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‘Three’s Company’ movie is a stinker

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When Jeff Zucker gets fired from his job as president of NBC's entertainment division, he'd better not look for work as a TV critic.

(And he will get fired. They all do. Network executives are like baseball managers — they all get the ax eventually.)

Earlier this year Zucker stood in front of a room full of card-carrying members of the Television Critics Association (which, granted, isn't the most elite of fraternities) and said of his network's telefilm about the 1977-84 sitcom "Three's Company":

"Let me tell you something. This is the single best television movie that we have. It is fantastic."

Now, unless Zucker was trying to tell us that every other TV movie on his network is an absolute piece of garbage — and network executives don't generally tell TV critics that sort of thing, even if it's true — the man is at least a little bit nuts. "Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Three's Company" is awful.

About the best thing you can say about it is that at times it's so bad it's entertaining. A movie you laugh at, not with.

This is a bad movie about a bad TV show. Puh-lease, just watch an episode of "Three's Company." It was a dreadful show. Hokey beyond belief. Low-brow slapstick. Stupid premise. Cartoon characters. The same plot every week.

It was the ultimate "jiggle" show — having the female stars bounce around in skimpy outfits was far more important than the writing or acting.

For those of you lucky enough to have missed it, Suzanne Somers (who played Chrissy) and Joyce DeWitt (Janet) were two gals who shared an apartment with John Ritter (Jack), whose comedic talents were by far the best thing about the show. Jack had to pretend to be gay so that landlord Mr. Roper (Norman Fell) would allow him to live there — leaving an opening for uncounted tacky sexual jokes.

What happened behind the scenes was far more interesting, although it's been told umpteen times before in various TV specials. Somers (played by Jud Tyler), egged on by her Svengali-esque husband/manager, got a big head and demanded more money and more star treatment; got the cold shoulder from her co-stars (played by Bret Anthony and Melanie Deanne Moore); incurred the wrath of network executives, who essentially fired her; and there was backbiting and bitterness that extends to today, almost 19 years after "Three's Company" ended its seven-year run.

Even though it's true, this story plays out like some scriptwriter's ludicrous fantasy. And how can you not laugh when Somers, having overplayed her hand, wails to her husband, "I wanted to be Farrah (Fawcett), not Liberace."

The only thing more ridiculous than the movie itself is an appearance by the real DeWitt, whose career evaporated when the show ended. She gushes over her "Three's Company" experience, saying that starring in "Three's Company" was "sheer ecstasy."


As for Zucker, maybe he has a future in acting. He did, after all, keep a straight face when telling us that "Behind the Camera" is "fantastic."

THE DIARY OF ELLEN RIMBAUER (8 p.m., Ch. 4): I liked the miniseries "Stephen King's Rose Red," all about creepy stuff that happened at a haunted mansion. I also liked the accompanying book, "The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer," which gave us The Rest of the Story about the house's past.

But the TV movie prequel based on the book is a snore.

Lisa Brenner stars as the title character, an innocent young woman dragged into a world of sexual depravity and supernatural horror by her husband, John (Steven Brand). And the TV movie leaves little to the imagination.

However, "Diary" isn't really scary or even creepy. And what's the use of a horror movie that isn't horrifying?

E-MAIL: pierce@desnews.com