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Author of the hit, acclaimed TV tell-all Come and Knock on Our Door, Retroality.TV editor Chris Mann served as Consulting Producer on NBC's hit 2003 telefilm Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Three's Company. He's also covered talent, legal issues and social trends as a freelance writer for TV Guide, emmy, Geek and other publications. Additionally, Chris pens and sometimes art directs celeb cover-story profiles and photo shoots for numerous healthy living magazines. click for more
JOHN RITTER RAVES: In this 1997 interview with RetroRewind.com's Dave Harris, the late, great John Ritter graciously shares supportive words for Chris Mann and Come and Knock on Our Door (see 4:40)
"I have to admit that Come and Knock on Our Door was the very best book I ever read about any TV show. I felt like I was on the set of Three's Company. The author (lemme just take this time to say that Chris Mann is a genius) captured every element of the show." -Bill Cassin (Scarsdale, NY)
"Chris Mann did a fantastic job on this book! I entered this reading experience expecting a superficial offering of one-sided stories about the trials and tribulations of this pop culture phenomenon known as Three's Company. I exited feeling satisfied at the invested hours I spent in reading this book." -Robert Nguyen (Orange Cty., CA)
"Chris has managed to tell the backstage story in a non-biased manner but has decided to let the stars tell their own sides, ensuring their integrity and the integrity of the book in the process. This book is anything but a tabloid. It tells the stories from those who experienced it. No commentaries are made. No opinions are offered. Just the facts.The show itself was dissected and Chris Mann speaks about the behind the scenes goings on as if he were there. -Roy J. Dlucca (Phoenix, AZ)
"This is one hell of a good book. One you can really get glued to. Very informative. I just love it. I'm buying all the Three's Company DVDs as they come out, and this is like a bible to them." -Brian (Melbourne, Australia)
"Like so many others, I grew up watching Three's Company, so I couldn't wait to dive into this book. The behind the scenes stories are alternately funny and enlightening, and the author clearly went to great lengths to present all sides of the story. This is especially important, since opinions on the Somers situation vary widely." -J.T. Schweizer (Queens, NY)
"It documented the fight between Suzanne Somers and the producers so thoroughly, I felt as though I was there. It interviewed the actors and producers so honestly, I knew that (the experience) had really hurt them. It is almost impossible to be inside someones head, especially a celebrity's, but Chris Mann has taken that experience and put it on paper, making this one of the most (if not THE most) superb TV book I have come across." -"MooShoo2000"
"This book was very interesting, detailing in full the behind-the-scenes conflicts, including the much-ballyhooed incident with Suzanne Somers. But what I find most extraordinary is that the author gets EVERYONE'S side on this one ... he doesn't take sides, just presents both arguments and lets the readers decide who was right or wrong. What I enjoyed was that Chris Mann spent his time discussing the cast and the problems they were facing, not describing in detail the episodes we have all seen many times. Chris Mann did a great job of giving the public the information they wanted, and I must give him credit for gaining the cooperation of the entire cast, which seems unheard of these days." -Donald Brickeen (Memphis)
"It goes in depth and gives all view points, without taking sides. It blends Suzanne Somers' and Joyce DeWitt's interviews as if they were talking face to face. It holds every actor and person involved with the show at the same level of appreciation and regard." -A reader
"Just about everyone involved with the show is interviewed and gives their take on all the going-ons. There is a great description of how Three's Company finally got on the air, the tensions and problems that developed between its stars, the decision to cancel the show, and everything in between." -F. Leal
"I was constantly surprised at how much building tension there was behind the scenes of this number-one show." -A reader
"Gossip, drama, depth, this book has it all." -A reader (Miami, FL)
"This book provides a great way to bring closure to an epic adventure from my childhood." -A reader
Like the fine wine they drank while feasting on Nip/Tuck's Julian McMahon, Knots Landing stars Joan Van Ark and Donna Mills keep getting better with age. The still-hot actresses reprised their roles this week as high-society cougars on the hip FX plastic-surgery drama's Feb. 17 episode, which repeats on Sunday night, Feb. 21. The duo also joined Knots co-stars Michelle Lee, Kevin Dobson and Ted Shackelford in a first-ever fan meet-and-greet at the Burbank-based Hollywood Show autograph convention on Feb. 13-14. In these exclusive interviews with Retroality's Chris Mann, the sixtysomething sirens sound off on the pros and cons of "cougardom," the "disgusting" realities of reality TV and the media's "hurtful" coverage of Van Ark, Knots co-star Alec Baldwin and the on-the-prowl Tiger Woods.
