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A swimsuit and high boots? Storm did it first!note 

"There is no originality left in the world, Mr. Heep. That is a sad fact I've come to live with."
Movie critic Harry Farber, Lady in the Water

A lengthy joke in which a character describes some new idea, invention, story or script, only to be informed that somebody already got there before him and that all the tropes he thinks are new are in fact Older Than They Think. The punchline is usually a ridiculously mundane or roundabout name for the proposed "new" work, and for added humor value, the story that the character has unknowingly plagiarized is usually something mind-bogglingly well known.

It's based on the well-known phenomenon that there are so many things out there it's incredibly hard to come up with something new, especially since "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny and oftentimes, people get the idea inspired by something. (Even the great J. R. R. Tolkien's stories were inspired by pulp fantasy writers in the 1930s and borrow heavily from Germanic myths about a ring that gives massive power to whoever wears it...sound familiar?)

There are many other ways of phrasing this, including:

  • From a 19th Century BCE Egyptian poem: "What has been said has been said."
  • From The Bible (Ecclesiastes 1:9): "It has all been done before; there is nothing new under the sun." note 
  • From The Beatles "All You Need Is Love": "There's nothing you can do that can't be done."
  • German version from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: "Alles Gescheidte ist schon gedacht worden, man muß nur versuchen es noch einmal zu denken." note 

The surest way to avert this trope is to put enough old things together that the ensuing Combinatorial Explosion results in something new or unexpected.

Compare It Will Never Catch On, We Have Those, Too, and Didn't We Use This Joke Already?. The Zeroth Law of Trope Examples explains how Shakespeare did it before. Yes, We DO Have This One is this happening for creating TLP. For how the hearts of budding artists may be quickly crushed, see TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life. For when this reaction occurs in-universe and/or entirely from the perspective of a single character, see Never Heard That One Before.

Due to numerous copyright laws, there is a legal term called "scene-a-faire" which translates to "scene that must be done." It's a possible grounds for dismissal if a copyright claim includes numerous events and ideas that are common within the medium or genre. A Police Procedural will have an interrogation scene. A Medical Drama will feature CPR. A Horror film will have a Cat Scare.

Fittingly, this trope itself is Older Than Dirt.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Bleach, Soifon reveals while fighting Yoruichi that she has been developing a new technique that combines kido with unarmed combat, saying that she hasn't even named it yet. When she demonstrates the attack against Yoruichi, Yoruichi reveals that it already has a name and counters with the completed version of the attack. Yoruichi then goes on to explain how the attack affected the uniform design for Soifon's position, which Yoruichi previously had. Because it destroys clothing over the back of the user, the uniform is backless and shoulderless.
  • Part of a Running Gag in Dr. STONE. Whenever Chrome (a young scientist from the stone-age future) invents something new, only for someone from the past to instantly recognize what it is, much to Chrome's disappointment.
  • In Dragon Ball, Goku befriends the folks at a dojo. The master shows his Phantom Star technique, which he invented on his own. He's shocked when Goku recognizes it, since he learned it from Master Roshi as the Afterimage technique.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Future Trunks thinks he's achieved a new skill by increasing his muscle mass (the Ultra Super Saiyan form), and hides the form from Vegeta because he didn't want to hurt his pride. Cell informs him that anybody can increase their muscle mass, even Vegeta, but nobody does because while it makes you stronger, it drains speed and stamina, and Trunks was a fool for not noticing this flaw. Ironically, during the Cell Games, a desperate Cell tries to beef up his muscles in hope to counteract Super Saiyan 2 Gohan's overwhelming power. Of course, his speed is drastically reduced, with Trunks commenting that Cell made the exact same mistake he did.
  • Paraiso has a pair of girls discussing about how sticking contact lenses in your eye is a crazy idea and how they should make them external, bigger and supported by your nose and ears. Then they go on to discuss about how blowjobs are hard on their jaw and how there should be another place to stick it in.
  • In UQ Holder!, a moment after Touta Konoe decides to create an organization of immortals, he learns that his grandfather Negi Springfield already made one.
  • In Yakitate!! Japan, several types of "Ja-pan" that Kazuma developed on his own turn out to be just variants on well-known types of bread. For example, Ja-pan Number 34 is basically a croissant, and Ja-pan Number 16 is a naan (an unleavened Indian bread often served with curry) bread bowl in the shape of Mount Fuji.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Siegfried hated Seto Kaiba because every time he came up with a business idea, Seto did it first. Siegfried decided to change his company from a weapons manufacturer to a game manufacturer, but Seto did it first and cornered the market. Siegfried then worked on a way to turn Duel Monsters cards into holograms, but when he tried to show Maximillion Pegasus his device, he arrived only to find Seto had just shown Pegasus his own, superior device and cut a deal with him. In the English dub, Siegfried goes as far as accusing Seto of stealing his ideas (which Seto denies since they hadn't seen each other since they were children), while in the Japanese version, Siegfried simply wants revenge on Seto for having the money and fame he thinks he deserves.

    Audio Plays 
  • During one Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama, The Wormery, the Sixth Doctor (post "Trial of a Time Lord"), runs into Time Lady Iris Wildthyme. The plot culminates with the revelation that the villain is basically her version of the Valeyard, and throughout the entire ending the Doctor complains to both of them just how amazingly unoriginal they're both being, outraged by the plagiarized dialogue and recycled scenario. This is something of a habit for Iris, as many of her adventures bear a striking resemblance to the Doctor's (or possibly vice versa).

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe
    • Gyro Gearloose from the Donald Duck comics has a tendency to invent things which already exist. In one comic he is asked to repair a suitcase with 4 wheels, of which one is broken. He keeps adding improvements, such as a seat, a steering wheel, bigger wheels and so on, and proudly delivers it back to the owner, only to be told "We already own a trailer!" In another comic, he goes picnicking, but is bothered by various elements like ants, the wind and rain, causing him to create a floor, walls and a roof. In the end, he's re-invented the house, and wonders why he didn't just stay home. In another comic, Gyro is found in the woods studying woodpeckers so he can make a "machine that can make holes like them." In other words, a drill.
    • In Don Rosa's story "Mythical Menagerie", Donald Duck tries to pull a prank on Huey, Dewey, and Louie, who are going animal-spotting for a Junior Woodchucks merit badge, by gluing props onto farm animals to make made-up creatures... unfortunately, all the creatures Donald makes up are unwittingly based on creatures from mythology: A yellow rabbit with a horn? A mi'raj from India. A polka-dot cat? A gulon from Scandinavia, and so on.
    • One story had Donald trying to gain publicity for Scrooge's new car model by doing all kinds of stunts with it, only to be told by bored reporters that someone had already done the same thing but more so. The absurd conclusion was that he arranged to drive it around the Moon, only to be told afterwards that the Apollo crew had already done something like that ages ago.
  • One Gaston Lagaffe strip has Gaston invent a better alarm clock by building an elaborate contraption involving a clock and a radio. Prunelle bets him a proper clock radio that it won't wake him up, and loses — while the thing doesn't actually work, it shorts out and sets fire to the building, and the fire department wakes Gaston up.
  • Gotlib once wrote a story about someone trying to sell a script that took him months to write. The only thing is... this is exactly the same story as Brothers Grimm's Snow White, so his script is refused, he doesn't get paid and Gotlib concludes: "Grimm does not pay."
  • Used in a French comic parodying the superheroes genre, Man! The title character, wishing to become a superhero, tries to convince his parents of this career choice. When it comes to select a name and costume, he first chooses a bat-themed one and the name "Bat-Man"! But his parents tell him "It's been done already." Frustrated, the hero then chooses to be "Super-Man"!... and a bunch of lawyers appears out of nowhere, explaining how much trouble he's in. Fed up with American-style heroes, the protagonist then decides to aim for something more specifically French... "Superdupont-Man"! Only to have Gotlib's avatar showing up and tsk-tsking.
  • The fact that Red Robin's costume looks very similar to that of the older hero Dr. Midnight became a running gag prior to the costume going through some odd retooling.
  • The Simpsons: As in the show proper, it's not above pointing out when they've recycled their own plots (Marge mentioning all the countries they've been to, or all the jobs Homer's taken over the years, which takes her several hours).
  • Snapper Carr in Young Justice put it nicely.
    Snapper: There's nothing new under the sun. The only recent new idea was casting Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger as identical twins. Before that you've got to go back to the Magna Carta.

