The Three’s Company TV theme song may not be the most recognizable TV theme song in existence, but it’s got to be close. You know...
Come and knock on our door. We’ve been waiting for you. Where the kisses are hers and hers and his --Three’s Company, too!
At least, that is, for the generations who were watching TV in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I can imagine anybody born after 1990 reading this and thinking, "Three's Company? Never heard of it."
So how did the Three’s Company TV theme song get made? What’s the history behind it? As The TV Professor has done countless – well, several – times before, we’re going to do a deep dive on how this TV theme song came about.
Today's "TV Lesson" Breakdown:
The origins of Three’s Company
Three’s Company was an adaption of a British TV series called Man About the House, which first aired in 1973 and lasted until 1979. The first episode of Man About the House should sound pretty familiar to Three’s Company fans. The British pilot episode centered around two flatmates, Jo and Chrissy, giving a wild party to their roommate, Eleanor, who is moving out. After the party, they discover a guy named Robin Tripp in their bathtub, asleep. Their landlords? George and Mildred Roper.
It was a huge hit in England, and the Broadway writer Peter Stone thought American audiences would love it. Stone, who wrote the play (but the music) to the musicals 1776 and Sugar, wrote a pilot of the script, of what would eventually be called Three's Company, setting the series in New York. ABC Fred Silverman read the pilot and didn’t think it would work. But Silverman liked the overall idea of doing a remake of Man About the House, and so he asked Larry Gelbart, who created the TV series M*A*S*H, to pen a pilot script.
Gelbart agreed, apparently reluctantly, and it is said that his son-in-law named the series Three’s Company. This pilot, too, didn’t quite make it. Silverman liked this script, but ABC wanted to recast some of the actresses who were playing Chrissy and Jenny, who name would eventually evolve into Janet. The script, too, would end up being rewritten.
It was during this period of development – from about 1975 to 1977 – that, of course, a theme song was worked on.
Eventually, TV producers and writers Don Nicholl, Bernie West and Michael Ross would get involved in creating the series.
Of Man About the House, Don Nicholl said of the series, in 1979, to Neil Shister, then a TV critic, “The characters in that show were sexually bold and forthright. They didn't just talk about sex, they did it. In scripting for an American audience, we needed more innocence.”
In describing the thinking in shaping Janet and Chrissy’s characters in the mid-1970s, Nicholl said, “There would have been something off-putting about aggressive women to viewers in this country--a female character who makes the first move loses some charm and sympathy. Innocence, on the other hand, always evokes favor.”
Here are a few more interesting items I found when researching Three's Company (which really have nothing to do with the actual theme song, but I will get into the theme song in a moment):
- Loni Anderson and Joanna Kerns both auditioned for Chrissy. Loni Anderson, as you probably know, went onto star as Jennifer, the secretary on WKRP in Cincinnati, and Joanna Kerns played Maggie Seaver, the mom on Growing Pains. They would both later guest star on Three's Company, however.
- In the 1998 The Three’s Company book, Come and Knock on Our Door: A Hers and Hers and His Guide to "Three's Company,” John Ritter told author Chris Mann that he didn’t recall his screen test with Joanna Kerns but remembered Loni's. He said, "She was too beautiful, too savvy. No one would believe she couldn't live in her own apartment, that she would have to struggle to get the rent paid. But I don't know why she didn't get it; she did a great audition."
- Also from Mann’s book: Joyce DeWitt was noticed by ABC after a two-part Baretta episode, and then she read for the role of Fonzie's girlfriend, Pinky Tuscadero. She was wrong for the part, but the network wanted her for something... and that something eventually became Three's Company.
- One of the working titles for Three’s Company was Mixed Singles. Sounds like a tennis sitcom, or maybe a sitcom set at a bar.
- Some of the actors who unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of Jack Tripper include Billy Crystal (who soon found fame on Soap), Barry Van Dyke (who would go onto act in various shows like Diagnosis Murder with his father) and Michael Lembeck (who also didn’t land the role of Fonzie on Happy Days, but he later memorably played Max, Julie's husband on One Day at a Time).
The main talent behind the Three’s Company TV theme song
Many people were behind the making of what would be called “Come and Knock On My Door,” and I know I won’t get them all. But here are some names you’ll probably be interested in.
If you’ve heard of him, it’s probably because he was a composer who became known for his prolific work on Sesame Street. Yes, the guy who wrote hits like “Bein’ Green” and “C is for Cookie” and “Sing,” which later became a hit for The Carpenters, also wrote “Come and Knock on My Door." Roposo did work for other children’s shows, as well. It's kind of surreal to consider that his resume includes everything from The Electric Company to Three’s Company.
