Recycled Premise

A Recycled Premise is when a show is made that is effectively identical to another, earlier, popular show, made simply to cash in on the craze or shoot for another demographic. Note however, that not all sequels are recycled premises — just the ones that are almost identical, and have more than a couple of recycled scripts.

A Super Trope to:

Though it's tempting to point fingers and yell "It's Been Done!" the fact is Tropes Are Tools, and money is made.

Compare Gender Flip, Whole Plot Reference, Follow the Leader, Setting Update, X Meets Y, This Is Your Premise on Drugs, Better by a Different Name.

Work-specific examples:


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     Anime and Manga 
  • Paranormal elements aside, Death Note is a story about brilliant yet secretive student committing crimes "for the greater good of society" and slowly becoming a megalomaniac in process, all while playing mind games against a genius detective (which eventually get him in trouble and his worldview brutally shattered in the end). In other words, it's pretty much a modern supernatural version of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment.
  • Nearly every Gundam series since the original, though this is quite intentional and pretty much the point of the series.
  • Many people have accused Pokémon 4Ever of ripping off Princess Mononoke.
  • Although they are quite different stylistically, Samurai Champloo has several episodes that have similar plots to those of another Jidai Geki anime, Kazemakase Tsukikage Ran. Both have episodes that homage Yojimbo, an episode where an artist wanting one of the characters to model is a front for a sex slavery ring, and both have the main cast interacting with one of the few foreigners in Japan during that period.
  • Detective Conan is this to Ichinensei ni Nacchattara. The only difference is the gender of the protagonist after shrinking, although the latter is an ecchi series and runs for only nine volumes whereas the former is shonen and there are lots of fans out there complaining about its conclusion never arriving after about 20 years.

     Comic Books 
  • The premise of Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman is weirdly similar to the plot of Godzilla vs. Destoroyah—with Superman taking Godzilla's place. Both of them are built up as hypothetical grand finales for their respective characters, in which the hero discovers that a fatal overdose of the substance that gives them their power will soon kill them, and both of them end with a successor preparing to take up the dead hero's mantle after they die facing their oldest enemy. All-Star Superman features Superman slowly dying from an overdose of solar radiation, with Leo Quintum and P.R.O.J.E.C.T. trying to save him, as well as a final confrontation with Lex Luthor, and P.R.O.J.E.C.T. planning to build a new Superman. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah features Godzilla slowly dying from an overdose of nuclear radiation, with Miki Saegusa and the UNGCC trying to save him, as well as a final confrontation with the mutated offspring of the Oxygen Destroyer, and Godzilla Junior preparing to carry on his father's legacy.