    Comic Strips 
  • A Bloom County strip parodied this in which a teacher claims there no new ideas in the universe. A student argues the point, but is told that "Failure is hardly original."
  • In March 1951, an American and a British cartoonist both came up with the idea of a comic strip called Dennis the Menace. In some newspapers, they even debuted on the exact same day!
  • In a Dilbert strip, Dilbert is presenting his idea for a way to use electricity to cook your food "Without the need for charcoal or lighter fluid" to Dogbert, and announced he would name it the X-39 Energy Transfer Module. Dogbert simply replies "Did the name 'Electric Stove' ever occur to you?", pointing out Dilbert's invention fell back on this trope.
  • UK newspaper strip The Perishers had Marlon, the keen but not-very-bright kid, who on one occasion took up inventing for a hobby. When his friends pointed out that his inventions (fire, the wheel and the horse and cart) had all been invented by other people, he wasn't worried because he invented them quicker and was therefore catching up.
  • This strip by Brazilian cartoonist Adão Iturrusgarai (titled "Portrait of a Young Rocker") illustrates it well when applied to the debauchery of rock musicians:
    Blue-skinned guy: I'm gonna bite bats on stage!
    Striped-shirt guy: That's been done before.
    BSG: I'll put a silk-screened banana on my album cover!
    SSG: That's been done.
    BSG: I'm gonna thrash a hotel room!
    SSG: Pfffft!
    BSG: Dammit! Then I'll drown myself in a bathtub in Paris!
    SSG: That's been done.
  • Done implicitly in a Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin proclaims he's going to change the meanings of words so that his parents won't be able to understand him. His father responds with slang terms that were presumably used by his own generation, showing those did the same thing.
    Calvin: Isn't that totally spam? It's lubricated! Well, I'm phasing.
    Calvin's Dad: [not looking up from his book, flashing a peace sign] Marvy. Fab. Far out.

    Fan Works 
  • When the heroes of Calvin & Hobbes: The Series are stuck in a death trap, they try to come up with their famous last words, Andy tries "Either these curtains go, or I do." Sherman tells him, "I think someone already said that."note 
  • In Dragon Ball Z Abridged Return of Cooler, after Cooler shows that he's become a robot;
    Piccolo: Freeza did it.
    Cooler: Excuse you?
    Krillin: The robot thing. Freeza did it. When he came back to Earth.
    Cooler: But that's not the same!
    Piccolo: After he took over Namek, like you are now.
    Cooler: Wait! He destroyed Namek!
    Gohan: Well, this is New Namek.
    Cooler: So it's completely different!
    Piccolo: Yeah, as different as you are from Freeza.
    Krillin: Shots fired!
    Cooler: Kill the bald one. (robot army attacks)
    Krillin: Freeza did it!
  • Naruto: The Abridged Comedy Fandub Spoof Series Show: Zabuza tries to come up with a new plan, but discovers his plans are all plots to Disney movies.
    Zabuza: I'm going to disguise myself as a hideous old woman, then I'm going to offer them this (holds out an apple)
    Haku: [An apple?]
    Zabuza: Not just any apple, Haku. A poisoned apple, and they'll have no choice but to eat it, and when they do they'll fall asleep. Forever.
    Haku: [That's the plot to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.]
    Zabuza: What? Really? Damnit. Wait, I've got it. What if we got them to somehow prick their fingers on a spindle...
    Haku: [Sleeping Beauty.]
    Zabuza: Crap! Well what if we lure them into a valley and cause a stampede...
    Haku: [The Lion King.]
    Zabuza: Turn them all into frogs and make everything really racist.
    Haku: [The Princess and the Frog.]
    Zabuza: (crushes his apple) FUCK IT! Let's just kill them!
  • Titan Legends, a fanfic that is a universe unto itself, actually uses the line "The Simpsons did it" in the following exchange where Gauntlet tries to find something to do:
    Gauntlet: Okay, we build a monorail so our city's citizens can get around quicker!
    Robin: Simpsons already did it.
    Gauntlet: DRAT! Okay, we take advantage of certain strange government wounded egos to get one of our own sent into space!
    Beast Boy: ... dude, we go into space all the time.
    Terra: We went into space last week because you wanted legit Vietnamese food and wanted it yesterday.
    Robin: And Simpsons already did it.
    Gauntlet: ... drat. Okay... aha, we assume a superheroic identity and battle evil doers by throwing pies in their faces!
    Terra: ... Rob we already have superheroic identities.
    Starfire: And how would throwing pies in the faces of our foes do anything? It strikes me as ineffective.
    Beast Boy: Our methods work just fine!
    Terra: We don't need to change them!
    Cyborg: It's in our union contract! And I'm no good at making pastries!
    Robin: And Simpsons already did it.
    Gauntlet: Fine. We take over the world and rule it via a complex conspiracy!
    Robin: Illuminati already did it. They don't like competition.
  • One spinoff short story to You Got HaruhiRolled! has Kyouko telling Fujiwara about the plot of a fanfic she is writing, about a Living Toy who learns, to his horror, that he is just a CHILD'S PLAYTHING! Fujiwara then says that this is the exact plot of Toy Story.
  • The Petriculture Cycle: From its fifth story Pandelirium, to Discord's dismay, several "ingenious" jokes of his were already done by Trixie and Twilight in the previous story, "π".

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Austin Powers:
    • Dr. Evil is suggesting schemes that include events that happened while he was in a Human Popsicle, such as creating a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica and blackmailing the British Royal Family with false evidence that the Prince of Wales had had an affair.
      Dr. Evil: Right, people you have to tell me these things, okay? I've been frozen for thirty years, okay? Throw me a frickin' bone here!
    • Luckily, he has a backup plan:
      Dr. Evil: Oh hell, let's just do what we always do, hijack some nuclear weapons and hold the world hostage, yeah? Good.
    • Done again in the second film, where Dr. Evil travels back in time, formulating plans based on the same media he was ignorant of while still frozen. These include ideas like his "Death Star" laser on the moon, and even using footage from Independence Day to threaten the President. Essentially, after being told It's Been Done, he decided to go back in time and do it first.
  • The Cannonball Run plays this briefly as a joke (and Actor Allusion to Burt Reynolds) when J.J. and Victor are trying to come up with a vehicle for the race.
    J.J: I can get a black Trans-Am. Nah, that's been done.
  • Ghostbusters (2016). In the extended cut, an unamused Ozzy Osbourne comments on the capture of Mayhem with "Wankers! Black Sabbath did that shit in '74."
  • Early in The Great Race, Leslie proposes proving the superiority of American automobiles with a race. The people he's talking to are entirely unimpressed, as car races have been done before, until Leslie tells them that they'll be racing from New Paris.
  • In Knocked Up, the protagonists work for months on a website where one could check on celebs to look up movies/shows where they go nude, including the relevant time marks. Then somebody comes a long to tell them that there is already such a website.
  • Lady in the Water has a movie critic character who says:
    "There is no originality left in the world, Mr. Heep. That is a sad fact I've come to live with.
  • A variant in Ocean's Eleven, as Danny and Rusty pitch the central heist: "It's never been tried." Reuben gets a wonderful recap of the top three attempts, each illustrated with a period-piece flashback and his own sarcastic commentary.
    Reuben: This guy actually tasted fresh oxygen before they grabbed him. Of course, he was breathing out of a hose for the next three weeks. Goddamn hippy.
  • Office Space: After Michael Bolton (not that one) describes his scheme to Peter wherein he would deduct remaining fractions of cents from Initech's business account and put them into a separate personal bank account:
    Peter: That sounds familiar.
    Michael: Yeah. They did it in Superman III.
    Peter: Right.
    Michael: Yeah. An underrated movie, actually. And then there were a bunch of hackers that did this in the '70s as well. One of them got busted.
  • The plot of Secret Window revolves around a man threatening Mort for stealing his story, only to find out that Mort published his story a full two years before he claimed to have written it. Of course, it all ends up being a moot point when it's revealed the whole thing is Mort arguing with himself.