JOAN VAN ARK Q&A
Retroality.TV: What do you make of Knots Landing’s fan following after all these years? Joan Van Ark: It’s amazing. It’s like having friends everywhere in the United States. I heard that a group a fans from London were coming in just to see us at this (autograph convention). We get a lot of fan mail from Europe—France, Germany, Russia. Knots has a huge following, and I think fans of the show are loving and loyal. Not many shows last 14 years on prime-time. That’s a milestone, and I’m very proud of it.
You also have a mini-Knots reunion on the Feb. 17 episode of Nip/Tuck. Donna and I play cougars again! I love this show and (producer) Ryan Murphy so much. Joan Rivers is also in this episode. We dine on poor Christian (actor Julian McMahon), who’s laid out on a surgical table like a stuffed pig in a dream sequence. We’re holding forks and knives. I just love it.
This saucy role is quite a departure from “Poor Val” Ewing. Since Valene, I’ve tried to do anything and everything but play a goody-two-shoes. I love Val, I adore her. But I spent a total of 15 years—if you count the first year I played her on Dallas. That was quite an investment for me as an actress.
If you were playing a goody-two-shoes today, the tabloid media would be dying to catch you on a bad day. What’s your take on the current, aggressive TMZ-style coverage of celebrities? Look at what they’ve done to Tiger Woods. Look at what they’ve done to that man. My feeling is his father—or the absence of his father in his life—is (the root of) what’s going on with Tiger and that marriage. But the media won’t leave him alone. No matter who you are, (the celebrity coverage) is obsessive and constant. It’s hurtful. For me, if they show my face in a bad photo, they latch into me hook, line and sinker. Even Entertainment Tonight now has blood on their hands. It's brutal.
I wonder what they’ll do with Alec Baldwin now. He was my brother on Knots. They really threw him under a bus (when endlessly publicizing his infamous voice-mail rant against daughter Ireland, then 11, in 2007). He loves that child so much. [Ireland reportedly called 911 this month after a tense phone conversation with Baldwin, who was then briefly hospitalized for evaluation on Feb. 11. Police said Ireland feared her father might harm himself. Baldwin's rep said the actor was "fine" and called the situation "a misunderstanding."]
On a lighter note, you’ve done some comedic roles on My Name is Earl and The Nanny. But you really spread your dramatic wings—to critical raves—on stage in recent years. I performed at the Kennedy Center (in 2004) in the world premiere of the Tennesse Williams one-act play Escape. That was a joy.
This was around the time you left another role you originated, Gloria Fisher-Abbott, on The Young and the Restless. Ironically, Ted Shackelford was later cast as Gloria’s husband. I loved Gloria, but I just felt like they were going in another direction with the character. I wanted her to be Anna Nicole Smith, Goldie Hawn and Drea de Matteo all rolled into one. But (the producers) were taking her to Joan Collins-shoulder-pads-via-bitch.
I’m spoiled because of Knots Landing, where I had the blessing and joy of collaboration. We all got to contribute and collaborate (on the script). In daytime, there’s no such thing. (Y&R’s producers) are wonderful, but it’s more or less their way or the highway. I felt like a visitor (on Y&R). It’s a nice place to visit but I didn’t want to live there.
I loved my sons on the show (actors Christian LeBlanc and Greg Rikaart). The original idea for me was to go in and do a story arc—a short burst of character—and then I’m outta there. I’d love to go in as a different character and screw up Ted and Gloria (now played by actress Judith Chapman). (Laughs.)
