Like celebrity deaths and Stooges, my blog posts on obscure topics seem to beÂ running in threes. So, here’s the final installment of my Bonanza triptych. And as it happens, it’s about the numberÂ 3! (weird)Â
Several years ago (as in 20-25)Â I recall reading a book in which the author put forth an interesting theory about television dramas. I can’t remember the book’s titleÂ or author, but I have never forgotten his assertion that most successful character-driven stories contain a symbolic family “trinity.” By that, he meant that if you looked, you’d find a “Father” figure, a “Mother” figure, and one or more “Child” figuresâ€”even if the cast was all-male, all-female, or all-adult.
In this view, A “Father” character is stern, authoritative, calm and reasoning. A “Mother” character is nurturing, healing and emotive. And a “Child” character is wild, willful and passionate.
Numerous obvious examples were cited. Most programs built around an actual traditional “family” (Leave it Beaver, Father Knows Best, Make Room for Daddy, The Brady Bunch)Â naturally fit this model.
But the two examples that really stood out in my mindÂ were Star Trek and Bonanza. That’s right. Star Trek. And Bonanza.
With Star Trek, he posited that Spock was the “Father” (logical, detached, knowledgeable); Dr. McCoy “Bones” was the “Mother” (healer, emotional); and Captain Kirk filled the “Child” role. I have to tell you, I never watched a rerun of Star Trek the same way again.
I’m sure you’ve already run out ahead of me on Bonanza. The author argued that Ben Cartwright “Pa” was obviously in the “Father” role.Â And the “Mother?” That was Hoss. And you have to admit, he could be a tender, sensitiveÂ fellow for a big guy. The wild and willful “Child” was obviously “Little Joe.”
Oh yes, I remember one more example. I think he mentioned “Three’s Company” with the brunette (whatever Joyce Dewitt’s character was called)Â filling theÂ “Father” role, blond “Chrissy” as the “Mother” and playboy “Jack” as the “Child.”
Ever since, I have tended to find myself analyzing successful, long-running series to see if that triangle of role-relationships is discernible.
For example, right now I’m finally getting around to watching the first few seasons of LOST and, with such a large cast, there are actually several Father-Mother-Child triangles present simultaneously within the show. You can actually categorize the entire cast along these lines.
And as in the other shows mentioned, these roles defy gender.Â For example,Â Jack is a “Mother,” I think.Â Kate is a “Father.” Throw in Sawyer as a “Child” and you have one of the triangles.
Food for thought here on a Friday night. What do you think about all this, dear readers?Â