  • The punchline for the Jeffrey Archer short story "Chunnel Vision." At a lunch, an author hears his friend gushing about his brilliant idea of a thriller of a terrorist attack inside the Chunnel and a family caught in the middle. He fails to notice the other writer being more uncomfortable nor that his girlfriend (who's clearly planning on dumping him for cheating on her) is ordering the most expensive lunch imaginable. Just as the aspiring writer is being hit with the massive check, a woman comes up to talk to this author friend about how much she loved his newly released thriller...which is almost beat for beat the exact same plot his friend has been spending months working on.
  • Older Than Dirt: Quoted from a 19th Century BCE Egyptian poem. (Translation credit to Guy Deutscher):
    Sifting through all my words
    For what has been said is just repetition
    What has been said has been said.
  • In the Book of Ecclesiastes (1:9), its heavily cynical author complains: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."
  • In the Dave Barry column "Courtroom Confessions", this occurs as a Courtroom Antic:
    "And is it not possible that, by obtaining genetic material from fossils, scientists could clone NEW dinosaurs?"
    "OBJECTION!" thundered the district attorney. "He's introducing the plot from the blockbuster science thriller and motion picture Jurassic Park!"
  • Terry Pratchett's The Dark Side of the Sun has a dream sequence in which a character explains the course of various potential plots for the story, all of them are the plots of classic SF/fantasy novels (Dune and The Lord of the Rings are included). The main character dismisses them all as implausible, telling the other "Try the reality next door", suggesting that these events are taking place in one of the many parallel universes hinted at in the novel.
  • Discworld:
    • In the novel Wyrd Sisters, there is a dwarf playwright who swears his ideas come from literal bolts of inspiration from other universes, resulting in his plays showing influences from The Importance of Being Earnest, Duck Soup, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges, and Charlie Chaplin's "Little Tramp" character. They frustrate him because he knows they should be funny, but can't understand why or how to make the audience get it.
    • Pratchett reused the joke with movies in Moving Pictures and with Opera and musical theater in Maskerade.
    • And then there is the in-universe version in Monstrous Regiment, with Lt. Blouse devising a vast number of foodstuffs in the hope of getting one named after himself... only to learn that each and every one of them already existed.
    • And in Soul Music there is a thief who attempts to steal the secret of fire from the Gods, only to be informed by everyone that they've already got it. "Fingers" Mazda stole fire from the Gods, but it was too hot to fence. He really got burned on that deal.
  • In Kin Platt's Frank and Stein and Me Dr. Stein comes from an entire family like this. His great-grandfather Otto invented the wheel, his uncle Herman discovered gravity and his cousin Gustave invented the electric light.
    Jack: Wow! That's some family, all right. How about yourself?
    Dr. Stein: I will be the greatest of them all. You cannot guess what I am working on.
    Jack: I hope it's not going to be on relativity.
    Dr. Stein: No, no. My cousin Von did that one already.
  • Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle dedicated their 1985 novel, Footfall, to their editor, because:
    Invading the Earth was Bob Gleason's idea. He persuaded Pournelle; Pournelle persuaded Niven. (And Niven said, "I hope you broke it to him gently that it's been done!")
  • In Mercy Kill some of the newly assigned Wraith Squadron members come up with what they think are all-new stratagems. Founding Wraith member Voort "Piggy" saBinring points out that some of the tricks are older than they are. But, the only way he could know about the King of the Droids ploy is if he knew Lara Notsil was still alive. Turns out, he does.
  • In John Hodgman's More Information Than You Require, J.D. Salinger comes out of retirement with a new manuscript for a Catcher in the Rye sequel, in which Holden Caulfield "discovers he has magical powers. He goes to a special school for magicians, which he finds (predictably) unbearable. Ditching school once again, he finally discovers his true destiny: to do battle with an ancient evil wizard named 'Phony'." Salinger is then sent a copy of the first Harry Potter book in the mail, and burns his manuscript.
  • From an 1899 issue of Punch, projecting into the next century (20th century):
    Genius: Isn't there a clerk who can examine patents?
    Boy: Quite unnecessary, Sir. Everything that can be invented has been invented.
  • Dorothy Parker had this to say about Oscar Wilde:
    If with the literate I am
    Impelled to try an epigram,
    I never seek to take the credit;
    We all assume that Oscar said it.
Which may be alluding to the famous anecdote (parodied e.g. in a Monty Python sketch) about Oscar Wilde and the painter Whistler, after the latter had come up with a particularly witty and devastating line.
Wilde: I wish I had said that!
Whistler: You will, Oscar, you will.
  • Sherlock Holmes, in his early novels, claimed that part of his investigative talent lies in his comprehensive study of the records of earlier crimes. He even quotes the Ecclesiastes verse mentioned above at one point, when he is becoming particularly despondent about the failure of London's criminal classes to supply him with anything interesting to do.
  • One S. J. Perelman story has a character describe his idea for a detective in Victorian London whose adventures are documented by his former Army doctor friend.
  • The first Ashenden short story by W. Somerset Maugham (about a writer turned spy) begins with a member of the secret service attempting to recruit Ashenden by telling him he could use material from his real life cases into his short stories. He then tells Ashenden about a French minister who was seduced, drugged and robbed of state secrets. Ashenden replies that he and his fellow writers have used variations on that story line for the past 60 years.
  • As he states in the first book, the reason Ron Weasley is so unmotivated outside of his interests in Wizarding Chess and Quidditch is that as the second youngest child and last male one, nearly every accolade the school has has already been obtained by his older brothers. Even Fred and George who aren't as academic as the first three are still very sociable and well liked. Even his younger sister, Ginny, has the status of being the first female Weasley to be born in several generations.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Done in one episode of Angel.
    Angelus: Doing your Mom... and trying to kill your Dad. There should be a play.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Meta-example with a theory of physics. In one chapter (which you might remember for the "bazinga" scene at the ball pool), Sheldon's been trying to figure out why the electrons in a carbon atom act that way, to no avail, until he comes to realize that the electrons are behaving like waves. Which was something first proposed in 1924. Of course, due to the practical impossibility of developing a brand new physics theory by the writers of a series that tries to stay close to science, you could say it's meta-justified.
    • Played for Drama in the twelfth-season episode "The Citation Negation". The concept of "Super Asymmetry", which Sheldon and Amy came up with on their wedding day and spent months working on, turned out to have been not only brought up already in the past but disproved as well, which the group discovers only after Leonard and Raj find in the library a Russian book that Howard translates for them. Sheldon and Amy are both understandably devastated when Leonard informs them of such a discovery.
  • In one episode of Becker, Jake and Bob (while drunk) come up with various inventions which, of course, have already been thought of, such as an iron and a VCR. Interestingly, all of their ideas involve getting "a flat piece of metal".
  • An episode of Blossom features the title character trying desperately to write a song, only to be repeatedly informed by other characters that she was unconsciously plagiarizing various existing songs.
  • The B Plot of the Cheers episode "Young Dr. Weinstein" has Woody fall victim to this, then try to subvert it. His goal is to create a unique drink to get into the Bartending Hall Of Fame. His first attempt gets high praise from the others, only for Carla to try it and identify it as a "Blue Moon". Woody then spends the rest of the night trying to come up with a new drink.
  • In one episode of Clarissa Explains It All, Clarissa attempts to create a new musical composition only to be told each attempt that if she slowed/sped up the melody she'd have an already written song.
  • In Criminal Minds, Reid asserts that Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is a ripoff of Doctor Who.
    Reid: First of all, it's a police box, not a phone booth. Second of all, Doctor Who started a quarter of a century before Bill and Ted even went on their bodacious adventure, so really they should have called it Bill & Ted's Excellent Ripoff.
  • Jon Stewart decided he was going to sign off The Daily Show with his own brand new catch phrase "Keep f*cking [sic] that chicken" before revealing It's Been Done... live... on the news... unironically.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Particularly during the Tom Baker era, the Doctor often seems unimpressed by predictable attempts to rule the Earth and/or the universe. A parody by Mark Gatiss and David Walliams involves the villains wanting to be thwarted by the Doctor, but having the bemused Doctor inform him that his plans had been done already.
      Alien: Oh! What if I were to hollow out the Earth's core, and replace it with a giant motor, so that I could pilot it anywhere in—
      Doctor: It's been done.
      Alien: Are you sure?
      Doctor: Yep.
      Alien: Oh. Well, you're the expert...
    • Aliens really did try to steal Earth that way, in "The Dalek Invasion of Earth". The Doctor briefly mentions this in "The Stolen Earth" when he says that, "Someone tried to move the Earth once before." The Daleks tried to do it both times.
