Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fab Four

What if the Beatles had been five guys instead of four?

Four seems like the 'magic' number for groups. The Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Monkees...even the Rolling Stones had four core members while that fifth spot kept changing from Brian Jones to Mick Taylor to Ron Wood.

And it's not just rock bands. The most popular TV show of the 1960's, 'Bonanza', featured four characters. And when Pernell Roberts left, they even replaced him with the ranch hand Candy.

The most popular team comic book of the 1960's was 'The Fantastic Four'. Okay, maybe 'Justice League of America' sold more, but the FF fans were more devoted and Marvel's second biggest success ('Amazing Spider-Man' sold more).

I think one of the reasons for the success of having 'four' people/characters is because once you get to five or six, the audience loses track of them. If you have to name the Beach Boys, you stumble to remember the fifth. Same with 'Star Trek'...if you think of the principle characters, you pause after Kirk, Spock, Bones and Scotty. You have to actually 'think' about it. Whereas John, Paul, George and Ringo just rolls off the brain.

Maybe it has something to do with the four points of a compass. Or the four seasons.

I remember once reading that if you show somebody a group of objects, the maximum number they can count without actually 'counting' them is five. I suppose that means that a bunch of people can't do it beyond four.

Whatever the reason, I do know that when I'm trying to remember the characters in the Dirty Dozen or The Seven Dwarfs I have trouble. But the names Ed, Lewis, Bobby and Drew come right out when I think of Deliverance.


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