For John Ritter fans, here are eight great ways to honor him on his birthday, or any day.
Comic actor John Ritter (1948 – 2003) is best remembered for his turn as Jack Tripper on popular 1980s sitcom “Three’s Company.” Ritter died at 54 of heart problems, but his legacy lives on in his classic television performances and his children including his sons, actors Jason Ritter and Tyler Ritter. For all you fans out there, here are eight great ways to honor John Ritter on his birthday (September 17) or any day.
1. Know the basics. The son of singing cowboy Tex Ritter and actress Dorothy Fay, Ritter was born into show biz — though he earned a degree in psychology from the University of Southern California 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” playing the Rev. Matthew Fordwick in 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 the sitcom “Three’s Company.” Costar Don Knotts called him “the greatest physical comedian on the planet,” and it’s easy to see why.
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.
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” (with second wife Amy Yasbeck), “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 the second season of “8 Simple Rules…,” Ritter died Sept. 11, 2003, after suffering an aortic dissection. The series 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.