Raposo also played the saxophone on the Three’s Company theme song.
The co-executive producer of Three’s Company wrote the lyrics to “Come and Knock on My Door.” The lyrics look pretty silly in print, but with the music, it certainly worked. Here’s the entire song:
Come and knock on our door... (Come and knock on our door)
We've been waiting for you.... (We've been waiting for you)
Where the kisses are hers and hers and his,
Three's company too.
Come and dance on our floor... (Come and dance on our floor)
Take a step that is new... (Take a step that is new)
We've a loveable space that needs your face,
Three's company too.
You'll see that life is a ball again, laughter is calling for you...
Down at our rendezvous... (Down at our rendezvous)
Three's company too!
You have to give Joe Raposo a lot of credit. The lyrics may seem pretty light on substance, but the song is both inviting the viewer to essentially move into the apartment complex with Jack, Chrissy, Janet and the Ropers (after all, they’ve been waiting us, and they have a loveable space that needs our face).
But it also is essentially describing the plot of the pilot episode – Jack needs a space to live.
The lyrics also suggest that this show is modern and different (“take a step that is new”) and that the 1977 series may be a little more risqué than previous sitcoms (“where the kisses are hers and hers and his”). The Three’s Company theme song works on a lot of different levels.
Incidentally, if things had gone a little differently, the song might have sounded a lot different than it turned out. The story goes that the producers wanted the actors playing Jack Tripper, Chrissy Snow and Janet Wood to sing the theme song.
And the story continues that after hearing John Ritter, Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt belt out the theme song… the producers immediately hired two professional singers.
Julia Rinker-Miller was one of those singers. Unfortunately, there’s very little out there in newspaper archives and the internet about Julia Rinker-Miller, a singer who, at least at the time, was living in Los Angeles when she was hired as the female half of the singing duo for “Come and Knock On My Door.”
Singing ran in the family. Julia Rinker-Miller’s aunt was Mildred Rinker Bailey, a jazz singer who died way too young, in 1951 at the age of 44, from diabetes.
No, we’re not talking about THAT Ray Charles. This Ray Charles, who sang the male vocals on “Come and Knock On My Door,” never had massive hits like, “Hit the Road Jack.” This Ray Charles’s real name was Charles Raymond Offenberg, but he didn't think that would get him very far in show business, and so in 1942, he changed his name to Ray Charles. In 1944, he made the name change legal.
He named himself after a famous silent movie idol, Charles Ray. At the time, what this Ray Charles didn’t know was that there was a blind teenage musician who was already getting gigs playing the piano – and that someday, his fame would completely eclipse his. Ray Charles also didn’t know that during the 1940s, there was ANOTHER musician named Ray Charles, a lyricist who was named Charley Carpenter but was writing under the name Ray Charles. Yes, it gets confusing.
So, anyway, this Ray Charles, before singing the Three’s Company theme song, would have a very successful career in music. He was the band conductor on The Perry Como Show, which aired on TV from 1949 to 1963. Como started calling the singers, The Ray Charles Singers, and Ray Charles led his group in many TV commercials for brands like Lipton Tea, Lucky Strike and Chesterfield cigarettes and Cover Girl cosmetics.
Ray Charles didn't seem to mind the other more famous Ray Charles getting all of the attention. The more famous phenom known as Ray Charles performed, in fact, with the lesser-known Ray Charles on Perry Como.
"We just sat on the piano bench and talked music," the lesser famous Ray Charles told a reporter years later of his association with the famous soul singer. "We also worked together on a Glen Campbell Show. I played out a melody of his songs."
In 1973, Ray Charles, or the guy who was born Charles Raymond Offenberg, told a newspaper, “My problem now is that it's taken for granted anything musical belongs to the other Ray Charles. It doesn't bother me when the public makes that mistake. But it irks me when people in the industry don't know one from the other."
For good reason. Charles didn’t want his career in music to dry up. Fortunately, for him, it didn’t, and in 1977, he was hired to sing the TV theme song for Three’s Company.
There’s an amusing story in how that happened. Ray Charles told a reporter in 2008 that he was asked to teach the tune to the show’s stars – John Ritter, Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt – and after about an hour, he was asked by the producers how he thought they were doing.
Charles didn’t want to say anything negative about the actors' performance, and so he said, “I’m not sure.” The Three’s Company producers then said, “Well, we are. We like the way you sing it.” And so they hired Ray Charles and ultimately Julia Rinker-Miller.
