Saturday, April 06, 2013

A rare un-aired Larry Gelbart pilot

UPDATE:  UNFORTUNATELY, THIS VIDEO HAS BEEN TAKEN DOWN.  I invite you to scroll up or down and read other posts.   Sorry about that.

Few people know that Larry Gelbart wrote the first pilot of THREE'S COMPANY. Actually, the first American adaptation of the British series. Imagine the THREE'S COMPANY you know but with smarter jokes and different girls.   I don't know why they decided to completely throw out his script once they recast but they did.   Actually, there were three THREE'S COMPANY pilots.  Ritter and Joyce DeWitt were in the second but with a different blonde.  She was replaced by Suzanne Sommers and the rest is dubious history.   John Ritter, Norman Fell, and Audra Lindley were in all three versions as was that insipid theme song.  (I know I'm going to get a bunch of irate readers commenting that I'm crazy and that the theme was great, but I'm standing my ground on this one.)

Ironically, there was a period of time when MASH was on Tuesday nights up against THREE'S COMPANY and TC killed it in the ratings.  It was only when CBS moved MASH to Monday nights at 9:00 did the show really take off.   David Isaacs and I were very relieved.  We were the head writers then and it was reassuring to know the show faltered in the ratings due to the competition and not us.   We didn't want to be known as the writing team that killed MASH.

Although Larry never got a created by or developed by credit he did receive a nice royalty for every episode. 

I don't know how this re-surfaced after so many years but it's worth taking a look.  Enjoy a look into the alternate universe.

17 comments:

Mark said...

Oops. The video is already down. Too bad. I wanted to watch it.

LouOCNY said...

Which goes to show the Industry reads Ken....

sanford said...

I was able to see it. I was not a fan of the show. How ever it would be interesting to know the reasons behind the recasting of the two women parts. Just goes to show how lucky one can be. I guess Somers does have some talent. She did appear in another long running series. How ever she has not done a thing since 1999 and some how remains relevant.

I would also like to know why they changed Ritter's name in the show and why they gave him a different career so to speak. In the pilot he was an aspiring film maker and in the series training to be a chef

Bill said...

You are crazy. The theme was great.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

A>Sanford: in the original British series he was training to be a che, too. Maybe dropping the script ny Gelbart had something to do with the original writer Brian Cooke coming over and insisting on a more faithful adaptation? I wish I could have seen it. I did the Dutch adaptation, fifteen year onwards, with a black comedy actor in the guys part (which made it 'juicy' again).

Mike said...

For the brave and foolhardy, UK pilot of Man About The House.
The seventies - the land time won't let us forget.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

THREE'S COMPANY wasn't necessarily a favorite show of mine, but the ONLY reason I like the theme song was because it was written and composed by the late Joe Raposo.

But actually Ken, you mention something in this particular post that throws back to an interesting subject matter you posted on a while back: you said that Larry Gelbart never received a "created by" or "developed by" credit for writing the first pilot script; that brings to mind the post you had a while back, debating whether or not Sol Saks really was the true creator of BEWITCHED for writing its pilot.

John said...

It's interesting that the level of TC comedy took a major step up in the first half of the 1970s; CBS led the way, but when the No. 2 programming guy, Fed Silverman, was hired away by ABC, he pretty much set about counter-programming his former network, while using the wider latitude shows had gotten in their comedy subjects since the success of "All in the Family".

ABC was the network that allowed a few well-written sitcoms to thrive (the pre-Silverman "Barney Miller", and "Taxi", when he allowed the MTM alums to do what they wanted), but for the most part the late 70s comedies were dumbed-down with added emphasis on T&A and obvious double-entendre gags (with the T&A of course also working its way over to action shows like "Charlie's Angels"). That's the climate the final version of "Three's Company" was ushered into, so it's no shock Gelbart's script would have been dumped and someone like Suzanne Sommers made the focus of the show

Pamela Jaye said...

I actually only saw the first part - the other night - when a friend posted it on Facebook (a link). One part was enough. I don't know why I didn't like it as much as the show I watched as a teen while my mother dissed it as Things don't work like this in real life, and then years later my mother watched it all the time (along with Leave It To Beaver and The Golden Girls (totally destroyed that theme song for me forever)). (Btw, Mum, my roommate's name is Dennis, and contrary to your opinion, nothing is going on.)
For those who missed it, Jack was a writer trying o get a script sold, but he could cook...

I meant to ask Ken about it, but things were busy and I forgot.

KB said...

Aren't the 2 rejected pilots on the DVD? And don't forget that Three's Co. Was eventually launched by former AITF scribes Ross-Nicholl-West

tb said...

Just might be the theme song that killed the theme song

Rob said...

Speaking of awful themes, "The Ropers" pilot is available:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-laeanF4tiA

The show was awful, of course, but I always liked the first episode, which airs as a 3's Co. episode in syndication. Fell and Lindley were certainly talented enough to carry a well-written show and deserved good writing.

ELP said...

The composer of the Three's Company and The Ropers theme songs was Joe Raposo who also wrote songs for Sesame Street.

The Gelbart version of the pilot was very similar to the British Man About The House pilot.

Johnny Walker said...

I've never seen any version of this show, not even the British one, but for those interested, the Larry Gelbart pilot can be found on the second season's DVD.

Anonymous said...

If you're interested in Man About the House, I would suggest seeing the final episode for an interesting comparison to Three's Company. If I recall correctly, it ended on a sad note with the brunette marrying Robin's brother and then she and Robin realizing they love each other when it's too late. Mind you, I did see it about 4 decades ago, so I may be off by a bit.

Mike from Montreal

VincentS said...

I could be wrong, Ken, but I seem to remember that Larry Gelbart did get a Developed for Television credit on MASH. Even if it was just for the pilot.

KryptonSite said...

Both of the pilots are on the Season 2 DVD, as another commenter pointed out.

One weekend I watched the original Man About The House pilot followed by all three versions of the Three's Company pilot. Made for a fun marathon of development.

Another fun one: Watching things like the Bob Newhart "P-I-L-O-T" to look for inconsistencies. Simon & Simon did it, too, recycling their unaired pilot for a Season 2 episode, though if you look closely enough you can find some things that were different, including their boss's name on a door.

Mr. Levine, did you ever work on a pilot that was massively retooled?