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Inexplicably Identical Individuals
Talk about a family resemblance.

Gordon Frohman: Morning, Barney! Didn't I see you just a second ago?
Security Guard: No, that guy just looks and sounds a lot like me. I'm the real Barney, though.
Second, Identical Security Guard: Like hell you are! I'm the real Barney!

Why bother with Uncanny Family Resemblance, when you can have have every member of a family or even perfect strangers as the exact same person! Same taste in food, same way they style their hair, same profession, same mannerisms, and they all probably share the same Hive Mind as well. They may even all have the same name. This isn't just a Recurring Character — every town has their own. These are Inexplicably Identical Individuals; there's no reason for them to be perfectly identical— though the series may try to Hand Wave it as them being related— they simply are.

Occasionally, they fall into My Species Doth Protest Too Much, having one who's markedly different. The episode often revolves around them.

Compare and contrast to the game trope of You ALL Look Familiar. Also compare Single-Minded Twins. Contrast with the Recurring Extra, where it really is the same character(s) in every town. See also Identical Stranger.

Examples:

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     Anime and Manga  
  • Originally named for Nurse Joy and Officer Jenny in the Pokémon anime. They likely arose as a parody of the games' use of You ALL Look Familiar. Some weren't even related, but they all had the exact same personality and appearance. The series did its share of Lampshade Hanging; at one point, one Jenny shows off a picture of her graduating class at the police academy (shown above), every single one of which is a Jenny. Regardless of whatever differences there are, Brock loves every last one of both kinds...and is able to tell them apart.
    • There was even a subversion, with a buff, tanned Joy that desired to stand out from her kin, as well as another time with a tough-acting Cowboy Cop Jenny who loves to take out criminal scum by...bowling.
    • The Magikarp Salesman, a recurring con-artist who tries to sell useless Pokémon to James (and has done so more than once), tries to pass himself off as a family of one of these to assure wary marks, but he's the same guy each time.
    • In one episode, Brock explains the subtle differences between the Officer Jennys when a bunch of them turn up to perform an arrest. Said differences included perfumes used, slight differences in skirt length, and slight differences in hair style - in other words, things that would be virtually impossible for audiences to see on a television (and judging by the fact that very few in the show notice them, they're not that easy to spot period). As he puts it:
      Brock: Jenny from Viridian City wears her skirt shorter than the other Jennys. The Celadon City Jenny uses styling gel in her luxurious hair! Saffron City Jenny wears exotic Vileplume No. 5 Perfume. Then there's the vivacious Vermillion City Jenny... [Misty carts him off the screen before he can continue]
    • In one episode of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, two young Nurse Joys were shown, giving them first names and establishing Joy as a family name. Their mother was also a Joy, but their father was a normal man.
    • Best Wishes shows that Unova has somewhat different Jennys and Joys. Both have different uniforms compared to the other regions, and Jenny's hair is a lot shorter.
    • Unova also has runners of the Battle Clubs named Don George.
    • Then there are the Parkers on the Decolora islands cruise ships.
    • Pokémon Special plays this trope for drama when it's noted that all the Galactic Grunts not only look identical, they all move and act like they have a Hive Mind, hinting that they have no free will of their own.
      • As does Pokémon: Diamond and Pearl Adventure, where Mitsumi's eyes go from brown to green when she's a part of Galactic. The grunts themselves have quite a bit of personality though.
    • As a matter of fact, almost all the evil team grunts tend to look similar to each other in Pokémon Special, however, the Team Plasma grunts have a wide variety of faces and body types.
      • Each region also has its own Chairman, Fan Club President, and announcer guy.
  • Sister Princess had one person who was a butler/real estate agent/antique salesman/boat captain and anything else that was needed on the island. But they were all different people. At the second to last episode it's revealed that they really ARE all the same person.
  • The protagonist of Elf Princess Rane (who is not the title character) has about twenty older sisters, the product of repeated sets of quads and quints, who all look exactly alike. (Five of them have formed a rock band.)
  • In Galaxy Angel, the bad guys of the episode are always the same few people, with the same few voice actors (except the one episode that featured the fake Angel-tai, and a few where Chitose snaps). Nobody seems to notice, but with the show's Negative Continuity, it's not a surprise.
    • In fact, it happens with a lot of disposable characters, due to the show's low male population. Compare every man Ranpha drools over, or every kindly shopkeeper...
  • In The Vision of Escaflowne, an entire army of warrior-monks has exactly the same character design. Especially egregious since multiple scenes feature dozens of them on-screen at the same time.
  • The representatives sent by Shirase's various clients in every arc of Battle Programmer Shirase all have the same face, voice, and even name (Kaoru Akizuki), but wear different outfits according to their occupations. They even have the exact same internal conflict when seeing Shirase doing (seemingly) inappropriate things with an underage girl, followed by the same conclusion and Catch Phrase, "I'll pretend I didn't see anything!"
  • Played with in Lucky Star: Every character that isn't a recurring character has the character design and voice of the same middle-aged woman, with the design only being changed if situation demands it, and even then it's always the same voice. Once, several of the same middle-aged woman were on screen at the same time, and at another time three different girls were on screen speaking with the same voice! (If it isn't the middle-aged woman, it's usually Minoru Shiraishi making a guest appearance on the show.)
  • Pani Poni Dash! does this to any non-important student in the school. All the classrooms are filled with carbon copy clones of a generic boy and girl, or a fat girl named Ito. At the end of the first episode, The new homeroom teacher, Rebecca Miyamoto lampshades and justifies the importance of those other students by taking a roll-call by listing off the names of all the important girls..."And everyone else."
  • Nagasarete Airantou: Suzu looks just like her mother at the same age. This isn't merely a case of genetic relation though; Fujishiro Takeshi pretty much just drew Suzu in the flashback chapters and called her "Suzuran." The only difference is their bust sizes.
  • Kuina and Tashigi of One Piece. They look identical and fans for the longest time theorized that they were either the same person, or twins (as well as wrote many a fanfic, to torment Zoro with this idea). This was officially disproved by Eichiiro Oda himself, who said pretty straight-forwardly that they were not in any way related and just for some reason happened to look alike.
  • There are two girls called Nago in Daily Lives of High School Boys, one being the staff of a pizzeria Tadakuni works part-time and the other being Yanagin's rival. They look suspiciously alike; the latter Nago is essentially a cleaned up version of the former, wear red bandanas, and they go to the same school as well. The problem is their names are written with different kanji—the former is 奈古 while the latter is 名護. While Word of God already declared they are different people, speculation are still abound.
  • Kill la Kill has all the One-Star Goku Uniform wearers be identical carbon copies of each other, either the male model or female. Similarly, every one of Ragyo's managers looks exactly alike. At first it just seems to be an artistic (and humorous) choice to indicate "large amount of generic antagonists". However, the "inexplicable" part is eventually averted as it's shown they stylistically and sometimes literally mold individuals into those forms as part of a progression of "mindless sheep". Only those with enough physical strength AND individuality to surpass that conformity rise to Two or Three-Star ranks.
  • Subverted in A Certain Magical Index and its sister anime. Misaka Mikoto has 20,000 "sisters" that look exactly like her, and all 20,000 share a Hive Mind to boot. Turms out, this is perfectly explicable. They're all clones from an abandoned military project, and the hive mind is created by a network of electromagnetic waves between the genetically identical individuals with their electric abilities.