  • In Frasier, Roz sells an idea for a children's book based on a bedstory that her mother used to tell her — which turns out to be Heidi. Furthermore, not only had she not heard of it, but the publisher to whom she sold the idea hadn't heard of it either.
  • Full House:
    • In an episode, Jesse tries to write a song for his band, only to come up with such songs as "This Land is Your Land" and the theme to The Brady Bunch.
    • In another episode, Jesse "invents" a face guard for spraying hairspray without getting it in your eyes. He then gets sued by the original creator.
  • On GLOW (2017) director Sam is only doing this 1985 wrestling show so he can earn the money to make the movie he's been working on for over a decade. Talking to guys at a party, Sam is excited as he talks about his genius plot of a teenager accidentally going back in time and meeting his mother when she was a hot teen herself and having to avoid her advances. Poor Sam is crushed when the guests inform him that they all just saw a brand new movie using that exact plot: Back to the Future.
  • One episode of Good Eats had Alton Brown announcing he'd be testing food urban legends, and he was going to call the episodes "Culinary Myth Bus—"... whereupon his lawyers interrupt via the phone and inform him that it's taken. He amends it to "Culinary Myth Smashers".
  • A heartbreaking version on the series finale of Halt and Catch Fire. Joe and Cameron, after years of hard work, are about to put up the search engine they believe will revolutionize the then-growing Internet. Just as they're about to, they see another engine up called Yahoo. Cameron mocks the design but Joe points out it's already on the toolbar. Thus, any other search engine will be ignored as all their hard work is for nothing.
  • Kamen Rider Saber invokes this as the logical consequence of a book containing all the knowledge in the world: every story that will ever be written was written in it first. The Big Bad is a poet who fell into a Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum upon discovering the book and learning this, especially since that's exactly what the book said he would do.
  • On The Late Show, Amy Sedaris talked about an idea for a movie involving a fat, grumpy ginger cat who would solve crimes. David Letterman commented that the character sounded similar to Garfield. Sedaris was disappointed and said that always happens to her, and recounted a story of the time she was watching Godzilla and suggested to her friend that it would be scarier to have tiny creatures terrorizing humans for a change instead of huge monsters. Friend: "Oh, like Gremlins." "Oh, well then forget it."
  • Mad Men: Pete Campbell proudly takes credit for having come up with direct marketing. He acknowledges that it already existed, but he still arrived at it independently.
  • Malcolm in the Middle:
    • Malcolm tries to prove his hand at music by writing a song. Dewey points out that he just added emo words to the "Meow Mix" jingle.
    • Reese once proudly announced, "Guys, I've made a discovery! I mixed blue and yellow, and got a whole new color! I'm going to call it... 'Blellow'!" Reese also goes through the basics of Descartes' philosophy. He ends with "I think, therefore," then pauses, unsure how to finish.
  • On Modern Family, Cam and Mitchell write a book for their daughter explaining her adoption, then realize that there's a huge untapped market of children's books for gay parents. A quick trip to the bookstore informs them that that market is actually quite saturated.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus featured Mr L F Dibley who moaned about the critics who said his films (including If, Midnight Cowboy, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Rear Window) were just cheap rip offs of better directors' films. He insisted that he came up with the ideas first, but the more high-profile and high-budget versions were "rushed out" whilst he was at the chemist getting his developed.
  • In an episode of Northern Exposure, Chris intends to catapult a cow as some sort of performance art until Ed tells him that it was already done in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000:
    • Lampshaded during an invention exchange, in which Joel presents the Steve-O-Meter, a device which detects whether a given idea or object has already been thought up by Steve Allen. It turns out that everything Joel and the 'Bots present has been already imagined by Steve, including the Steve-O-Meter itself.
    • In another one, Frank invents the staircase and the rowboat as exercise devices.
  • In Rescue from Gilligan's Island, the castaways try to reclaim their lives away from the island, and all of them have trouble doing so. The Professor's problem is that all the things he invents (such as the electric toothbrush) have been invented during the years he was gone.
    Gilligan: Why don't you call it the Frisbee?
    Professor: Why?
    Gilligan: Because that's what it's called.
  • Saturday Night Live: Inverted in a recurring sketch, where a film studio executive would berate his grandson for wanting to buy scripts that had obviously "been done before". The catch was that the scripts he ended up passing on were, in fact, highly original future blockbusters.
    • One example:
      Executive: He brought me a script about a white kid who could do martial arts. I said I liked it better the first time, when it was called The Karate Kid!
      Grandson: It was The Matrix. We passed on The Matrix.
    • And another:
      Executive: He wanted to back a film about a bunch of little people living in a magical land. I said I liked it better the first time, when it was called The Smurfs!
      Grandson: It was Lord of the Rings. We turned down Lord of the Rings.
    • Also played straight in a sketch where Satan tries to convince a young musician to sell his soul for a tune... but can't, because he can't think of anything good or original to trade for it. He even forgets, for a moment, that Smash Mouth has already done one of the tunes he tries to fob off on the guy.
  • There was an episode of Saved by the Bell: The New Class where a character describes his new invention in detail only to be told he's just invented the pencil.
  • In an episode of Seinfeld, Elaine despises a cartoon in The New Yorker so much that she submits her own idea. When her boss sees her published cartoon, he soon identifies the punchline as "a Ziggy", stolen from the newspaper comic of the same name.
  • Sid Caesar once played a famous German director, who gave his brilliant idea for a film, which turned out to be Gone with the Wind. Right down to having the same title.
    "Tell me this, does the North win, or does the South?"
    "Why, the North."
    "There, how do you like that, he took my ending!"
  • Stargate SG-1. Played with in the episode "200": Vala tries to pitch her "adventures" to a visiting Martin Lloyd, except she's deliberately ripping off well-known plots like The Wizard of Oz or Gilligan's Island. This culminates in a ripoff of Farscape, Claudia Black and Ben Browder's previous show, which Martin admits he doesn't recognize.
  • A first season episode of Star Trek: Voyager had Chakotay order Voyager to vent drive plasma to trick a couple enemy ships into thinking she was damaged and close in for the kill, at which point the more powerful Federation ship was able to score direct hits and disable them. Chakotay remarks that it worked on a pair of Federation runabouts he tangled with in his Maquis days, but Janeway points out that the trick is very old and that if she'd been commanding the runabouts it wouldn't have worked.
  • Tenacious D: Jack Black comes up with a killer tune for his song 'Rocket Sauce' ("Rocket... Rocket, all of my Rocket Sauce") then hears a familiar ice cream van jingle through the window...
  • Kelso from That '70s Show once came up with the not-so-brilliant ideas for adult strollers (wheelchairs), bicycles with engines (motorcycles) and bicycles without engines (take a guess...).
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look:
    • Played with as a Running Gag on The Mitchell and Webb Situation, in which a pair of contemporary writers would swap ideas about a project which would be obviously recognizable as an already existent product, from Fairy Tales, to The Bible, and even the Great Wonders of the World. Once the recognizable element appeared ("the story's not about the wolf — it's about the pigs..."), they wouldn't be corrected as to the nature of their idea but would eagerly start typing, implying that they were actually the originators of the idea in the first place. Played straight in the final episode, however, in which each writer's idea would be dismissed by the other on grounds that it had already been done.
    • Also done during an episode of That Mitchell And Webb Look, where two lazy writers try to make a heartwarming British underdog in sports film, and find that Microsoft Word comes with a special program for anyone wishing to do so. It tells them their first idea, about tennis, has already been done using the very name they wanted to use. So they just make up some crap about cricket instead.I
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun:
    • A professor being forced into retirement takes solace in the fact that he'll have time to finish his screenplay. "It's like Die Hard, only set in an office building."
    • Played with in another episode, when Tommy needs to write a paper on his family history. He has forgotten to create this little detail, and his on-the-spot attempt is taken directly from The Sound of Music. When his girlfriend points this out, he responds, "Yeah, and don't think we're not suing!"
  • In the 30 Rock episode "Into the Crevasse", Jack and a bunch of the TGS writers attempt to create a revolutionary design for a microwave, but end up re-inventing the Pontiac Aztek.
  • White Rabbit Project has the episode "Invented Before Its Time?", which basically covers this trope, covering technology that many people think is new but in fact decades old.
  • An interesting example occurred in Will & Grace. Karen would go into a story about her life, which would be a famous story (some that she mentioned were Norma Rae, Heidi and Speed). Although, Karen was always heavily medicated, so she might have actually thought they were her life stories.
  • In-Universe example in Murphy Brown. Corky's husband wrote and published a children's book, only to get sued by a kindly old man who published the exact same story decades ago. The old writer isn't angry, citing the existence of this trope, but he wants his money right now, thank you.

