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.
8. Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham (Happy Days)
OK, the Fonz is the obvious choice here, but hear me out: think of the average person who wastes, er, spends their life on the Internet. They’re not the Arthur Fonzarellis of the world; they’re the Richie Cunninghams, the guy who stands next to the stud who can turn on jukeboxes with a hit of their fist. He’s a schemer, someone who has to work hard to get a member of the opposite sex to notice him, unlike his best friend, who can literally whistle and the ladies come a-calling. Plus, he likes milkshakes. I like milkshakes, therefore we’re all Richie C.
9. John Travolta as Vincent “Vinnie” Barbarino (Welcome Back, Kotter)
Take back everything I just said about Richie. Cool guy Vinnie Barbarino GIFs are as good as porn.
10. Dianne Kay as Nancy (Eight Is Enough)
The only correct answer to, “Who’s the best Eight Is Enough kid?” mostly because I can’t remember the personalities of the rest of the Bradford clan, but I do recall loving Nancy when I was a 14-year-old boy who watched far too many Eight Is Enough reruns, for some reason *looks at picture* Oh yeah, that’s why.
11. Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox as Ponch and Jon (CHiPs)
/is afraid to Google “ponch and jon fan fiction”
12. Catherine Bach as Daisy Duke (The Dukes of Hazzard)
And I quote: “The network censors believed that Daisy’s famous cut-off shorts alone would be too revealing. The shorts were so short that the only way the producers could get them on air was for Catherine Bach to wear flesh-colored pantyhose with them to ensure that the shorts revealed no more of her than intended.” Over five million horndogs bought the Daisy Duke poster, but most impressively, Catherine Bach makes Jessica Simpson at her peak look like Jessica Simpson now.
13. Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker (All In the Family)
Jesus. Imagine the think pieces. Every week would be an excuse for Slate to filter their moralistic world views through the words of Archie Bunker, TV’s most lovable bigot. Then the backlash would happen, followed by the backlash to the backlash, which would naturally lead to the Archer/All In the Family Tumblr mash-up (Archer Bunker?). And that’s before Fox News shared their two cents. Maybe it’s for the best Archie happened in the 1970s, when people didn’t go out of their way to be offended. Damn shame, too — since Frasier went off the air, there hasn’t been a TV character who spends most of his day sitting in a chair for me to relate to.
14. Isabel Sanford as Louise Jefferson (The Jeffersons)
Something something funny women something something funny black women something something Kenan Thompson something something what up with that. Anyway, The Cleveland Show getting cancelled by Fox earlier in the year means that there’s not a single current network sitcom led by a black cast. This is wrong and weird for about 40 reasons that aren’t worth stating in the same post where I typed the words “ponch and jon fan fiction,” but clearly, TV is desperate for a black sitcom that doesn’t begin with “Tyler Perry Presents…,” and even more in need of someone like Louise Jefferson.
15. Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, and Jaclyn Smith as Sabrina, Jill, and Kelly (Charlie’s Angels)
The only question is: which Angel? Trick question: Kelly.