     Comic Books  
  • In the G.I. Joe comic books, Cobra's elite troopers - the Crimson Guard - all underwent extensive plastic surgery to look like one of a handful of "original models." This allowed Cobra to infiltrate society by having its troopers take positions of importance in the local community; if one was killed, he could be replaced by a duplicate.
    • This achieved Fridge Brilliance with the years-later reveal that Cobra Commander is the "original model". The real reason for the "Fred" series of Crimson Guard was so that the paranoid Cobra Commander would have an impenetrable disguise if he needed to escape from his treacherous lieutenants.
  • In their original appearance (and thus prior to at least two RetCons), the Zamarons, a race of Amazon-like Warriors IN SPACE!! (later revealed as female counterparts of the Guardians of the Universe of Green Lantern Corps fame) always chose their queens from humanoid females who met an ideal physical model, and thus always looked alike. They would take a prospective candidate from her home planet, explain that she was going to be their new Queen, and then give her super-powers by playing some kind of alien musical instrument at her (!) and presenting her with the gem that gave her a name — the Star Sapphire. Naturally, Earth had a candidate for the role — Green Lantern's then would-be girlfriend, Carol Ferris.
  • In Carla Speed McNeil's "aboriginal Sci-Fi" series Finder, one of the main cities in the series is run by several different "clans." Most of these clans, in addition to a common name, share common features. The Llavrics are all women (yes, even the men are women. They are physically formed to be able to "tuck it in" with ease), and not just any women, the same slim, blonde woman. They all tend to be a bit on the artistic, dramatic side. The Mediwar clan has distinct male and female versions that are identical within their gender. They run military, police, and medical branches of the government, which leads to the fantastic insult - "copface." (Try that one on Officer Jenny!) These clans are most emphatically not made up of clones and not everyone born to clan parents is automatically given full clan status. There is a yearly examination which could be similar to defending a thesis - or winning a beauty pageant. It all depends on your clan. Clan members can and do intermarry and procreate (they're all human, after all); genetics determine if the offspring resemble one parent over the other.
  • Thompson and Thomson in Tintin; the only difference is in the mustache. Furthermore, it's explicitly stated that they're not twins or even related.
  • In The Muppet Show Comic Book: On The Road, the Muppets, on tour following the destruction of the theatre, keep encountering familiar-looking elderly hecklers. Two farmers (one of whom is apparently Waldorf's cousin); Mitch Wacky's gagwriters Stadler and Waltorf; the entire population of Little Statwald...
  • In every Pink Panther comic book story, the panther runs into a foul-tempered, moustached short man with a big nose who looks exactly like the foul-tempered, moustached short man with a big nose from the previous story. He keeps running into these guys in the animated shorts as well, but not as consistently.