  • George Harrison was sued for plagiarism as his 1970 song "My Sweet Lord" was thought to be too close to the Chiffons' "He's So Fine." Harrison would lampshade this himself in 1976 with "This Song."
  • The Barenaked Ladies song "It's All Been Done" is all about this trope in terms of romantic gestures.
    Woo hoo hoo!
    It's all been done
    Woo hoo hoo!
    It's all been done
    Woo hoo hoo!
    It's all been done before
  • The chorus of Bastille song "Pompeii" combines this trope with deja vu. The song's narrators are dying in a volcanic eruption, and they find that death feels surprisingly familiar...
    But if you close your eyes,
    Does it almost feel like nothing changed at all?
    And if you close your eyes,
    Does it almost feel like you've been here before?

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street:
    • The skits in which Don Music slowly and painstakingly tries to compose songs that already exist. He usually gets one word wrong, and then has to change the rest to fit, as in:
      Stormy night, not even a star in sight,
      On my way to where the sky is dark,
      Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Yellowstone Park?
    • Sesame Street has a scientist character named Dr. Nobel Price, who keeps inventing things that had already been invented. Some of his most notable creations include foot-snuggies (socks) and the speaking stick (a microphone), and he discovers an animal that he calls the Great Poonga-Poonga (which turns out to be a rabbit).
  • Between the Lions has a scientist character named Dr. Nitwhit (pronounced "Nit-white") who announces that he's discovered "the only word in the English Language that X" (has the same consonant at the beginning and the end, is spelled with a given sound). When his assistant responds, it's always with words that just happen to prove that the rule is more general than poor Nitwhit thought.

  • Dead Ringers: After Kanye West announced his intention to enter the 2020 presidential race and run America "like Wakanda", Trump holds a press conference mainly to tell everyone he's already basing his style of government on a film. And that film is Airplane!
  • John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme:
    • In Series 6, Episode 2:
      • John talks about how he exchanged his foreign currency on return from holiday, got more than he expected because the rate had changed, and started thinking that maybe he could watch the exchange rate the next time, or even change his currency without going on holiday, and this was an entirely new way to make money that he'd just invented.
        John: Bear in mind, there was absolutely no self-awareness about this. I was thinking this out to myself, slowly and painfully, big frown on my little earnest face, to the point where I even thought "Ah, well, there must be some reason it wouldn't work, or surely someone would be doing it already." I thought to myself, as I walked past the London Stock Exchange.
      • He follows this up by describing how he tried to write a sketch about this, but realised it didn't work because it was mostly about what he was thinking, and it was only really funny if he explained it was true. So he came up with the idea of a "not-sketch", where he just stood in front of the audience and talked about what happened.
        John: I mean, it's risky, but if it worked I might just have invented an entirely new way of doing comedy. I thought to myself, as I walked past the Comedy Store.note 
    • Series 8, Episode 4 has a series of sketches featuring a Driver of a Black Cab, who asks his passengers what their job is and then makes obvious suggestions for something that profession could do. When they say it's been done, he aggressively insists that no, it hasn't, because he just thought of it.

  • In RENT, Roger's attempts at writing the perfect song all end up sounding like Puccini's "Musetta's Waltz" (which is to say, "Quando m'en vo" from La Bohème, on which Rent is based.)
  • In Norm Foster's play Office Hours, one character unintentionally pitches an idea identical to Tarzan.

    Video Games 
  • One of the human male/silly options in World of Warcraft is one of these for The Lord of the Rings:
    "So, I have this idea for a great movie. It's about two gnomes who find a bracelet of power, and they have to take it to the Burning Steppes and cast it into the Cauldron. They form the Brotherhood of the Bracelet. Along the way they're trailed by a murloc named Gottom, who's obsessed with the bracelet, and nine bracelet bogeymen. It could be a three-parter, called Ruler of the Bracelet. The first part would be called The Brotherhood of the Bracelet, followed by A Couple of Towers, with the climactic ending called Hey, the King's Back!"
  • In the Gamecube release of Custom Robo, you at one point overhear a conversation between several enemy mooks in which one of them tells the others about a robo fighting technique that he invented called "Short Jump Shooting". Since robo guns have different effects depending on whether the robo is on the ground or airborne, the technique involves making a very small jump to get the robo into the air just long enough to fire the gun's airborne mode. The other mooks burst his bubble by telling him that short jump shooting is actually a staple technique of just about everyone who uses robos.
  • In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, one of Pit's fourth-wall breaking conversations with Palutena and Viridi has him wondering if he could make his arrows more effective by strapping bombs to them. Viridi comments "Real original, Pit!" Though she doesn't say so explicitly, she's likely thinking of Link, who has been doing that for years.

