All sitcoms from I Love Lucy to Seinfeld to Arrested Development use the same plot structure formula.

Arrested Development and Two and a Half Men Use the Same Formula, and It’s a Good Thing

Arrested Development and Two and a Half Men Use the Same Formula, and It’s a Good Thing

Slate's culture blog.
Dec. 12 2016 5:55 AM

Lucy, You Got Some ’Splainin’ to Do!

The hidden formula that unites I Love Lucy, Seinfeld, Arrested Development, and Rick and Morty.

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What do I Love Lucy, Seinfeld, Arrested Development, and Rick and Morty have in common? Yes, it’s true that none of them are a small duck named Stanley; but far more interestingly, their plots are all structured according to the same formula.

Almost all sitcoms can be divided into seven segments, each of which sets up or advances the plot in a specific way. As a result, it’s possible to predict at around what minute in an episode the main character will declare their goal, encounter their first obstacle, and succeed or fail at getting what they want. This formula is the reason sitcoms can be written at such a fast rate, and sometimes wind up seeming, well … formulaic. But it’s also the reason many sitcoms are able to find new and groundbreaking ways of being funny.

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So, do you feel like letting us ruin all sitcoms for you for good? Watch the video above to find out the secret formula.

Shon Arieh-Lerer is a Slate freelance production associate and a member of the comedy group His Majesty, the Baby.

Daniel Hubbard is a writer, editor, and director living in New York City.