    Film 
  • The Sheriff in Quentin Tarantino movies might be part of a group of Inexplicably Identical Individuals, since he seems to be Sheriff over a fantastic number of jurisdictions, as well as dying in his first appearance.
    • According to the IMDB pages for Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill, and both sections of Grindhouse, they really are all the same character. Then again, we're not sure what the timeline is for all these movies.
  • The 1960s movie Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines features one of the characters, a Frenchman named Pierre Dubois, consistently trying to greet a girl he has met before, only to realize that it is a completely different girl. The girls, Bridgitte, Ingrid, Marlene, Yvette and Betty are all the same actress, each with a stereotypical accent from a different European nation.
  • In the 2002 film Big Trouble, Andy Richter plays a mall security guard who claims to have a relative who works in airport security. Sure enough, Richter later shows up in an airport (this time with a mustache), working security.
    • That one is straight out of the book the movie was based on, Andy Richter was a perfect touch though...
  • In The Phantom Menace, Queen Amidala's handmaidens all looked identical. This, of course, was intentional, and part of the "decoy trick", where one of them, Sabé, posed as the Queen while the Queen dressed as one of the handmaidens in her identity as Padmé. (They had similar names too, at least in public; in addition to Sabé, the others were named Eirtaé, Rabé, Saché, Yané, Fé, and Dané; Padmé's name mentioned often made members of the royal court assume that the Queen had eight handmaidens.
    Anakin: In fact, I'm pretty sure it's…Amidala's decoys Sabé and Eritaé.
    Eirtaé: Actually, I'm Eritaé!
  • In the course of the Spider-Man movies, Peter Parker has encountered a wrestling emcee, a snooty usher, and a French waiter who all look exactly like Bruce Campbell.
  • Similarly, there are Stan Lee's cameos in almost every Marvel movie; with a few possible exceptions, each is a different character.
    • It's conceivable that the Stans in the Spider-Man series are all the same guy, but the Stan in X-Men: The Last Stand is in a flashback and would have to be twenty years older than the Stans in the first two films.
    • In Fantastic Four Stan plays mailman Willy Lumpkin, but in the sequel he identifies himself by name as Stan Lee.
    • In Iron Man he's mistaken for Hugh Hefner (his back was turned) or possibly just some other guy named "Hef" who likes the ladies.
    • And there is one in Daredevil that's also in a flashback, saved from an incoming car by kid!Matt, only to realize surprised that the kid who "saw" the car is blind.
    • Captain America: The First Avenger shows him to be alive and look exactly the same age in the 1940s. Possibly a case of Identical Grandson?
      • And then he appears in Guardians of the Galaxy' that while set in modern times is on, you know, a completely different planet and all.
    • In The Incredible Hulk he up and dies, which puts herbicide on... Most... Epileptic Trees that could make all his appearances the same character.
  • In Joe Versus The Volcano, Meg Ryan plays three different characters. Two of them are sisters, but the third is someone completely unrelated.
  • In Night at the Museum 2 Amy Adams plays Amelia Earhart and a woman who visits the museum at the end. Larry attempts to invoke Identical Grandson by asking if she was related to Earhart, but Adams responds "No, I think I just have one of those faces, you know?".
  • In Shaun of the Dead Shaun's group, sneaking around an alleyway between houses, bumps into another group of survivors led by Shaun's ex, Yvonne. As the two groups pass, it becomes clear that each of Shaun's group has an exact counterpart in Yvonne's gang. The incident is never mentioned again. In the director's commentary, Edgar Wright calls this group the 'doppelgang'.

    Literature 
  • From Discworld, we have the CMOT Dibblers, who due to the "laws of narrative" have a slightly different version as part of every culture on the Disc, complete with Catch Phrase.
    • More mildly, the Igors are not identical, but are difficult to tell apart, and seem to have no trouble talking about each other, despite having the same name.
      • Unusually for this trope, it is later justified in-world with the observation, in later books, that the Igors are an extended family who view their "pioneering" self-modification as a family tradition, even suggesting that some modifications are intentionally uniform, and act as "clan markings".
      • They also can remove all their scars from those modifications, but keep them for identification purposes.
    • The Dibbler phenomenon has been extended. Jingo, The Fifth Elephant and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents all feature guards in different Discworld towns who resemble the inept backbone of the Ankh Morpork Watch, Sergeant Colon and Corporal Nobbs.
  • Literary example: Mr. Presto in Alfred Bester's 1956 novel The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!), who is very creepy in that these used to be individual people until they were surgically altered and reconditioned to be identical in every way. Indeed it is actually something of a deconstruction of the concept.
    After six months of surgery and psycho-conditioning, he was identical to the 469 other Mr Prestos and to the idealized portrait of Mr Presto which hung behind Presteign's dais ...a kindly, honest man resembling Abraham Lincoln, a man who instantly inspired affection and trust. Around the world purchasers entered an identical Presteign store and were greeted by an identical manager, Mr Presto.