  • Most people in the West who have heard of City on Fire discovered it in the context of being the film of which Reservoir Dogs is a version.
  • The plot of Dinosaur was lifted from The Land Before Time. It wasn't originally supposed to have dialogue to differentiate itself, but ultimately did.
    • Ironically, The Land Before Time was originally meant to be without dialog, too. The only speech was to have come from an unseen narrator; the idea was to give the film a sort of "nature documentary" feel. In both cases, Executive Meddling saw to it that the dinosaurs spoke in the final film.
  • Doctor Strange: A sorcerer's former apprentice had gone rogue studying dark magic from a book, starting a conflict over the book with the sorcerer. A Manhattan resident, who doesn't believe in magic, is trained to become an apprentice of the sorcerer. The sorcerer teaches the apprentice how magic can access a mirror dimension outside normal reality, in order to help battle the former apprentice, who already knows how to enter the mirror dimension. The two apprentices confront each other and duel with magic, culminating in a magical special effects battle on the busy city streets at night.
  • Stargate and Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
  • Dirty Work and Hot Rod both center on an unsuccessful loser trying to raise $50,000 so his cranky ex-boxer father can have a heart transplant.
  • A lawsuit happened over similarities between the big-budget Michael Bay film The Island and an earlier B-movie, Parts: The Clonus Horror.
    • The 1999 John Darnton novel The Experiment seems like a pretty clear rip-off as well.
  • Gus Van Sant remade Psycho and apparently, changed almost nothing.
    • He was proud of changing nothing. He bragged all his edits and camera angles were identical to the original. Some believed it was an attempt to invoke the notion of a legacy story. Which is basically the reason people still perform Shakespeare. A lot of iconic stagings are duplicated as well. Eventually, it becomes about how different actors portray these characters. However, given the nature of the two mediums (stage vs. screen), a shot for shot remake was probably folly.
  • Exactly how many times is Godzilla going to fight King Ghidorah or Mothra or Mechagodzilla? Considering that these are the most marketable monsters that Toho owns, a lot.
  • Depending on who you ask, James Cameron's opus Avatar is a carbon copy of every movie ever made.
  • The premise of Slap Shot 3 (yes, there was a third one) was basically The Mighty Ducks but with The Hanson Brothers as supporting characters. They didn't even try to make the film any different from that series.
  • The Fast and the Furious took Point Break (1991) and replaced the surfboards with custom cars. The title (but not the story rights) was obtained from a little-known Roger Corman 1955 movie.
  • And that movie (the Roger Corman one) was later recycled as the 1994 movie The Chase.
  • Speed 2: Cruise Control reuses the first film's premise of a vehicle that cannot stop due to the bombs that the villain planted on it. Only instead of taking place in a bus, it takes place in a ship.
  • A little known film called Hammer of the Gods is about a viking warrior who must travel through hostile lands to find the heir to the throne, only to find him ruling over a tribe as a madman king... Yep, it's Apocalypse Now with Vikings.
  • If you're a Doctor Who fan, you may find some aspects of Man of Steel oddly familiar. Once the movie gets over its obligatory Origin Story, it's essentially just the story of a hero who's The Last of His Kind unexpectedly finding a group of survivors from his home planet, then being forced to turn against them to stop their leader from wiping out the human race in a bid to resurrect his doomed species. In the process, he must face the idea that the threat of extinction turned his people into a race of militaristic xenophobes, and that they don't deserve another chance. In other's "The End of Time" with Kryptonians instead of Time Lords.
  • Rambo IV is pretty much a Bloodier and Gorier version of Rambo III. Though instead of Rambo trying to rescue Col. Trautman, he's now trying to rescue Sarah and a group of missionaries, and the Karen rebels are pretty much similar to the Mujahideen from the third movie. The Big Bad in both movies are similar too, as both Zaysen and Tint love slaughtering men, women, and children and burning down villages.
  • Kiss of the Tarantula is basically Willard with a gender flipped Villain Protagonist and tarantulas instead of rats.

