It could’ve gone all wrong. The role of ditzy blonde Chrissy Snow in the original Three’s Company pilot was played by Susanne Zenor, not Suzanne Somers, and there was probably a Suyanne in there, too. The producers weren’t satisfied with Zenor’s performance, so Somers auditioned, won the role, and the rest is TV history. It’s hard to imagine Chrissy being portrayed by anyone but Somers, who for five seasons played an important role in the lives of millions of teenagers, then and now. Were Three’s Company on now, the online devotion to Somers would be overwhelming; her every quote GIF’d, her every move immortalized on websites with “Tube” in the URL.
So, in honor of Somers, who’s celebrating her 67th birthday today, let’s try to guess 15 other TV characters from 1977-1979, when Three’s Company was at its popularity peak, that Tumblr would’ve gone nutso over, whether due to their attractiveness, awesomeness, or attractive awesomeness. Also, Richie Cunningham.
1. Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern (Rhoda)
We begin with an obvious choice: Rhoda, the would-be inspiration for thousands of Tumblrs with the word “scarf” in the URL. Rhoda is one of the few spinoff shows that does the original, in this case The Mary Tyler Moore Show, at least some justice; that’s because she’s not a one-note character, like, say, Joey Tribbiani. She was confident and possessed a personality that wasn’t defined by the man she was sleeping with, a rarity on TV at the time. Sadly, there’s still a dearth of comedies led by strong female characters; Rhoda would shame the broke girls of the world.
2. Dan Haggerty as Grizzly Adams (The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams)
He looks like a Mumford & Sons song, sounds like a Ron Swanson wet dream, and talks to bears — Grizzly Adams is the manliest man that ever man’d. Also, he’s friends with Mad Jack the Mountain Man and a Native American named Nakoma, played by Don Shanks, who later starred in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. Think of the number of breathless “CAN YOU BELIEVE NAKOMA IS MICHAEL MYERS” nostagliagasms.
3. Cyb and Patricia Barnstable (Quark)
Maybe it’s an unpopular opinion, but I’m going to go out on a limb and proclaim Quark the greatest science-fiction show from the mid-1970s with the same name as a computer application starring blonde clones named Betty who piloted and navigated a rocket ship. Cyb and Patricia are identical twin sisters, and would later in a series of Doublemint Gum Commercials. Eh, you’re right: the Internet has no interest hot blonde sisters. My bad.
4. Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman)
As it relates to female superheroes, 1978 was more progressive than 2013, and it’s all because of Wonder Woman. Never forget Adrianne Palicki’s disaster of a pilot, but actually remember Lynda Carter donning the red top, blue pants, and bullet-deflecting abilities. Considering the success of The Avengers, there’s really no reason a Wonder Woman series wouldn’t work — maybe just don’t have David E. Kelley steer the damn thing.
5. Christopher Lloyd as Reverend Jim “Iggy” Ignatowski (Taxi)
Reverend Jim is everything to everyone. He elevated every scene he was in, quite often while feeling like he was being elevated off the ground (because, drugs); he was a walking quote, mumbling out classics like, “500,000 people [attended Woodstock]. Lucky for them, I went or it would have only been 499,999.” Taxi is one of the rare shows from the 1970s that would still comfortably fit on TV today, at least in part because of the good Reverend.
6. Tim Reid as Venus Flytrap (WKRP in Cincinnati)
The science nerds would go nuts over the “explaining the atom” scene.
7. Loni Anderson as Jennifer Marlowe (WKRP in Cincinnati)
Another selection from WKRP in Cincinnati, because WKRP in Cincinnati is the best. Loni Anderson is the quintessential bombshell blonde; she was cast after one of the show’s producers saw a poster of her in a bikini, proving everything you thought about Hollywood producers correct. WKRP was creative and clever enough to exploit expectations, though: Loni’s Jennifer Marlowe is actually one of the most well spoken, intelligent, singular characters on the show. I repeat: WKRP in Cincinnati is the best.
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