  • The opening to the superhero anthology Temps, devised by Neil Gaiman and Alex Stewart, has "at this point we found ourselves with two hundred identical female babies." All became "equally inept" secretaries at the Department of Paranormal Resources. Consequently, "whichever branch they went to, there she was."
  • The Belgariad series by David Eddings features a queen named Salmissra. For thousands of years, her country has been ruled by a Salmissra, all looking and acting as identical as humanly possible. Whenever the current one is getting a little long in the tooth, twenty little girls are rounded up from across the country, all chosen by comparing them to a picture of the original Salmissra. They spend the next ten years being trained in the correct mannerisms and habits, and the one who is deemed the most like the original Salmissra is elevated to the throne. The other nineteen are killed. For what it's worth, the country is inhabited entirely by inveterate drug users, and the rest of the world find the Salmissra fixation just as creepy as the readers do.
    • That's probably a trope in itself. There are many, many examples of legacy rulers in fiction (or Dread Pirates or whatever) (more than one in the Belgariad itself).
  • In the science fiction novel Counting Heads by David Marusek many standardized jobs are done by clone lines including a line of nurses known as jennys.
  • Played with to deliberate comic effect in one issue of Perry Rhodan, in which the 'king' of a cosmic scrapyard employs a large staff of suspiciously similar-looking individuals with suitably imposing titles...all of which are actually just himself in paper thin disguises. Visitors are advised to play along with his act, of course.
  • Also tinkered with in the novel Bones Of The Earth, which features what is apparently a race of identical beings from the future, but who turn out to be multiple versions of the same one android which traveled back to the same point in time an immense number of times.
  • The Thursday Next series of books by Jasper Fforde has an army of Mrs. Danvers, created when hundreds of "generics" (BookWorld inhabitants who haven't yet developed into characters) imprinted on her. The same thing previously happened with T.H. White's Merlin, which is why there are so many eccentric wizard mentors in the BookWorld.
    • An arguable example might be Felix-8, the last of a series of people the fiendish Archeon Hades has transformed into an exact duplicate of his deceased favorite henchman, Felix Tabularasa.
  • An interesting variation is used in the Of Man and Manta trilogy by Piers Anthony; and is justified in-universe. The trope is deliberately invoked with a type of law-enforcement investigator known as an "Agent", of which there are multiple "series". Agents are surgically modified as well as mind-wiped and reprogrammed, so that all agents of a series are indistinguishable from each other (it's never stated how many agents are in a series). This is describe in-universe as a way to automatically compensate for differences in observer bias, thus easily eliminating those differences as a variable when evaluating their reports. Agents who are in the field long enough to develop individual personalities are considered unreliable, and are mind-wiped and reprogrammed as soon as possible.
    • Not only to make them functionally identical; but any special skills or abilities learned by an Agent in the field are included in the programming for the next series.
  • Somewhat inverted in the series Replica about a set of thirteen perfect female clones who all look alike and are perfect at everything they try to do (their speed rivals Olympic athletes, they are inhumanly intelligent and strong and fast etc etc). Though all of the Amys have the same name, when the scientists send them out into the world for adoption, some are renamed (Number Nine becomes Annie, Number Ten becomes Aimee, and Number Thirteen becomes Aly) and all develop separate personalities.
  • The Ursula K. Le Guin short story Nine Lives involves a "family" of ten clones, both male and female, all of whom were made from a particular genius and who are all accordingly also geniuses, highly trained in a variety of fields. The other two non-clone characters are fascinated by them and by the fact that none of them can ever be truly alone. They're all very close.
  • The plot of The Prince and the Pauper revolves around this.
  • When Miles Vorkosigan first wakes up after being dead, he's very confused to encounter the same woman (Doctor Durona) at, apparently, three different ages. His worry that he's somehow skipping years at a time is exacerbated when he then meets the younger versions of her again. Turns out they're all clones of the original Doctor Durona, Lily Durona.
  • Varley's The Barbie Murders features a colony of (very nearly) identical people, all of whom started as normal people but had plastic surgery to make themselves meet the standards. It's somewhere between a commune and a cult that de-emphasizes individuality to the point that "barbies" have a difficult time saying "I" instead of "we"; when the detective investigating a murder forces the issue, they tend to use circumlocutions like "No, this one did not witness the incident with these eyes."
  • The... clones in Galaxy of Fear: Clones. Initially the protagonists aren't aware that the Lost Colony of spacy, absentminded Rebels they found is entirely made of clones, and when they see two Sullustans that look and act alike and have almost the same name, they have a spirited discussion about whether it's a case of Ditto Aliens or twins or what. It's really a collective.