    Web Animation 
  • In one of Dorkly Originals, Tim from Braid calls his game very original while Mario points out that his game and Tim's game are very much alike. And even when Tim mentions his gameplay mechanics that Mario doesn't have, Mario was quick to mention that it's been done before in other series.
  • The web cartoon Kerri's Big Invention: At one point Kerrigan comes up with an idea for an invention called "Stick'ems" that turns out to be identical to Post-It notes. One other character points out that she even put notes about this new idea on Post-It notes.
  • Retarded Animal Babies has apparently been accused of ripping off Happy Tree Friends, simply because they both feature cute animals and sometimes gory violence. The creator responded to these claims with a Take That! in the second episode.
  • One Zero Punctuation review of a Zelda game has Yahtzee suggesting, "for variety", an adventure game where you play as a dog in feudal Japan.
  • A YouTube Poop video titled "The FCC Shuts Down Rock TV" contains a parody of the Super Mario World cartoon featuring an episode with a Flashback that cut to a flashback of another episode. The author then apologized, saying he realized another video called "Youtube Poop: the true power of Rock TV" used the exact same joke.
  • One Red vs. Blue PSA has Washington saying that Sarge gave a list of ideas to use in future episodes... all of whom were Fonzie scenes on Happy Days, only with himself ("Sarge ski jumps over a shark...").

    Web Comics 
  • In a strip of Questionable Content, Faye snarks on one of Raven's costume ideas by comparing it at great length to Hooters. At no point does Raven notice what she's doing.
  • Real Life Comics:
    • Mae Dean, the author, issued an apology after learning that her previous joke had already been done by Dilbert.
    • Another strip has the lead ask her Mad Scientist friend to make her a web-shooter after seeing Spider-Man, only for said friend to demur because FoxTrot had already done it.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
    • "Fixing Social Media": A couple of people discuss GIFT and how it's Inherent in the System because it's so easy to write all sorts of crap on the Internet. So they come up with the idea of creating a platform where people have to spend more effort on writing their messages and moderating the responses. "47 venture capital funding rounds later" they realise they've invented blogging.
    • "Modern Art 2": The strip itself is about how modern art's being all True Art Is Incomprehensible is a marketing gimmick to make people enjoy complaining about how they don't get it. Author's commentary behind the red button says that he found after making the comic that real economists have been studying the same basic idea for decades.
  • Sequential Art: Scarlet's latest invention (which, for once, doesn't explode) is a piece of garment keeping your arms free while being warmer than a T-shirt. She calls it "The Mono-Portal Torso Warmer".
    Kat: That's a poncho.
    Scarlet: That... is such a good name!
  • Sluggy Freelance: There's a kind of example in "Torg Potter and the Chamberpot of Secretions" that relies on a rather humorous equivalency. Torg uses a magic shop containing every book ever written to find all the smut ever "written", but stops in the middle of it when he realises this is redundant next to having the Internet.
  • One Wondermark strip involves a man who claims to have invented "food inside of bread", and he's less than happy to be told that dumplings already exist. In the followup strip, he thinks he still deserves some recognition for inventing them independently — a claim which, even if true, his friend finds unimpressive.
    Ben's Friend: [wrapping up] But so what? What do you want, a medal?
    Ben: What is that
    Ben's Friend: It's like... an award, that you wear around your neck.
    Ben: Dangit I had that idea too!
    Alt Text: Well, in MY conception they'd mainly give them out for military heroism and athletic achievement... you're KIDDING ME. YOU ARE KIDDING ME. FOR CRYING. OUT. LOUD.

    Web Original 
  • The web series The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows invents words to go with emotions we have all felt but don't have a name for. The feeling that everything has been done before is "Vemödalen".

    Web Videos 
  • Channel Awesome:
    • Doug Walker said in commentary he was disappointed to find out that subverting the It's a Wonderful Plot trope had been done numerous times before (such as The Fairly OddParents! and Johnny Bravo). Though he also says that as far as he can tell, it's still the only take on It's a Wonderful Plot in which the guardian angel takes a look at what his own life would be like without the protagonist.
    • Ask That Guy subverted this trope by suggesting an original movie: 2½ hours of exploding babies.
  • The year the television shows The Singing Bee and Don't Forget the Lyrics came out, Rhett & Link did a sketch where they played two producers pitching the shows at the same time.
  • Jacksfilms, another YouTube star, made his own joke in an episode of his Wimpy Boy Bands series.
    Joey Fatone: And I'm currently the host of NBC's game show, The Singing Bee.
    Justin Timberlake: Wait, doesn't Wayne Brady host that one?
    Joey Fatone: No, that show's called Don't Forget the Lyrics.
    Justin Timberlake: Oh. So what's the difference?
    Joey Fatone: ...
  • In his Month of Miyazaki review of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, JesuOtaku wishes that Miyazaki would take the movie and redo it really well, "give the heroes more human traits and motives, give the villains more human traits and motives, portray nature — even a fantasy vision of nature — in a more honest light, and then wrap it all up in more conversational dialogue." While thinking of how awesome this hypothetical movie would be, he remembers Princess Mononoke exists.
  • The "Minute Minecraft Parody of Maze Runner" ended after a trio of this.
    "So yeah; Some teenagers are stuck in a maze, and build an organized society full of gardens and huts, but don't think about building a ladder to—"
    "HISHE did it!"
    "Anyway, Thomas shows up, and starts to figure stuff out. Until "Resting Bitch Face"—"
    "Honest Trailers did it!"
    "*sigh* Well, thanks to an environmental catastrophe, the government trapped everybody inside—"
    "The Simpsons did it!"
    "You know what?! Screw it!" [stomps off]
  • Cracked After Hours played off the notion of "The Simpsons did it first!" by going recursive, with times that The Simpsons ripped themselves off.
  • This is's thesis on most of the much-vaunted similarities between The Lion King (1994) and Kimba the White Lion. The latter is such a Long Runner with so many episodic plots over different media that it's simply impossible to tell a story of lion royalty in Africa (a concept that predates Kimba) without having some overlap with it. As an example, Scar dying after being thrown off a cliff is cited as an example of plagiarism, yet because different one-episode villains in Kimba died in a vast number of other ways, there's very few methods for the villain to be disposed of that wouldn't resemble at least one of them.
  • Kitboga is a scambaiter popular on Twitch and YouTube. One of his regular scammer time-wasters is to describe in detail an idea for a business he thinks is a brilliant new concept, except that it's something that already exists, like an ambulance. Subverted in that the scammers rarely point this out, because they don't care and simply want him to stop talking.