Ray Charles, born Charles Raymond Offenberg, died in 2015. For those wondering, the legendary Ray Charles died in 2004.
Born May 7, 1947, in Missoula, Montana, Gary Herbig is an extremely accomplished musician who has played just on just about everything imaginable, including playing the clarinet in the end credits of Three’s Company. He also played on the theme songs for ALF, Roseanne, Home Improvement and other TV series. His music has been in movies like Three Men and a Baby and Saturday Night Fever and Police Academy and Romancing the Stone. He toured with Elvis twice. The man is a musical legend, even if he isn’t all that well known.
He was an extremely successful guitarist, especially on TV. He played guitar on Bonanza’s opening TV theme. His guitar work started off Green Acres’ TV theme song. And, yes, he lent his gifts to the Three’s Company theme song. In particular, you can hear Tedesco playing right before the singing starts.
He was a drummer who passed away in 2019. He once said in an interview, “I still laugh, I turn on the television, and here’s Three’s Company. Some of the greatest drumming I ever did, because I was not that kind of a drummer. I was never a soloist. I was an accompanist.”
Blaine went onto say that when the series redid the theme song, as they did throughout the years, as the cast changed, Joe Raposo would tell him, “Hal, more. This year, I want you to play more. Play more drums. Play more. Play more.”
So if you notice the drums in the Three’s Company TV theme song, that would be Hal Blaine playing.
I am not positive, but I assume it was Bill Hobin who directed the little bit of action that goes on during the Three’s Company TV theme song. You see Jack Tripper, riding his bicycle alongside the bike trail near Santa Monica’s beach, and he ogles a beautiful woman -- and then crashes into the sand.
(That woman? We never see her face, but it has been said many times that she is Suzanne Somers, wearing a dark wig.)
Hobin directed 31 episodes of the first two seasons of the series, including the second TV pilot, the one where Janet Wood (Joyce DeWitt) makes her first appearance, and the third pilot that finally featured Suzanne Somers as Chrissy Snow.
Random Trivia about the Three’s Company TV Theme Song
These are just some random additional notes about the theme song – with a few other interesting non-theme song items thrown in here.
- The first three seasons show the apartment where Jack, Janet and Chrissy (and later Cindy and Terri) live. The apartment was actually a house in Santa Monica -- 2912 4th Street, if you’re curious. (And, by the way, if you ever go on a Santa Monica tour, looking for Three’s Company landmarks, stop at Chez Jay and Ye Old King’s Head, two pubs that are rumored to be the inspiration for the Regal Beagle, where everybody hung out.)
- Seasons 4 and 5 showed the gang at the Santa Monica Pier. At this point, the Ropers had left the series, and so with bringing in Mr. Furley (Don Knotts), the producers apparently decided it was time to dust off the opening credits sequence. I have no idea if this is accurate or not, but apparently -- this comes from some random comment I found on the internet -- the guy that Larry (Richard Kline) puts his arm around was actually a crew member. (In the credit sequence, Larry thinks it is a beautiful woman and doesn’t realize he is sitting with a guy with long flowing hair and a mustache.)
- Seasons 6, 7 and 8. The opening sequence was filmed at the Los Angeles Zoo, in Griffith Park, when Priscilla Barnes joined the show. By now, Suzanne Somers had left, and Jenilee Harrison had taken her place as Chrissy's cousin, Cindy, and once Terri (Priscilla Barnes) came aboard, she was relegated to a more minor part. Anyway, during the seasons with the zoo sequence, you’ll notice a little boy, about a year old, running up to Janet. That was unscripted – and it was also John Ritter’s son, Jason. (I have no idea who the other kid in the shot is, however.) The producers liked the moment, though, and kept it in. And at the beginning of the theme song, if you recall when Ritter's Jack Tripper is on a fence (there was a photo of the moment several paragraphs ago), he sees an attractive woman, looks at her and then falls backwards but manages to hang onto the fence. Well, according to a YouTuber who has a ton of videos about Three's Company, that woman was Richard Kline's girlfriend, Sandy Molloy. They later married.
Where to watch Three’s Company (at the time of this writing): There may be other places, but Pluto TV has a 24-hour Three’s Company channel that I can recommend with one beef. Pluto TV should show Three’s Company episodes in full, the way they once aired on prime time, instead of cutting them for commercials, in order to fit each episode in 30 minute slots.
Articles similar to this Three’s Company TV theme song profile: The TV Professor has several TV theme song on the blog, but maybe you’d like this one about how the TV theme song for Laverne & Shirley came about? Or maybe you'd like to pick up some marriage tips from the Ropers?