What would be your ideal role now? I’d love to play a goofy grandma or a biker grandma: “What up?!” Somebody who’s trendy and over-the-top. I played Gloria as a gigolo ... You make a choice as an actor. My idols are Betty White, Doris Roberts and Joan Rivers. I love Joan because she never gives up. She has so much energy and a spirit to die for. Adversity has nothing on her. She takes chicken shit and makes chicken salad … I’m not Shirley Knight or Tyne Daly, who are far better actresses than I am. But, like Joan Rivers, I plan to kick it for as long as I can kick it.
DONNA MILLS Q&A
Retroality.TV: What drew you to this first-ever Knots Landing reunion at a fan meet-and-greet? Donna Mills: I’ve done these (autograph shows) by myself. They’re okay, but they’re not as much fun as when you have a bunch of your buddies around. So when they said it’d be a Knots Landing reunion kind of thing I thought, “That sounds fun.” Even though it is Valentine’s Day weekend. (Laughs.)
Twenty years ago fans generally couldn’t get this close to stars. What’s it like to have those walls broken down a bit and having people pour out their hearts to you? What’s amazing to me is, you don’t realize when you’re doing a show like that that people are so affected by it. You know it’s popular and you have good ratings. But when the people come out and tell you how much it meant to them, how they looked forward to every Thursday night, that it was such a big part of their lives—it really’s affecting. And it’s really, really nice to know that something you did made a difference.
Knots fans will be thrilled to see you and Joan teaming up again as high-society cougars on the Feb. 17 episode of Nip/Tuck. We did the big episode like a year and a half or so ago. This is the follow-up on one of (Nip/Tuck’s) very last shows.
You played Clint Eastwood’s girlfriend in Play Misty for Me, and he’s a good decade-plus your senior. Older male suitors are often seen as studly or distinguished, but older women are called “cougars.” What does that mean to you? I don’t know. It’s kind of insulting. It shouldn’t be that way, but people tend to find it amusing. Nip/Tuck was different. The character I played on there—although she was the cougar type—she had much more interesting characteristics in that she wanted to look like a cat. She was based on a real woman (socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein). So that was really interesting to play.
But I find that most of the parts I’m offered are older women hitting on a young guy. And that’s, like, boring. That’s not really happening, so let’s move into what really is happening with women of my age. I don’t like (the “cougar” role) very much.
Nip/Tuck really did it brilliantly, though. It was so tongue-in-cheek and outrageous. That was really fun.
Good roles for actors of any age are sparse in the age of reality TV. I don’t like reality shows, and not just because they take away actors’ jobs. I don’t like them because they glorify bad behavior.
This coming from the woman who played the villianous Abby! But when someone is telling a story, the moral compass is there. The writers get around to, “The bad person always gets theirs.” They get their comeuppance. They don’t win. In reality shows people with bad behavior end up winning. Because they have a show, and they’re being paid a lot of money to do that show. And they’re living their lives that way—their real lives! I think it’s disgusting.
They’re not gonna do a show about some really lovely, nice family whose kids go to school and learn and go to college, and whose parents have a happy marriage. They’re not gonna do that show.
You did a Hallmark movie in 2008, Ladies of the House. Was that a unique opportunity for you? Well, I’ve done three or four movies for them now. It’s a different experience and it’s a nice experience. Their movies are geared toward an older audience. An audience that doesn’t want edgy and crazy and wild. They do nice stories about good people. And I applaud them for reaching that audience.
You're still getting beyond Abby. Because you still look great, are you expected to always be some kind of vixen? Thanks. Well, that’s why I mean—now a lot of the roles are the cougar kind of roles. That I don’t like. That’s why when I left Knots, I produced a bunch of movies on my own that weren’t about that. I did one about an alcoholic, one about spousal abuse, one about deadbeat dads. They were issue-oriented movies because the networks were doing them at the time. And I got to play the kinds of roles that I really wanted to play.
'HOLLYWOOD SHOW'-&-TELL: Retroality.TV has the scoop on
the Feb. 13-14 event featuring
a hot Knots Landing reunion,
Baywatch babes, Lindsay "The
Bionic Woman" Wagner, Hugh
"Wyatt Earp" O'Brian and more!
See Chris Mann's exclusive story
in the Los Angeles Times