     Live Action TV  
  • The Patty Duke Show: Perhaps the prime example from a TV standpoint, this 1960s sitcom featured, as the theme song reminded us, "identical cousins" Patty Lane and Cathy Lane. They looked alike — both were played by Patty Duke — but had different personalities and hairstyles.
  • The Brady Bunch: The Season 5 episode "Two Peters in a Pod," which featured Christopher Knight in a dual role, both as good ol' loveable Pete and the identical stranger he meets at school, Arthur Owens. Peter has lots of fun fooling his family (and it is implied that Arthur was able to pull one over on his family too), and it works to Peter's advantage when he is able to keep his date and a commitment to entertain Mike's boss' daughter.
  • Bonanza: The final episodes of Seasons 12 and 13 featured Lorne Greene in a dual role, both as good ol' loveable Ben Cartwright and as a con man named Bradley Meredith. Meredith would find out that Ben was out of the area on business and took advantage of his exact resemblance to Ben to fool others into thinking he was selling the Ponderosa ... only for Ben to come riding in at the last minute to foil his twin.
  • Gunsmoke: The 1972 episode "Alias Festus Hagen" saw Ken Curtis play a dual role: good ol' (you guessed it) loveable Festus Hagen and then a notorious, ruthless, bloodthirsty, cold-blooded killer named Frank Eaton. A U.S. marshal is convinced Festus is the guilty party, but Matt — knowing his friend is innocent — resolves to find out the truth. In the end, of course, Festus is cleared and Eaton is fatally shot in a gunfight.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard:
    • Several episodes saw Boss Hogg try to pull this scheme, by having two of his associates dress up as Bo and Luke Duke and rob Hazzard Bank, making sure said robbery occurs during the busiest hour of the day.
    • Rosco — who enthusiastically participated in Boss' schemes to have dopplegangers play their foils — was once on the wrong end of a notorious bank robber named Woody Largo, who looked exactly like the dim-witted Hazzard County Sheriff. Woody (James Best in a dual role) is so convincing with his looks that everyone believes he is Rosco.
  • The 1997 made-for-TV movie Cloned, about a couple whose 8-year-old son, Adam, dies in a boating accident in the year 2008. The mother, Skye Weston (Elizabeth Perkins), was artificially inseminated and it seemed like the doctor that helped her was noble in his work. After all, his work in genetics is so well-received he is nominated for a Noble Prize in science. However, to Skye's horror and her husband Rick's outrage, Adam had been cloned by the lab without their permission ... said discovery coming after a chance meeting with a young boy who exactly resembles their late son. They soon realize there are several — and possibly many more — young boys exactly resembling the deceased Adam. Rick and Skye demand answers and eventually learn the geneticist's work was a cover for illegal cloning experiments ... and they eventually expose him.
  • Babylon 5 gives us 10 identical brothers named Zathras, all with the same speech pattern, philosophical attitude, fur outfit, and accent, all played by one actor (Tim Choate). "No, that was not Zathras, that was Zathras. There are 10 of us, all of family Zathras, each one named Zathras. Slight differences in how you pronounce. Zathraas, Zathras, Zathras...You are seeing now?"
  • Tom Poston played at least three completely unhelpful clerks on Home Improvement. At least two of them were brothers.
  • On Sliders, no matter how many centuries of Alternate History divided one Earth from the next, any roles for a cab driver, desk clerk, or bartender tended to be filled by counterparts of the same three men.
    • Bizarrely, the desk clerk was Other Darrined for the final two seasons, acquiring a very different accent, weight, and personality, with only his job and the name "Gomez Calhoun" linking him to the original version of the character. Considering that those seasons used a different hotel in a different city, it would have made far more sense just to name him something else.
  • In the British anti-sitcom The Young Ones, Alexei Sayle plays the boys' landlord, Jerzei Balowski. He also plays every one of Jerzei's "brothers" and "cousins", all of whom posses varying degrees of sanity, and are prone to launching into sudden, entirely non sequitur stand-up routines. Strangely, the boys seem to be able to differentiate between the different Balowskis, even asking, "Who are you?" to ones they haven't met yet, and insisting that one of the more insane ones leave immediately (he doesn't).
  • The infamous Monty Python's Flying Circus pet shop sketch does this not only with the pet shop owners (the same save an obviously fake moustache), but the shops themselves, which are called Similar Pet Shops ltd.
  • The Peter Serafinowicz Show had a Big Brother parody (to the point of using the same graphics from that year's show and even the theme tune) called Mike House. All eight housemates were the same person.
  • In The Prisoner, Number 6 quickly finds out all the maintenance guys look exactly the same.
  • Like the Big Trouble example above, Andy Richter played five identical quintuplets, one of whom is himself, in Arrested Development.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Xena had three lookalikes who switched places with her in various episodes (Diana, Meg, Leah), plus two other characters Lucy Lawless had previously played in Hercules (Lysia, Lyla), plus two 20th/21st-century reincarnations (Melinda, Annie), plus a modern clone, plus a Mirror Universe twin.
    • Xena isn't the only one though. Ares has a doppelganger in the form of King Iphicles, half-brother of Hercules, and Karl Urban plays both Cupid and Gaius Julius Caesar.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A list of actors who've played more than one role would double this page in size: Apparently every guard on every planet in history looks like Terry Walsh, Stuart Fell or Pat Gorman. A number of regular actors had previously played guest roles and one (Jaqueline Hill, who played the First Doctor's companion Barbara) even returned in a guest role in "Meglos" fifteen years after leaving the show. (See You Look Familiar for further reading.) But there are a few occasions when regulars played two parts in the same story and the similarity was commented upon: The First Doctor and the Abbot of Amboise, the Second Doctor and Mexican would-be dictator Salamander, Nyssa and 1920s aristocrat Ann Talbot. No explanation is given for any of them, they just do.
    • One of the most jarring is probably Martha Jones. People watching the series in one go may be somewhat flummoxed about how that bit employee from Torchwood One survived (when she rather obviously died not three episodes ago) and is now apparently a medical student near graduation barely a month later. To be fair, they lampshade it by saying that the woman from Torchwood was Martha's cousin, but it can still be a bit confusing.
    • Invoked with Clara: the plot arc of Season 7 is all about how this woman can appear in three different time periods with nearly identical names, backgrounds, and interests, along with the same appearance and personality. As it turns out, there have been a lot more than just three incarnations of her. At the end of Season 7, she enters the Doctor's timeline to save him from the Great Intelligence and ends up getting scattered across all of time and space.
    • While most new viewers wouldn't notice that one of the Sybilline priestesses went on to become Amy Pond, it's going to be harder to explain why the Twelfth Doctor looks identical to Caecillius, who played a much more central role in the episode.
      • No more difficult to explain than why the Sixth Doctor looks just like Commander Maxil who menaced the Doctor's Fifth incarnation on Gallifrey during "Arc of Infinity".
    • One short Expanded Universe story heavily implies that the Elizabethian playwright Ben Jonson is one of these for the Fourth Doctor, playing off a portrait with a spooky resemblance.
  • On How I Met Your Mother, each main character has a doppelganger (played by the same actor, of course).
  • Diplomatic Immunity, whose main characters run the consulate of the fictional nation of Fe'ausi, introduces a second fictional nation the whose consulate is run by...the same actors as the main characters, with wigs.
  • Especially weird example: There are two different hosts of Cash Cab, one for the original and one for Cash Cab: Chicago. The female Chicago host looks just like the original male host, but with long hair. She even has the same mannerisms and speech patterns, for the most part. Note that they are not related, and this is almost certainly coincidence.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: The monotone woman who kept making appearances throughout Season 1 and once in Season 2 probably fits this trope or Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?... Not sure which one it is.
  • Kenji Ohba has played two separate characters in Super Sentai History, Battle Kenya in Battle Fever J, and Denzi Blue in Denshi Sentai Denziman and has reprised both roles during Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, Denzi Blue in the 199 Heroes movie and Battle Kenya during the Christmas-themed episode 44.

