I was having a discussion with a talented co-writer, Mark Lewis, about sitcoms and Dr Who last week. We began by discussing the common format of having sitcoms based on 3s: Will and Grace, Frasier, Only Fools and Horses, Father Ted. It was interesting to think about how this works. We considered the potential for conflict, variety and what the represent.
With just two people you have a single axis for conflict. With three people, this is tripled. You have the opportunity for 2 v 1s. In addition, it retains the benefit of 1 v 1. A common writing trick for generating conflict between three people is to consider them as an adult, child and parent. Now, they don't have to be those in reality or all of the time. They just need to behave that way during the scene. I began to think about what other trios you could have. Here are some ideas:
We wondered also whether pairs or threes work better when on the move. So threes such as Preacher and On the Road. When in a two, you tend to stay together as its dangerous. So, in terms of the hero and his companion. Often the companion does run off and get in trouble or find something useful. Threes offer the opportunity for two hiding something from the other.
Now, Dr Who. Is it a two or a three. Well, it seems like a pair. the Doctor and his companion. But might the Tardis be the third. Or K9. Not really, as they don't have enough human-like qualities to generate sufficient and sustained conflict. Interestingly, in the recent series of Dr Who, it has become a three as Nardole is a regular. So if this is now a three, does it fit the adult-parent-child template? Perhaps: