John Ritter (AP photo)
John Ritter, the comic actor best known for his turn as Jack Tripper on Three's Company, was born Sept. 17, 1948. For all you fans out there, here are eight great ways to honor him on his birthday.
1. Know the basics. Ritter was the son of singing cowboy Tex Ritter and actress Dorothy Fay, so he was born into show biz – though he earned a degree in psychology from USC before his acting career took off. His first big TV appearance? He was a bachelor on The Dating Game when he was just 18.
2. Watch a clip from his first regular acting gig. Ritter made guest appearances on several TV shows in the early '70s, but his first recurring role was on The Waltons. He played the Rev. Matthew Fordwick on a total of 18 episodes over four years.
3. Laugh along with his breakout role. In 1977 Ritter landed the job that would make him a star – playing Jack Tripper on Three's Company. Costar Don Knotts called him "the greatest physical comedian on the planet," and it's hard not to agree with him.
4. Don't forget the spinoff. Three's Company stayed near the top of the ratings for its eight seasons – and we loved Jack Tripper so much that we wanted to see more. The spinoff, Three's a Crowd, didn't fare as well as the original, lasting only one season. But true John Ritter superfans loved it, too.
5. Say hello to a new blonde costar. The '90s saw Ritter back on TV, starring opposite Markie Post in Hearts Afire.
6. Follow him to the movies. Though Ritter was most famous for his television work, he made a few great movies, too – like Problem Child, Sling Blade and Noises Off.
7. Dream of what could have been. Ritter's last role was in a new TV sitcom – 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter. Though the show lasted three seasons, Ritter graced it with his great talent for only a little more than one. During filming of 8 Simple Rules' second season, Ritter died after suffering an aortic dissection. The show went on without him, incorporating his death into the story… but it wasn't the show it had set out to be.
8. Say thanks for the memories. We wish we could have seen Ritter make 8 Simple Rules the long-lasting comedy classic that Three's Company was… and grow into even more and even better TV and movie roles. But we'll take what we can get – and what we got was a rich, three-decade career from one of the funniest guys ever to trip over a doorstep. Thanks, John Ritter.
Written by Linnea Crowther