more than a big score. Jack and Chrissy sent him on his way fairly quickly. There was also the time in which Janet was interested in taking a dance class, and how she had a teacher build up her confidence to the point where she was going to quit her job as a florist to pursue dancing as a career. But when Jack discovered that her instructor was a sleaze ball, he made Janet see that he was a jerk, and he ended up being a real friend to her.

I mean, certainly Jack could have just punched them out, but that wasn't his style. You could see that the only way Jack even would remotely use physical force is when he believed that someone physically harmed one of his roommates. Instead, he chose to focus his attention on trying to help his roommates feel better. For as much as he drove his roommates crazy, he really did love them, and wanted them to feel better. That took precedence over anything else. And, that was a quality that made Jack stand out in a good way.

And, sometimes, Jack ended up embarrassing his roommates (though in most cases it was not intentional), and quite often than not, Jack would have to eat a lot of humble pie in order to make it up to them. I cite May 4, 1982 as a prime example of this. That was the episode in which Jack was dragged to a stuffy cocktail party by Janet, and Jack decides to have a drink to loosen up. Well, he certainly did that.

After the party, Janet was deeply embarrassed, and it took a while for her to look Jack in the eye. But Jack somehow ended up getting her forgiveness because he really didn't feel good about himself when he hurt those closest to him.

He wasn't weak. He was sensitive. And, really, that's a quality that I think more men should have.

Of course the one thing that made Jack Tripper most memorable was the actor who played him. Through his physical comedy and his quick wit, John Ritter was truly the embodiment of everything that Three's Company stood for. He even brought his quick wit on times when they screwed up with bloopers...

...and he even poked fun at his most famous role on what would be his final sitcom.

John Ritter will never be forgotten, and he is sadly missed. A life taken far too soon. However, if there is one thing that is of comfort, it is that he brought us a character that was well-rounded, kind-hearted, and incredibly clumsy.

Jack Tripper will continue to live on.

Thank you, John Ritter. Thank you for the memories.

1 comment:

  1. Oh come on, you have to admit, Jack Tripper was pretty effeminate in his speech and mannerisms. It would have been pretty easy to believe that he was gay. And as for Mr. Roper, he was the man, perhaps rivaled only by Chuck Norris.