life in bedlam

The Unified Theory Of Sitcom Plots

Tonight at dinner, Eli was recounting the plot of what he considers one of the finest episodes of one of his favorite Disney shows, “Austin And Ally.”

“So, they accidentally let Ally’s bird, Owen, escape,” he says.

“That happened on Full House once,” Miles counters.

“Pets accidentally escaping happens a lot on sitcoms,” Brandon reflects.

“Ooh! It happened on Phinneas & Ferb, too!” Eli says.

“It’s a cliche,” Miles declares.

“No,” I correct him. “It’s a motif.”

Eli sighs and continues, “Anyway, they knew that Owen liked popcorn, so they decide to make popcorn, only, the girl put too much in and the popcorn filled up the whole room, and so they tried to eat their way out of it. It was hysterical!”

“That’s like a combination of The Brady Bunch washing machine episode and the I Love Lucy candy factory conveyor belt episode,” I offer.

Brandon looks inspired. “Maybe we should create an index of sitcom motifs and tale types  like Aanti Aarni did with folktales!”

Antii Aarne

“A concordance!” I reply. “Then we could use it to develop a unified theory of sitcom plots, write the ultimate pitch and get rich!”

*cue laughtrack*


5 comments on “The Unified Theory Of Sitcom Plots

  1. kblumenau
    June 18, 2012

    I think tvtropes.org might be similar to your sitcom motif database — although mission creep has set in, and it tracks its tropes across other settings besides television (movies, manga, literature, etc.)

    They do not have an entry for the escaping-pet episode. But they do have an entry for the pet-dies-and/or-escapes-and-someone-buys-an-exact-lookalike-to-fool-its-owner plotline:

  2. kblumenau
    June 18, 2012

    Oh, and the boy is absolutely right: It IS a cliche.

  3. hgkwiatek
    June 18, 2012

    We discussed the variant where someone tries to replace the pet. Of course someone else has already done this. So, that’s great, I can just skip ahead to coming up with the ultimate pitch and getting rich!

    And, as a folklorist, I am qualified to say that “the escaped pet” is a motif, even if it is also a cliche….

    • Lane
      June 18, 2012

      tvtropes.org is just plain fun to wander through. I’d recommend it to all four Kwiateks.

  4. Roz
    June 19, 2012

    I must say there is little new under the sun…OF course life imitates art..One night during a dinner party with friends I put the dishwasher up so I had enough plates for dessert and put the wrong liquid in the machine and when I turned around to go into the kitchen I was greeted with a room full of white bubbles coming out at us all…I am sure that has been done before but we all laughed and then added some of the proper stuff which took the suds away!!!Ask Miles what that wasy!!!

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This entry was posted on June 18, 2012 by in Dinner Conversation, LUBlogTribe.

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