  • P. G. Wodehouse's novel The Small Bachelor lifted its plot from the Broadway musical Oh, Lady! Lady!!, one of the legendary "Princess" shows Wodehouse wrote in collaboration with Guy Bolton.
  • ''Jurassic Park
    • Michael Crichton wrote the scrip for the 1973 film Westworld, which was about a bunch of tourists who go to the eponymous western themed amusement park, the animatronics gain sentience and start hunting down the park attendees. In 1989 his book, Jurassic Park, was published, and tells the story of a group of tourists who go to an island populated with cloned dinosaurs, which through a series of events, escape from their enclosures and proceed to eat the attendees.
    • The basic premise of dinosaurs cloned for the purpose of a theme park gone wrong was a plot point in Judge Dredd's "Cursed Earth" arc.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Family Matters, which in addition to being a Spin-Off from Perfect Strangers started out being much like The Cosby Show.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard:
    • The series itself is a retooling of Moonrunners.
    • The 1982 Coy and Vance-era episode titled — appropriately enough — "Coy vs. Vance" uses the same premise as an episode from two years earlier, "Carnival Of Thrills." Both episodes were about one of the Duke boys (Bo in the earlier episode, Coy in the newer show) falling for the voluptuous operator of a stunt show, the other Duke cousin learning that the new girlfriend has a dark secret to hide about the show (in both cases, the mechanic directed to sabotage the vehicle used in the main event stunt to cause an accident and the show to collect insurance), Bo/Coy refusing to believe them to the point where a fistfight breaks out ... and Bo/Coy learning in the end Luke/Vance were right and then teaming up to either successfully perform the stunt and/or expose the scheme and bring the stunt show operator and her henchmen to justice.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has a similar premise to Babylon 5. Deep Space Nine has a number of parallels to Babylon 5 above and beyond the station premise, including but not limited to the jumpgate/wormhole, a race who rebelled against its more-advanced alien oppressors and eventually threw them off their planet, a group of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who were using religion to influence more primitive peoples, a station commander who becomes a key figure in an alien religion in fulfillment of prophecy, a former imperialistic power trying to regain their old territory, a bone-ridge-headed alien race who were former-enemies-turned-allies with humanity, a snarky and cynical head of security with guilt about his shameful past, an idealistic young doctor who has issues with his father, a prototype Earth-made warship that's smaller and more powerful than the huge battle cruisers that make up most of the human fleet, a human government that hid corruption behind a veil of supposed Utopianism, and a long-term plot that included a war against a powerful and previously-unknown enemy who can hide almost anywhere.
  • Fringe looked suspiciously similar to Strange World, just from the advertisements.
  • How many Disney sitcoms are about an average kid with an amazing secret that no one but their parents, annoying sibling, and best friend know about?
  • The early Metal Hero shows (Gavan, Sharivan, Shaider, and Spielban) were pretty much identical to each other cast wise. Sharivan and Spielban even had the same actor playing the hero. Also, the Space Sheriff Trilogy (the above, minus Spielban) had the evil organizations acting exactly the same and the hero working for the same organization, with some of the same supporting cast. Basically, new actors were plugged into essentially the same roles.
  • Kamen Rider was no different. The hero is turned into a cyborg and must fight a Nebulous Evil Organization and its cyborg monsters; every evil organization's hierarchy is the voice of Goro Naya commanding a single general who commands the Monster of the Week. There's surprisingly little variation from this, and when it is it's details like kidnapped by bad guys and altered vs. injured by bad guys and altered.
    • While the modern Heisei era shows more variety, it still falls into this, especially when certain writers are part of it. Agito, Faiz, and Kiva all feature identical Poor Communication Kills plotlines (detailed on that trope page) and all three were written by Toshiki Inoue.
  • Merlin began as a bit of a lift of the initial premise of Smallville, with the twist that the Destined Hero (in this case Arthur) isn't the main character, and at least initially was possibly closer to being the Lex counterpart.
  • On iCarly, the episode "iSaved Your Life" has one of the main characters falling in love with a major character. The Anti-Hero character then guilts one of the involved parties into believing that the love may be superficial, forcing them to break-up to satisfy Status Quo Is God. It's pretty much identical to the episode "Josh Loves Mindy" on Drake & Josh.
  • Nickelodeon's How to Rock copied Disney Channel's That's So Raven with the episode "How to Rock a Statue" copying "Art Breaker", respectively. Both involve a statue created in the main protagonist's likeness, both involve said protagonist wanting to change the statue (specifically the nose), thus breaking the statue, and both involve the main protagonist acting as a double for the statue.
  • Body of Proof has been criticized for basically being a generic combination of Bones (female medical examiner with No Social Skills) and House (snarky doctor with mild disability).
  • Prior to I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball played a scheming, nutty housewife in a radio show titled My Favorite Husband, wherein her character was married to a dull, inoffensive, American banker. Execs wanted to adapt the series almost wholesale because it tested so well, whereas Ball and Arnaz wanted to take things in a different direction (and use the series as a vehicle for improving their marriage). Even though the shows have different characters, some episodes of I Love Lucy reused storylines and gags from the radio show, since they shared three writers (Bob Carroll, Madelyn Pugh, and Jess Oppenheimer). After I Love Lucy became a hit, CBS tried to make lightning strike twice by adapting My Favorite Husband itself as a TV show (with a different cast and crew), but that show went nowhere and was soon forgotten.
    • Another reason Ball and Arnaz abandoned My Favorite Husband — that series was based on the novel Mr. and Mrs. Cugat by Isabel Scott Rorick. (In fact, the lead characters were named George and Liz Cugat for the first 20 episodes. Their last name was changed to "Cooper" to avoid confusion with bandleader Xavier Cugat and his wife.) By creating their own (albeit similar) concept, Desilu managed to avoid paying royalties to Rorick.
  • After having had a huge hit with The Hollywood Squares (1966-1981), creator Merrill Heatter recycled the "quiz show with celebrities in a ginormous board" premise twice: first with Battlestars (1981-83), then All-Star Blitz (1985).
  • Several game shows got reborn under tweaked rules and different names:
  • Goodson-Todman took the premise of The Price Is Right—to not exceed the value of merchandise—then pared the contestants down to two and called it Say When!! in 1961. Fourteen years later, Bill Carruthers took the premise of Say When!!, added a spinning arrow and called it Give-n-Take.
  • A TV producer named Wilbur Stark mixed Password with You Don't Say! and came up with The Object Is (1963), the first game show hosted by Dick Clark. Conversely, Goodson-Todman cribbed from Password and You Don't Say! themselves and came up with 1964's Get The Message.
  • A relatively sane, smart host cracks wise about dubious political and pop-cultural phenomena while dealing with less than sane correspondents. Pop quiz: did we just describe America's The Daily Show or Australia's Shaun Micallefs Mad As Hell? Yes.
  • In-universe example: in Parks and Recreation, Tom's prospective game show Know Ya Boo! is pointed out to be just The Newlywed Game with a CGI puppy. For its part, Parks and Rec started life as nothing more than "The Office in the public sector with a female lead" but quickly distinguished itself.
  • My Kitchen Rules is largely inspired by the Australian version of MasterChef. Aside from the fact that MKR follows teams of two rather than competing individuals, as well as the Instant Restaurant rounds they introduce at the start of each season, the two shows follows pretty much the same premise.
  • Power Rangers has some seasons that come off as little more than English "dubs" of Super Sentai shows. Opinion-wise, it can actually be something of a toss-up: Samurai is generally considered one of the worst seasons (despite Shinkenger being a fan-favorite) because of the perceived lazy writing and poor acting. On the other side of the coin, Time Force also cleaves fairly closely to its source show Timeranger, but fans tend to have a better opinion of it thanks to the changes that were made and the quality of the acting.