    He also reprised his lead role from Space Sheriff Gavan in its Crossover movie with Gokaiger and both his Sentai roles put in an appearance as well. At the end, Retsu, Daigoro, and Shiro all transform together (at the very end, though. Sadly, they don't get to go into action as a trio.) And like with the Jennies in Pokémon, there's someone who can tell them apart. The fanboyish Gai has no trouble. (Admittedly, they way they dress makes it perfectly easy for the viewer, too.)
  • Jon Lovitz played a series of one-off characters on the sitcom NewsRadio, including a suicidal ex-employee of Jimmy James and a mental health patient. None of the cast commented on their uncanny resemblance.

     Newspaper Comics  
  • Every saleswoman, customer-service representative, and waitress in the comic strip Cathy has the same appearance and name (Mabel). We're supposed to understand that these aren't really the same person, but whenever Cathy is acting like a difficult customer, we always see "Mabel" in the role of being put on the spot and having to deal with Cathy.
  • Scott Adams hangs a Lampshade on this in Dilbert with Ted, the generic guy (his real name). People who have known him for years can't describe him. There may be more than one Ted in the company no-one really knows.
    • There are. Ted is just the name that Scott Adams uses whenever he can't think up a better one and it's not important enough to matter. He is often mentioned as being fired or quitting, so there must be many of him.
  • One of Bill Mauldin's wartime cartoons has two U.S. soldiers walking through a French town, and one remarks, "This is th' town my pappy told me about." Every civilian in sight (six of them, including a woman), looks just like him.

    Radio 

    Theater 
  • The actor playing Cinderella's prince in Into the Woods also traditionally plays the wolf.
  • In the show Next To Normal, Dr. Madden and Dr. Fine are played by the same actor. The two doctors aren't supposed to be related in any way.

     Video Games  
  • In Secret of Mana, nearly every town had its Cannon Travel Man (who were apparently a set of identical quintuplets).
    • Another staple of the Seiken Densetsu/Mana series is the dancing turbaned storekeepers (Mr. Moti), who all look like King Amar III of Kakkara.
      '"Faerie Walnut?! Oh, please!"'
      • Legend of Mana, on the other hand, seems to think that it's all the same Mr. Moti. His character profile reads: "He is everywhere, doing everything."
    • Salescat Neko seems to fall under this trope due to his appearance in multiple out of the way areas, but it is implied that it is just one Neko who is traveling the world. (You do get to meet his palette-swapped relatives in Seiken Densetsu 3, through.)
  • Jeane is one of the few recurring characters in the Suikoden series, despite the fact that it spans several different continents and several hundred years. Lacking any of the obvious methods of attaining immortality, the developers and Jeane herself have hinted that she simply has a whole lot of suspiciously identical sisters. A scene in Suikoden V, however, does seem to indicate that she's a LOT older than she seems...she manages to confuse the shell out of an ancient Tortoise, who claims to have sensed 'a being of great age', but instead finds a voluptuous, scantly-clad young woman when he comes to investigate. She is also shown to have a mysterious connection to an ancient civilization that was destroyed centuries earlier. Thus, it remains a mystery whether the "identical family" explanation was humorous, or if Jeane is simply less human than she appears.
    • The makers of this series seem to love encouraging epileptic trees with her. Numerous explanations are hinted at.
      • Jeane is a Runemaster, capable of attaching runes to people so that they can cast magic from them. Also of note? The Suikoden Series revolve around the 27 True Runes, extremely powerful runes that pretty much control the flow of history, and also happen to make their bearer immortal (except for when they have a tendency to kill their owners). There is no evidence that Jeane has a True Rune, but for an apparently immortal woman, who makes runes her profession, to have found her way into the presence of around half the True Runes is remarkably suspicious. She never seems to do anything (indeed, she is incapable of removing True Runes, which decide their own bearer), but it's likely not coincidental that she keeps running into those people who do bear True Runes.
  • Jagged Alliance 2 has the De Santos bartending brothers, generic booze vendors who look, sound, and act exactly the same. The black sheep of the family, Manny, only looks exactly the same, and hasn't quite managed to land that bartending job yet.
  • The Support Reapers in The World Ends with You come in two breeds - red-hoody-baseball-cap and black-hoody-red-bandana. Only two of them (BJ and Tenho of Def March) ever get names.
  • The RPG Exile III/Avernum III had an enormous amount of towns, and did a good job in making all the NPCs and shopkeepers unique with the exception of the fletchers, dressmakers, provisioners, and...Pat, who were all alike and had all the the same exact dialogue. They just had a lot of cousins.
  • And in Exile I, the initial description of the guards in Silvar would end with: "You wonder why he looks exactly like all the other guards."
  • The LucasArts adventure Sam & Max Hit the Road featured a variety of different locations...plus three Snuckey's burger bars, in different corners of the country, with the exact same pimply youth (who resembled Bernard from Day of the Tentacle) staffing them. They had slightly different merchandise on offer, but the guy was exactly the same except for one feature (one had a mustache, another had no hat, and the third had a different tie).
  • In Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja, the innkeeper is an elderly woman named Ume. In the sequel's first town, the heroes see Ume, complete with the same profile picture...except it's not their Ume. She has the same personality, but she doesn't recognize any of the main cast. Shino mentions that "it is said that up to three people in the world can share the same face at the same time," although the others were unsure about sharing the same name. As it turns out, that was a little too literal, as they see the third person with the same face in the next town, who is also named Ume. The original shows up later when they return to Kamiari Village (the setting of the first game).
    • This continues further, and by the time they find the fifth Ume they give up on ever trying to figure it out.
  • In Super Paper Mario, every convenience store that Mario and the others find is run by Howzit, with the exception of the one in Flopside, which was instead run by Notso.
  • In Animal Crossing, every town has the same resident shopkeeper, the same postal employees, the same museum curator, the same policemen, and even the same mayor.
    • Well, not the same mayor in New Leaf. Same ex-mayor. The player character is the mayor of the town in that installment.
  • Valkyria Chronicles has a cameo character from Skies of Arcadia whose name is supposed to be Fina, but is designated "Medic" throughout the game. It is revealed in the Encyclopedia Exposita that they're identical triplets who are all serving as medics, named Fina, Hina and Mina.
  • In Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools Of Destruction, the Grummels come in 3 varieties depending on what they sell. Explained by them being clones of the last Grummel (although that does not explain the 3 different types, but one can just assume genetic engineering or something).
  • Officer Chunk is guarding the art gallery early in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines, and later mans the front desk at the Venture Tower (he got fired for letting you get into the gallery). However, if you got by him by killing him, the one at the tower will be an identical relative of his. And on a minor note, there's the hordes of identical NPCs going around the areas. It's not uncommon to see a group of redheaded quadruplets dancing at the local club.
  • In My World, My Way, this is subverted; all the minor NPCs in each town claim to be different people despite looking exactly the same. The subversion is that they really are the same people; they're in fact actors hired by someone to fool the protagonist.
  • In The Secret of Monkey Island, the wandering pirates on Męlée Island's map (the ones you have to learn the Insult Swordfighting phrases from) are all identical, except some have hair or some form of headgear.
  • In Final Fantasy IV, there's a guy called Namingway who keeps appearing in every town and asking if you want to change your name. Toward the end, you find a city on the moon inhabited by guys identical to him, called "Hummingway Home". And he's there, too.
  • All the similar-looking shopkeepers in Dragon Valor are somehow related.
  • Half-Life is a shameless offender, with all the security guards having the same appearance and voice. This however is excusable due to there being very little variety in character models to begin with.
  • Amusingly subverted and parodied with Sabu in Bangai-O, who appears several times as a boss. Riki and Mami initially assume that he is multiple people (somewhat helped in that bosses' mechs get blown to smithereens). Soon enough, they end up seeing him as the same guy...but he doesn't recognize them, at first (much to Riki's annoyance).
  • The Harry Potter PC games had all the main characters and a lot of background students you could interact with. To save time designing individual characters when they didn't have to, they had about six different designs for the background students and just made a lot of copies of each one, so that all the background students were identical to half a dozen others.
  • Team Fortress 2: All members of the same class are identical. Teams are only differentiated by colour, and unless you have some hats, team-mates not even by that. This isn’t even a case of Gameplay and Story Segregation; the “Meet the Medic” video features the Red Heavy mowing down an army of identical Blu Soliders.
  • Fire Emblem Awakening reveals that there are lots of Annas floating around, which explains how she appears in every single game. They're all from different alternative universes.
  • In the game Impossible Creatures, all the henchmen look and sound alike, even in the cutscenes. The villagers too, even the African natives look the same as the Eskimos, except for clothing.
  • In Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, the police officers of Monte d'Or are completely identical, much to the frustration of everyone, specially between themselves.

