16th Jul2012

Laughonomics Part 1: Jack’s Bistro & Over Our Heads

by Will

I’ve always loved TV. Sure, you’re probably thinking, “Well, I love TV, too.” No, I LOVE TV. I was basically raised by it. It’s not just that I like watching TV. Like Kenneth Parcell, I love the industry, the magic, but also the business side of things. I’ve always had a fascination with business, and while watching a LOT of shows in syndication recently, I started noticing just how many fictional companies were depicted. Since most of these shows are anywhere from 20-30  years old, I started to wonder what exactly became of those businesses. Are they still thriving? Did they survive the introduction of the internet? To borrow a page from my pal ClaymationHowl, I figured we’d use this week to take a look back at some of this TV businesses and see where they ended up.



Show: Three’s Company/Three’s A Crowd

Business: Jack’s Bistro

Outlook: Anyone who’s seen Three’s Company knows the basics: Jack Tripper is a cook who lives with two girls. Sure, the landlords change, and the girls change, but his dream stays the same: he wants to own his own restaurant. In season 7 of Three’s Company, that dream comes true and he opens Jack’s Bistro. Since Jack specialized in French cooking, the menu featured items like Coq Au Vin. He was conned into renting the rundown restaurant from his former boss, Mr. Angelino, and when Three’s A Crowd started, the building was purchased by Mr. Bradford – the father of Jack’s live-in girlfriend.

A cute little restaurant, Jack’s Bistro only has about 6 tables in the entire establishment. Not only is this to promote an intimate feel, but it’s also probably due to the fact that there are only 2 employees – Jack and his surfer-dude stereotype assistant E.Z. At any given night, only about half of the tables are full. Business was NEVER booming.

Now, let’s focus on Jack’s personal issues. Just as Three’s Company dealt with the taboo of mixed-gender roommates, Three’s A Crowd dealt with the taboo of a cohabitating unmarried couple. Jack wanted to marry his flight attendant girlfriend, Vicky, but she wasn’t having it. Her parents had gone through an ugly divorce, and she didn’t want that for herself. Jack agreed to live with her, but he never really gave up on trying to change her mind about marriage. She was constantly on the go for work, and her father was Jack’s landlord. Let’s just say that Jack was dealing with stressors in every area of his life.

Verdict: Jack’s Bistro is closed. In fact, it’s been closed  since about 1987. When watching the one season of Three’s A Crowd, it comes off like Jack was more in love with Vicky than she with him. Hollywood loves a happy ending, but we were spared the season 6 finale wedding event. So, I’m able to be realistic and say that their relationship lasted about 2 years. Vicky simply loved her freedom, and Jack wanted to settle down. Mr. Bradford, not afraid to kick a man while he’s down, wanted a tenant in the space that would actually be able to pay the rent. The real estate was simply too valuable to waste, and it’s currently the site of a Starbucks. Since Jack boxed in the Navy, he went on to become a sports writer. He got married, and had three kids. Sadly, in 2001, he passed away after collapsing in a grocery store.

Oddly enough, the Regal Beagle is now a thriving franchise known for its happy hour deals. There are currently 15 locations in southern California.

                                                            (courtesy X-Entertainment.com)

Show: The Facts of Life

Business: Over Our Heads

Outlook: You know the story – there’s the Eastland School for Girls, which is chock FULL of students, yet the housemother Mrs Garrett only seems to give a shit about four of them: Natalie, Tootie, Blair, and Jo. After they graduated from school, they helped Mrs Garrett open her own bakeshop, Edna’s Edibles. In season 7, the store burned to the ground, but was rebuilt as Over Our Heads – something of a Gadzooks/Spencer Gifts hybrid. Mrs Garrett got married and moved to Africa, so the store was run by the girls and Cloris Leachman. Oh, and Mulleted George Clooney. These stores were ALL the rage during this era, as you could buy a giant nonworking pencil, or chattering teeth, or a large set of novelty lips. Pretty much if Judge Stone on Night Court had it, Over Our Heads sold it. If you want a closer look, Matt over at X-Entertainment did an INCREDIBLE job dissecting everything in the store. Needless to say, this was the kind of store that could ONLY thrive during the late 80s/early 90s. You can barely find a real Spencer’s these days, so good luck finding a copycat.

Verdict: There’s no way in Hell Over Our Heads is still open. The Facts of Life went off the air in 1988, and I’ll say that it the store survived until about 1992. Not too shabby, really. It was long gone, however, before it got the chance to jump on the Beanie Babies/POGs bandwagon. That might’ve actually saved it. All was not lost, however. In The Facts of Life Reunion, Mrs Garrett, now widowed, came back to America to start over. The movie ends before we see where she ends up, so here’s where my imagination takes over. Not only do I see her reopening Edna’s Edibles, but she also has the good fortune to be ahead of the curve on the whole cupcake craze. She rides this wave, and even ends up with her own TV show. At this point, Mrs. Garrett is probably the Paula Deen of baked goods.

Anyway, that’s it for today. Tune in tomorrow, when we discuss Jefferson Cleaners and Punky’s Place.