  • In The '80s, Kenner's Rose Petal Place toy line was essentially the Strawberry Shortcake franchise (which Kenner had made toys for) with characters themed/named after flowers instead of food.
  • In the earlier parts of BIONICLE, the stories often involved the characters' home island being overrun by (usually non-sentient) beings, and the heroes having to collect various MacGuffins (masks, mask-like parasites, more masks, disks, pieces of a map), mostly in order to defeat the villains. The Mata Nui sagas were basically built around the formula of baddies showing up, the village elders sharing their knowledge with the heroes, heroes collecting stuff and having in-fights, going underground to face a boss, and coming back up, having learned the importance of teamwork for the umpteenth time. Further, the village of Le-Koro being overrun and its protector Lewa getting mindcontrolled by the enemies, with Onua freeing Lewa and other villagers (with Takua among them) saving Le-Koro was used as a side-plot in two consecutive years.
  • The first set of toys for Vor Tech Undercover Conversion Squad were recycled from Kenner's M.A.S.K. series.

     Video Games 
  • Rockstar Games is a serious offender: Compare Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, San Andreas and Manhunt to The Godfather, Scarface, Menace II Society and The Running Man. The main character of Vice City even has a mansion that contains obvious Shout Outs to Scarface. Also worth noting that both Godfather and Scarface have been turned into games that rip off the gameplay style of GTA. Vice City also needs to mention Miami Vice. Considering the sidekick from the show is your sidekick in the game...
    • Worth noting that Rockstar began developing Manhunt as an adaptation of the film The Warriors, but were unable to get the rights to it. Also, unlike The Running Man, Manhunt is set in the present day. Rockstar ultimately made a full-fledged adaptation of The Warriors two years later.
  • BioShock is a remake of System Shock 2, fueled by Objectivist propaganda.
  • Medal of Honor: Vanguard and Medal of Honor: Airborne are both Medal of Honor games that focus on the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne and 17th Divisions, that include Operations: Husky, Neptune, Market Garden and Varsity, allow the player to choose where they start at the begining of each Operation with the parachute mechanic and feature a protagonist that gets promoted halfway through the game.

  • Sleepless Domain starts off with a five-person Magical Girl team, with the team members corresponding the each of the four classic elements, along with the leader having Aether powers. Which, it turns out, is the exact team makeup in W.I.T.C.H. and its animated adaptation. Then this gets subverted in a very horrific way as half the team is killed off and their leader gets de-powered, setting up for the actual story to begin.

