Finally, there is scientific evidence that supports what we have all known for some time. Downton Abbey is TV perfection. Radio Times reports on a recent study carried out at Bournemouth University which found that the Crawleys’ aristocratic dramas are the closest we can get to televised perfection. Researchers assessed the most popular TV episodes of the last decade (as picked from a poll of 2,000 British viewers), which included the final episode of Friends, Sherlock‘s The Reichenbach Fall and the 2007 EastEnders Christmas special, to calculate a formula for the ultimate TV episode. They concluded that the perfect installment was made up of 65% drama, 12% shocks, 9% comedy, 8% action and 6% romance with the epic tear-jerker series 3 episode of Downton Abbey in which Lady Sybil died was the closest to achieving these proportions.
Is there a comedy formula for success?
How can anyone possibly determine just what the perfect formula for a classic comedy would be? What makes some Britcoms fail to make the grade and never get passed the first season, while others are timeless treasures that make us laugh year after year? Is there actually a science to all the laughter? Fortunately, there are scientists that have come up with the formula for perfect comedy.
Dr. Helen Pilcher, a British molecular neuro-biologist by day and stand-up comic by night, set out several years ago to answer all of the above in a study commissioned by UKTV Gold, the satellite channel in the UK known as the home for classic Britcoms. Pilcher and her team of research scientists analyzed almost two decades’ worth of British comedies and actually came up with a mathematical expression for success – and failure. The result?
The perfect formula for classic comedy: [(R x D + V) x F + S]/A
Pilcher explains: “Comedic value is determined by multiplying the recognizability of the main character (R) by their delusions of grandeur (D). This is added to the verbal wit of the script (V), and the total is multiplied by the amount someone falls over or suffers a physical injury (F). The difference in social status between the highest – and lowest – ranking characters (S) is added. Finally, the total is divided by the success of any scheme or stratagem in the show (A). Each term in the formula is assigned a value up to a maximum of 10 people to give an overall scientific score.”
After lengthy research, the long-running classic, Only Fools and Horses was voted No. 1 with a score of 696. At No. 2, a relative newcomer to the British comedy scene at that time was The Office. Fawlty Towers came in at No. 3 with Blackadder not far behind at No. 4.
To be honest, I didn’t need science or a formula to tell me that these shows are TV perfection…