    Western Animation 
  • South Park:
    • "Simpsons Already Did It", in which Butters — or, rather, Professor Chaos — attempts to come up with an idea to get revenge on the citizens of the town. However, he's informed that The Simpsons had already used every one of his ideas in an episode, and his desperation to come up with an original scheme briefly drives him over the edge. When he finally does come up with an original idea that The Simpsons haven't done before, a conveniently-placed TV immediately starts playing a commercial for a new episode of The Simpsons where Butters' idea is used.
    • According to the DVD commentary, this is pretty much how creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone (themselves fans of The Simpsons, despite having only ever seen a few episodes due to their busy schedules) feel on coming up with a great idea or joke only to find out that it was done by The Simpsons. ("There are days when I curse The Simpsons out the door.")
    • The DVD commentary for that episode also revealed that Parker and Stone realized too late that the episode's other plot, involving a microscopic society of sea monkeys, had also already been done by The Simpsons. They went on to have Butters Lampshade the fact (since he beforehand had seen all one hundred and thirty-two episodes of the show. Twice). Everybody's reaction (after a long Beat)?
      Cartman: Dude, The Simpsons have done everything already. Who cares?
      Stan: Yeah, and they've been on the air for like, thirteen years. Of course they've done everything.
      Mr. Garrison: Every idea's been done, Butters, even before The Simpsons.
      Chef: Yeah. In fact, that episode was a rip-off of a Twilight Zone episode.
    • An interesting note that The Simpsons stablemate Futurama already did it in an episode "Godfellas" aired just months prior to South Park. note 
    • Even more interesting. The actual episode of Twilight Zone that The Simpsons was referencing itself directly referenced Gulliver's Travels.
    • Done again in the Halloween episode "Hell on Earth 2006" where Satan's attempts at a shocking 16th birthday party entrance are rejected when his minions repeatedly tell him "Diddy did it."
      Satan: God damn it! What didn't Diddy do?!
    • According to DVD commentary on "Pinewood Derby", the episode was originally about Randy convincing everyone in the world to get rid of their weapons. This, however, leaves them completely unarmed against an alien who takes over the world with a revolver. However, Trey and Matt eventually learned that not only have the Simpson already did it, they did it twice. This leads to them scrapping the initial idea and reworking the episode.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The show itself did one of the most explicit, memorable versions of this joke in "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song", having Principal Skinner come up with a story about an island theme park that clones dinosaurs back to life. His name for it? "Billy and the Cloneasaurus". He is then immediately lambasted by a furious Apu, who spends several minutes pointing out the ludicrousness of the principal not knowing about a billion-dollar franchise consisting of bestseller books, games, comic books, and "one of the most popular movies of all time" (and how awful his proposed title is)... finishing off with a "thank you, come again!"
    • Another episode has Homer dismissing jazz as "Making stuff up as you go along" before trying it himself. He ends up singing "de"s to the tune of "Mary Had a Little Lamb". When called on it, he tries again, only doing it again with "doo". Caught again, he shouts, "D'OH!"
    • "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife" involves Marge writing a romance novel. Her inspiration was the painting on the wall behind the couch, from which she proclaimed "A book about whaling! That's never been done before! Thank you..." She then looks at the painting's title... "Scene from Moby-Dick". Especially odd, considering a separate episode indicated that she was the one who painted the picture.
    • "Beyond Blunderdome" has Homer pitching ideas to Mel Gibson for movies that are all this trope. The scene ends in a subversion when Homer asks if anyone owned the rights to Indiana Jones.
    • In "Saddlesore Galactica", Homer saves a troubled horse, only for Comic Book Guy to tell them that the Simpsons already owned a horse once. Lampshaded again in the same episode, when Marge starts to develop a gambling problem.
      Marge: Hrmm...Should the Simpsons get a horse?
      Comic Book Guy: 'Scuse me! But I believe this family already had a horse, forcing Homer to work at the Kwik-E-Mart, with hilarious consequences.
      Beat of Silence
      Homer: Anyone care what this guy says?
      Crowd: (in unison) NO!
    • Similarly, Bart would love to have an elephant. Until he's reminded he had one.
    • In "The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace", Homer attempts to become an inventor after being inspired by Thomas Edison. After several disasters, the one invention that works turns out to have been invented by Edison himself but apparently unnoticed, prompting Homer and Bart to travel to Edison's workshop to destroy it. Homer decides not to once he sees that Edison himself also had a "rivalry" similar to his with Leonardo da Vinci. Homer decides to split the difference and take both his and Edison's frustrations out on the Eli Whitney museum.
    • At the end of "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", the title band are recreating the famous moment when The Beatles played a spontaneous live concert on the rooftop of their offices, on the top of Moe's Tavern. George Harrison drives past for the sole purpose of pointing out that it's already been done. Of course, the entire episode is a riff on the career of the Beatles, so pretty much everything that the B'Sharps did had been done before.
    • "Lemon of Troy": During a feud with kids from the town of Shelbyville, Milhouse insisted that kids from Springfield invented wearing your backpack over one shoulder, and the Shelbyvillians are copycats. A kid from Shelbyville insists the opposite. Ironically, both children then bond over the fact that they share the same first name.
    • In "I Am Furious (Yellow)", Bart is brainstorming comic book ideas. He looks to his left, sees a conveniently placed bat, and says "Batman!" He then remembers that it's been done. So he looks to his right, where he sees a conveniently placed Green Lantern.
    • On occasion, The Simpsons rips off Family Guy:
      • One example is the dual parodying of "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" (Family Guy: 2000; Simpsons: 2002) from My Fair Lady. Not only do they use the same song... they use it in the SAME CONTEXT: "I can't kill him/her, not now, despite my years of attempting it."
      • They also ripped off Family Guy with a joke where Homer tries to imitate the Fonz and ends up smashing his hand in the glass of a jukebox.
      • The "Reaper Madness" segment of "Treehouse of Horror XIV" (2003), which caused a brief backlash in Simpsons fandom over similarities to the Family Guy episode "Death is a Bitch" (2000). (Basically, Death is unable to do his duties due to injury/death, the series' bumbling dad has to take over).
      • And then there's "G.I. (D'oh!)" and "Saving Private Brian", which aired within a week of each other in 2006, and had almost the exact same plot to the letter — school assembly convinces Bart/Chris to join the Army, Homer/Brian goes down to the recruiter's office to try to get the contract torn up, and ends up enlisting themselves, and immediately being deployed into a combat theater.
      • A lot of these similar plots airing near to each other can be attributed to topicality and Strange Minds Think Alike, since the episodes of animated shows typically take months to do.
    • "Krusty Gets Busted" parallels the plot of "Binky Goes Bad", from Garfield and Friends. Both involve the respective series' clown characters getting framed for robbery and having their name cleared by the main character (Bart/Garfield). The Simpsons episode is naturally more well-known (not least for its introduction of recurring antagonist Sideshow Bob), but the Garfield short came first (about a year earlier).
    • The subplot of "Lisa Gets an "A"", where Homer buys a live lobster intending to eat it but ends up getting too attached to it to do so, was very similar to the Garfield and Friends short "Maine Course". Except for the gruesome ending of Homer accidentally boiling the lobster (as a "hot bath") and then eating it in remorse.
    • The episode "The Fool Monty" is essentially "The Old Man and the Lisa" crossed with the Mr. Burns subplot of "The Mansion Family". It even includes a Take That! at themselves. At the end, Mr. Burns wants to punish the town by putting a giant dome on the city. Cue a scene from The Simpsons Movie and Lenny saying it's been done. It was also done in "Who Shot Mr. Burns?", although that wasn't a full dome. "The Fool Monty" seems all about shoutouts to previous episodes. Burns in shock acts a lot like he did in the episode with Mulder and Scully, he's seen naked by Marge (and the rest of the family this time), Lisa's former ballet teacher makes his second appearance.
    • In The Book Job, while trying to come up with an idea for a story, Lisa thinks of a mermaid falling in love with a human... then sees a The Little Mermaid poster on her wall.
    • In-universe example: In "The Last Temptation of Krust", which revolves around Krusty attempting to modernize his stand-up act, he tests his first batch of new observational material on the family:
    Krusty: Hello. I'm a real person. And as a real person, I've made some humorous observations about real life. For example, have you ever noticed how there are two phone books... a white one and a yellow one? Like... what's the deal with that?
    Lisa: One's residential and one's business.
    Krusty: ...Oh... well... that makes sense... uh... I mean what will they think of next? Blue pages?
    Marge: They have those. Those are government listings.
    Krusty: ... Oh... I see...
  • Family Guy:
    • The novel Brian has been working on for several years turns out to be identical to the Iron Eagle movies, and carries the ridiculous title, "Faster Than the Speed of Love."
    • At the end of the Star Wars episode, Chris points out that Robot Chicken did a Star Wars episode months ago. Peter argues that this doesn't count, because nobody watches Robot Chicken. It's also worth noting that Chris Griffin is voiced by Seth Green, who also created that show. In addition, Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy and voice actor for Peter, contributed voices to the Robot Chicken Star Wars episode.
    • MacFarlane also got "It's been done" jokes during the David Hasselhoff roast, a common accusation made against the man because of so many similar scenarios inside Family Guy that seem lifted from South Park and The Simpsons. MacFarlane does not seem to mind too much and is a good sport about it.
    • The series seems to have taken to lampshading this recently; with "Cool Hand Peter" and "Viewer Mail No. 2" being standouts.
    • In the episode "Ratings Guy" where Peter gets outsize influence on television programming though the use of 100 Nielsen boxes and subsequently ruins the medium for everybody, Homer Simpsons makes an appearance bursting into a meeting to exclaim that he has "ruined television", but Peter is already there to inform him that It's Been Done.
  • A recurring segment on The Alvin Show was Bungling Inventor Clyde Crashcup who, along with his long-suffering and far more competent assistant Leonardo, tried to invent the chair, baseball, jokes, the bed and dozens of other things, and seldom got it right.
  • In a Kappa Mikey episode, the gang tries to come up with ideas to boost LilyMu's ratings with one being to utilize a beauty-powered submarine only to be told another show had already used that format.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Interview with a Platypus", Dr. Doofenshmirtz's evil plan is to flood the town of Danville and sell his new invention to the citizens: the Buoyancy Operated Aquatic Transport, or "BO-AT".
  • An episode of House of Mouse has a cartoon called Ludwig Von Drake's House of Genius, where Von Drake presents "new inventions" that were already done (e.g., presenting a telephone as the "Tele-finger").
  • Done on SpongeBob SquarePants when SpongeBob and Patrick are trying to come up with inventions to help Sandy. Patrick comes up with a pencil, a lightbulb, and a parallel universe. The last one is a subversion when SpongeBob claims it's a mirror (It looks just like one and he sees his reflection in it). Then Patrick storms away from SpongeBob and pulls it out again despairing that he had beaten to the punch when SpongeBob's reflection comes back and, in a different accent, tells Patrick that he "thought it was a pretty good idea."
  • Pinky and the Brain:
    • The episode "Brain Drained" begins with the Brain preparing a plan eerily similar to the one in the episode "Das Mouse", when he realizes the similarity of these two plans. Then he brings up a backup plan that's similar to the intended plan from the episode "Snowball", which he also realizes. He proceeds to file through his previous plans, every second one being a subliminal message. While the Brain is dejected about his lack of original plans, Pinky compares his situation to Tony Danza, who is noted to have talented writers. This inspires the Brain to hire would-be screenwriters to write original plans for them, then claim the plans as their own and use them as they see fit. Cue Terrible Interviewees Montage.
    • A variation of this was done one night when Brain decided to put Pinky in charge and Pinky suddenly came close to taking over the world. Near the end, Pinky admits all of his plan were bits and pieces of Brain's old plans; Brain ends up taking the reins from Pinky, losing control and failing to take over the world.
  • In the Western animation of Darkstalkers, Lord Raptor gets told this word by word when he tries to get into the music industry. "I'm a Zombie who rocks!"
  • The Looney Tunes Show: In "Peel of Fortune", Daffy tries to come up with an invention that will make him rich. His first three inventions are sliced bread, toilet paper and the suitcase.
  • Big Hero 6: The Series:
    • "Failure Mode": Hiro has to design a building capable of resisting a 8.5 earthquake for a school project. As he shows his ideas to his friends, they reveal these are all ideas they presented for the same school project before. Just as it seems Hiro has finally managed to come up with a concept no one else had used, Baymax notes that that had been Tadashi's idea.
    • "Big Problem": Hiro again, attempting to sway Liv Amara's attention away from Karmi... by inventing a thermometer.
  • Bob's Burgers:
    • In "The Hormone-iums", Linda tries to market wine holders made from old women's footwear. Not only does she fail to convince the Fischoeder brothers to invest in her "Wine Shoes", she discovers that a company that makes novelty wine holders beat her to the punch with their "Booze Shoes".
    • In "Yes Without My Zeke", Randy seems to think that having The Grim Reaper as a character in the indie movie he's shooting at Bob's restaurant is a wholly original idea. Bob and Linda then bring up the examples of The Seventh Seal and Meet Joe Black (which Linda misremembers as "Meet Jack Black").
  • Played somewhat realistically in Futurama, which takes place in the 31st Century. The group attempts to introduce Fry to the concept of video games. None of them seem to be aware that video games were around back in Fry's time (the 20th century), and he's actually significantly more skilled than them.
  • Monkey Dust featured a character called Clive Pringle, whose entire schtick was basically this. In every sketch he would come home late to be greeted by his wife, who would ask him where he had been. The excuses he gave were always lifted wholesale from fictional works of varying levels of obscurity, with the references lampshaded by his increasingly impatient wife. When asked for the real explanation, it would generally be a sexually degrading act instead ("I've been spit-roasting a hooker with your Dad.")
  • In an episode of Rick and Morty, Rick decides to stop playing Minecraft on VR for another adventure, noting that South Park already did episodes about Minecraft and VR years ago.
    Morty: They're fast.
    Rick: Or we're slow.
  • Played with in The New Batman Adventures episode "Beware The Creeper", when the Creeper rummages through a thrift shop looking for a new outfit. He holds a Halloween-type Batman mask up to his face for a moment, then dismisses it because "It's been done."
  • Several times in The Boondocks, Granddad claims to have longtime experience in something that's clearly just whatever he saw on TV that week, such as setting up Sunday dinners because he saw it in Soul Food. Usually, he vehemently denies this, and then claims that they got the idea from him.

