Real Housewives Forget Pop Culture's Magic Number: 4

By , Columnist

HBO

Sex and the City cast proves that "4" is pop culture's magic number.

Post-mortem memo to Housewives of New York producers: Unless you're talking about dwarves, seven is just too many. Evidently going with a more the merrier approach, the catfighting reality series went big during the just completed season, but why?

While high strung Sonja justified a slot in the pecking order, PR maven Cindy contributed nothing to the dysfunction until the last couple of episodes, and even then she seemed disengaged. A "housewife" who wants to stay above the fray is no housewife at all, when it comes to the bad behavior we've come to know and love.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey, who take their feuds to the next level over on Bravo over the next two Sunday nights, limit the stable of misbehaving stars to a fierce five.

But in a data-drenched age, the fewer extraneous personalities to absorb the better. Throughout pop culture history, four-character enterprises radiate a certain magic unmatched by larger ensembles.

Here's a by-the-numbers breakdown of pop culture's greatest hits::

Sex and the City: Each New Yorker had such a distinctive voice, you'd never mistake the wild-maned Carrie for the preppy Charlotte, skeptical Miranda, or lusty Samantha. One more cook would have spoiled the broth.

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The Beatles: Ringo, the Funny One, found his place in the iconic quartet as the witty peace-maker who defused tensions among three strong personalities. The Cute One (Paul) and the Smart One (John) creatively outflanked the Quiet One (George), who got to play all the solos in exchange for getting snubbed as a songwriter.

Seinfeld: Three guys and a chick plus one coffee shop booth equals the best sitcom group dynamic in history.

The Marx Brothers: Division of labor worked perfectly for these Vaudeville-bred siblings, Groucho, Zeppo, Harpo and Chico.

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Exceptions to the Rule of Four

The Rolling Stones keep rocking as a quintet despite the fifth wheel status suffered by guitarists who keep killing themselves on quitting. Monty Python re-invented ensemble comedy with an unwieldy seven members at its peak. Crosby, Stills and Nash boasted a seamless, organic quality to their first and best batch of songs that exceeded the four-piece incarnation augmented by the amazing Neil Young.

All of which brings us back to the Housewives juggernaut. Dead weight abounds. Fat must be trimmed. Which character from The Real Housewives of New Jersey needs to go? Comment below.

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Los Angeles-based writer/musician Hugh Hart covers movies, television, design, art and miscellaneous slices of pop culture for publications including Wired Magazine, Los Angeles Times and New York Times. When he's not interviewing people like Quentin Tarantino or Lindsay Lohan, Hugh likes to glug blackā€¦

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