    Webcomics 
  • Similarly, there's Akbar, from 8-Bit Theater. Of course, he's only pretending to be a dozen unrelated people. Here's one
  • While not exactly a web comic, the short "series" of hentai comics Daily Life with a (monster girl)(NSFW), features the lead male as being a family of brothers who all look the same.
  • The thrice-abandoned webcomic Spells And Whistles featured a recurring individual called T (who looked exactly like a certain member of The A-Team) and his lackey (lower-case) t who turned up several times in odd places, each time with a different profession. It was never made clear if it was the same guy over and over or a whole bunch of guys with the same names and faces, though the comic's fans largely believed it to be the latter.
  • Real Life Comics does this with the character Alan Extra, who is...well ...
  • The webcomic Monster Commute has a string of "convenience" stores called Oni Oni Mart, to quote the site: "Owned and operated by Toni Oni, One employee; Toni Oni and aspects of Mr. Oni, Over 800,000 locations currently known."
  • Slice of Life has the Bons — Bonnie, Bombe, Bonelle, Bon Suite, Bon Bond, Bonita, and Bon-Bon. One of them is a skilled candymaker, but all of them dislike being mistaken for each other, which makes visits to them somewhat... tense.

     Web Original  
  • Agents Of Cracked features a rival website to Cracked.com called Broked.com, which is more than willing to steal Cracked's jokes. When Michael and Daniel eventually go to their office, they find other versions of themselves working there. A later episode revealed these as clones.