     Web Original 

     Western Animation 
  • All the Hanna-Barbera cartoons that tried (and failed) to duplicate the success of Scooby-Doo.
  • After Hanna-Barbera made The Flintstones, a sitcom (more specifically The Honeymooners) set in the Stone Age, they eventually went on to make The Jetsons, a sitcom set 20 Minutes into the Future, and The Roman Holidays, a sitcom set in Ancient Rome.
    • And then they made Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, a sitcom set in... modern times (for 1972, anyway).
    • Top Cat is The Phil Silvers Show with cats in an alley instead of army officers on a base. Both shows even shared actor Maurice Gosfield - who played Doberman on the latter and voiced the Doberman-esque Benny in the former.
    • The Hair Bear Bunch (formally titled Help!...It's The Hair Bear Bunch) was an ursine Hogan's Heroes that took place in a zoo instead of a German prison camp.
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut was basically an expanded, musical version of the episode "Death". Both involve Terrence & Phillip, potshots at Moral Guardians and scapegoating, and Kyle's mom taking her activism Up to Eleven.
    • Admittedly, the TV episode wasn't a musical, and didn't end with Kenny saving the Earth from the Apocalypse.
  • The Simpsons often has recycled themes of its past episodes, entirely unintentionally (the writers have lost track of what's going on; no one can tell Lou from Eddie). Homer has dressed up as Santa repeatedly, Homer has twice become a Smithers, family members have switched religions and Marge used Reverend Lovejoy's help to get them back, the Simpsons have gone on vacations full of gags based on the location with a third act involving them in danger, Lisa has been upstaged by a peer twice while Homer is involved in a wacky scheme to make money off of a fatty food additive, Lisa has gone to a better school to find out she's been challenged, a Simpson kid has become Krusty's assistant, both children have won parent-constructed project contests based on the fact that their father's job on them looks so shoddy that it "obviously" was done with no help from their parents; the line "There's a New Mexico" is said once in season five, again in season twelve. Professor Frink has become a suave casa nova. Some of these might be running jokes. Who knows?
    • The trope is also lampshaded and played with the second time the Simpsons get a horse. Comic Book Guy stands up and says, "I would like to point out that the Simpsons already had a horse," and gives a summary of an episode several seasons previous. Homer's response is, "Does anybody care what this guy thinks?" Here, Homer and the crowd are justified as, unlike with many of the above examples, the two horse episodes were wildly different.
  • The Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "One Of Our Planets Is Missing" is basically a reworking of the Original Series episode "The Immunity Syndrome," but this time done in such a way that the science mostly makes sense.
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! has a few examples:
    • "Prisoner of War" and "Assault on 42" both see Captain America leading heroes and villains trapped in an intergalactic prison in fending off a destructive alien force together. Worse, Disney XD aired the latter episode only a little over a month after the former's premiere. At least the motive behind fending off the alien differs in each of those two cases.
    • "Ultron Unlimited" seems almost like "Gamma World" meets "Infiltration", as it has a villain who wants to remake the world in his imagenote , and evil duplicates of the Avengers assisting a world domination plannote . However, you could argue that this episode takes those plot points into different directions.
    • "Some Assembly Required" and "The Deadliest Man Alive" both have a villain manipulating The Incredible Hulk into acting even more destructive than usual, nearly destroying his relationship with the other Avengers in the process. They even both end with Hulk quitting the Avengers, although the second time at least has Hulk assure the others that he'll return eventually.
  • The third season of The Legend of Korra has Lin Bei Fong being forced to forgive her long estranged half-sister Suyin for disfiguring her face years ago when Lin broke up a crime Suyin took part in (and in general for Suyin being a pain in the ass who always got what she wanted while Lin got nothing in return for her hard work), which is a pretty blatant rehash of Lin's arc in the first season where she had to learn to let go of her long standing resentment of her former lover Tenzin leaving her for the much younger Pema. It also rehashes a theme from the second season about siblings still suffering damaged relationships as adults due to the mistakes of their parents (in the second season this was between Tenzin and his older siblings, brother Bumi and sister Kya, since their father Aang, unintentionally, neglected the older siblings in favor of Tenzin, who was the only air bender in the family at the time, while in the third season Toph is revealed to have been a less than ideal parent to Lin and Suyin).
  • Hanna-Barbera cartoons re-imagined as Darker and Edgier for the sake of parody.