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The Ropers

The Ropers is an ABC network sitcom and spin-off of "Three's Company" developed by Don Nicholl, Michael Ross & Bernie West. It was loosely based on the British sitcom, "George & Mildred."

The show aired from March 13, 1979 to May 22, 1980, lasting for two seasons & 28 episodes.

Plot

The series centered on Stanley and Helen Roper as they adjust to living in the upmarket community of Cheviot Hills after they have sold their apartment building.

Cast

  • Norman Fell as Stanley Roper
  • Audra Lindley as Helen Roper
  • Jeffrey Tambor as Jeffrey P. Brookes III
  • Patricia McCormack as Anne Brookes
  • Evan Cohen as David Brookes
  • Dena Dietrich as Ethel Ambrewster
  • Rod Colbin as Hubert Ambrewster
  • Louise Vallance as Jenny Ballinger (season 2)
  • Lois Areno as Debbie Hopper
  • Richard B. Shull as Joey
  • Lucy Lee Flippin as Hilda (season 2)
    • Darcy Pulliam as Hilda (season 2)
  • Lucille Benson as Mother

Production

After the success of Three's Company in its short first season in 1977, ABC head Fred Silverman was anxious to capitalize on the show's success.

In early 1977, Silverman approached Norman Fell and Audra Lindley with the subject of doing a spin-off from the show after its first full season wrapped in the spring of 1978. Both actors as well as the "Three's Company" producers begged off as the show had yet to prove itself for an entire season.

However, with the show's continued success in its second season, the idea was brought up again in 1978, this time by "Three's Company's" own producers as well as new ABC head Tony Thomopolous (Silverman had gone to NBC).

The idea intrigued Lindley, but Fell was extremely reluctant to go throught with it because he was satisfied with his role on a show that was already a proven hit and was concerned that a spin-off would be unsuccessful, and thus put him out of a good role & job.

To alleviate Fell's fears, "Three's Company" producers contractually promised him that they would give the new series a year to prove itself; if the show were to be canceled prior to that time, then he and Lindley would return to "Three's Company" and a reluctant Fell agreed to the new terms.

Like "Three's Company", "The Ropers" was introduced as a late season replacement series in the spring of 1979 premiering the same night as "Three's Company" on ABC's successful Tuesday night lineup, airing at 10:00pm.

During its first season, the ratings for the show were very high (finishing at #8 for the 1978-79 season), and had the second-highest series premiere rating at the time.

After the season premiere, "Three's Company" went on hiatus, but "The Ropers" still did well. ABC reran the episodes over the summer of 1979 (in August on Sundays) where they continued to achieve high ratings leading many to believe that the series would enjoy a long run.

Cancellation

At the beginning of the 1979-80 season, ABC moved "The Ropers" to Saturdays at 8:00pm, resulting in an audience drop that put it near the bottom of the ratings.

Being placed on Saturday nights, rather than on the ABC Tuesday night lineup, caused an immediate fall into the bottom ten (#52 out of 61 shows for the week of September 17–23, its second week of the season) as the show was in direct competition with the NBC show "CHiPs." It was later moved to 8:30pm on Saturdays by January 1980.

The move upset Norman Fell to the point that he actually went to ABC headquarters in New York to plead with the network to move the show to a better time slot, but his effort was in vain and the show continued to pull in low ratings.

The drop in ratings and the fact that "The Ropers" weren't pulling in the key young demographic audience led to announcement of the show's cancellation by ABC in May of 1980.

The last three episodes aired Thursdays at 9:30pm after "Barney Miller" in May of 1980. With the series canceled, Fell approached Three's Company producers about the Ropers returning to the show, however, during the time "The Ropers" was on the air, the landlord characters had been replaced on Three's Company by the character of Ralph Furley.

The addition of Ralph Furley to the show had worked well and "Three's Company" had retained its popularity.

The idea of returning Fell & Lindley to their original roles on the show was undesirable to producers and ABC, mainly because they had one character playing the landlord role now as opposed to two, which would require more money to be paid out per episode.

The cancellation of "The Ropers" came just as Suzanne Somers began to renegotiate her contract, which would lead to her very public contract dispute during the 1980-81 television season that led to her departure from the series.

The cancellation of the show came just one month after the one-year contractual deadline had passed.

Fell would later state that he always believed the decision to pull the plug on the show had been made much earlier, but that the network deliberately postponed making the cancellation official until after the one-year mark specifically to be relieved of the obligation to allow Fell and Lindley to return to "Three's Company."

However, there was an attempt by producers to sell the show to Silverman over at NBC, but he passed on it too.

Despite the hard feelings, both Fell and Lindley made one final guest appearance on "Three's Company" in the 5th season (episode #96) in March of 1981, nearly a year after the end of their own series before the characters were retired for good.

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