     Western Animation  
  • Goofy cartoons in the Classic Disney Shorts canon often feature a universe where EVERYONE looks like Goofy. This is most evident in sports cartoons like "How to Play Baseball" or "Hockey Homicide" where both opposing teams are made up of Goofy clones.
  • Many of the The Itchy & Scratchy Show cartoons, including the Downton Abbey parody, "Downton Tabby," show cats that all look like Scratchy and mice that all look like Itchy. Both can be either male or female.
  • The special Garfield in Paradise had a Great Gildersleeve-style sleazy salesman type show up as a hotel clerk and then a car rental agent successively, prompting the lines, "You look familiar." "I have a brother in the hotel business."
    • He's in the comic strip, too.
    • Also shows up from time to time in the TV Series, although it is strongly implied in some episodes that it's the same sleazy salesman playing out an elaborate con on Jon.
  • And, of course, the snake-oil salesman from Family Guy, who's done over a dozen sleazy, disreputable sales jobs by now.
    • The episode "Acts of God" features a bunch of Mort clones collecting pennies.
  • Futurama has a character called Sal, a fat slob who turns up in every menial position that the script required. The writers haven't yet gotten around to deciding whether there is just one Sal who constantly flits from job to job or some factory somewhere that was pumping out thousands of Sal clones, though DVD/Bluray commentary hints at the former. The same series has an Australian Man who is always doing menial labour.
  • Ditto the "Squeaky-Voiced Teen" (later revealed, during his time as Store Manager of the Springfield branch of Foot Locker, to be the son of Lunchlady Doris, and having the last name Friedman, both at roughly the same time) and "Sarcastic Man" in The Simpsons, as well as Lindsey Naegle, who's always an executive, but not always in the same company. She is accompanied by different people in different companies, but there is a recurring male executive from season 12 onwards. One executive claims that killing them creates two more.
    • Also, in "Marge and Homer Turn a Couple Play" it was revealed that there are multiple Duffmans that look, sound and act exactly the same.
      • Duffman isn't inexplicable though. He's a professional mascot played by different actors.
    Lenny: Newsweek said you died of liver failure.
    Duffman: Duffman can never die! Only the actors who play him! Oh yeah!
    • Lindsey, however, has admitted she changes jobs so often because "I'm a sexual predator."
    • When Homer was once banned from Moe's Tavern, someone came in the bar looking like Homer with a bad disguise as a wealthy person, complete with top hat, cane and monocle. Believing it was Homer, Moe got infuriated, and the barfly beat him up and threw him outside. Cut to a depressed Homer walking outside and noticing the man looking like him, but is then distracted by a dog with a puffy tail.
  • The Red Guy in Cow and Chicken and I Am Weasel.
    • They hung a lampshade once in I Am Weasel, and occasionally in Cow and Chicken more than one Red Guy would appear in the same scene together (Journalist Geraldo Rear-viewah meets warden Ben Pantsed).
      • The opening scene even lampshades it, as Red Guy reveals a whole plethora of Red Guys, each with a different outfit.
      • They're not always different people though: One I Am Weasel ep had the titular character sent to prison by an obscure law pointed out by a Red Guy attorney only to find a Red Guy warden. When he asks the latter if they are one and the same he denies it while acting quite nervous.
  • In the Back to the Future animated series, no matter where you went and what time period you were in, there was always a Biff. And no matter how many generations removed from the "normal" Biff, they were identical except for their period clothing. Those are some strong genes. Lampshaded by Marty in one episode.
    Marty: Is there a Tannen in every century?
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • The storekeepers in the episode "The Painted Lady" appear to be a set of Inexplicably Identical Individuals, differing only by their hats. It is actually just one old man that's gone insane from eating deformed fish from a horribly polluted lake. He acts as if they're different people even when he changes right in front of people:
    Aang: Aha, I knew it! I knew you were the same guy. You're the shop owner and the boat guy.
    Dock/Xu/Bushi: Oh, you must be talking about my brothers, Dock and Xu.
    Aang: No, I just saw you! You switched hats and called yourself a different name!
    Dock/Xu/Bushi: Oh, you know who does that? My brother Dock. He's crazy.
    • Deconstruction: Also taken to creepy extent with Stepford Smiler Joo Dee. When the gang tells the first Joo Dee about the Fire Nation approaching Ba Sing Se, she's taken out and replaced with someone who looks similar, but is still quite distinct, and still identifies as Joo Dee. The gang later finds out that several similar looking women are all brainwashed into being "Joo Dee." The name is actually the Chinese equivalent of "Jane Doe".
  • Implied with Rancid Rabbit in CatDog.
  • Mr. Hollywood from 2 Stupid Dogs (the big guy with the Texan accent and the catchphrase "Isn't that cute...but it's WRONG!")
  • The Debbies from The Oblongs tend to act like a hive mind and act exactly the same.
  • The shopkeeper from Ned's Newt that sold Ned the newt makes frequent reappearances as an extra. Sometimes more than one of him would appear on screen at once.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog had the General and the Lieutenant, who were alternately policemen, captains, security guards, ninjas, and so on. The "Lieutenant" often appeared alongside identical versions of himself.
  • Played with in Stroker and Hoop. One of the voice actors plays a different background guy in almost every episode (usually with only one or two lines). It turns out they're all the same guy, but with extensive surgery after each appearance, and he's out for revenge against Stroker and Hoop for ruining his life.
  • The Ice King from Adventure Time has a whole kingdom of identical penguins, and because he's not all there in the head he calls the penguin closest to him at the moment Gunther, and in one episode he called other penguins by different names (though all of them were variations of Gunter, such as Guntag or Gunthor).
  • The Royal Guards in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic come in two variations - white and grey, and either pegasus or unicorn or occasionally earthpony. There has so far only been one notable guard: Flash Sentry, who has orange fur.
    • Often when there is a large crowd, background characters are duplicated.
    • Photo Finish and an unnamed Valley Girl pony look uncannily like Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash respectively, due to literally being the same pony design dressed up in costumes. Photo Finish even has the same cutie mark, and the other has the same everything except for hair that looks suspiciously like a wig.
  • Monsters University has the the girls of Python Nu Kappa, who all look identical save for different colored skin.
  • The Vehicons of Transformers Prime are all identical except for their voices kibble, with roughly half being jets and the other half being cars, and those that share kibble are completely identical except maybe for voices. While not inexplicable, per se (they are robots, after all), it does go unexplained as to why they're identical when most Transformers aren't.
    • The Insecticons are also all identical, save for Hardshell, whose color scheme is a bit different.
    • The season two finale throws in Decepticons known as "seekers"... Who are just a silver Palette Swap of the jet Vehicons.


"Wait, don't I know you?"
"No, you must mean my sister. Or my cousin, or my granny...Maybe half of the east coast, I don't know — there are a lot of me."


Incredibly Obvious TailAdverbly Adjective NounInherently Funny Words
Prince and PauperActing for TwoLatex Perfection
Inexplicably AwesomeCharacters as DeviceThe Informant
Heavy SleeperImageSource/Anime & MangaNot Allowed to Grow Up

alternative title(s): Nurse Jenny
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