    Real Life 
  • A number of people have been sued for plagiarism and have managed to defend themselves by showing either that the story is Older Than They Think or that it was just a coincidence. Others haven't managed to convince the jury.
  • Some patent cases also are settled when the defendant shows that the original patent is actually not the first instance of the invention. This is known as prior art. Only about half of patent applications get ultimate approval. Examiners occasionally turn up the snark in their rejection letters if they see an application claiming a decades-old invention.
  • The rights to King Kong are rather open, as movie studios discovered when they tried to sue Donkey Kong. This is actually a case of Hoist by His Own Petard. After Nintendo released the Donkey Kong arcade game, Universal sued on the grounds that the gorilla was too similar to King Kong, and pressured the small Japanese company for a settlement. Unfortunately for Universal, Nintendo's lawyer looked into things, and found out that Universal themselves had previously won a lawsuit declaring King Kong was in the public domain. To add insult to injury, Nintendo went on to (successfully) sue Universal for making a King Kong video game that was a thinly-veiled remake of Donkey Kong.
  • A columnist several years ago predicted that someone was going to make a film called Saturday the Fourteenth, ripping off the Friday the 13th series. That had already been done, in 1981, with the tagline, "Just when you thought it safe to get up in the morning."
  • The "Purple Drank" craze, a mix of alcohols and cough syrup (soda and candy can be added). This sounds a lot like the Flaming Homer (a mixture of all left over alcohol in your cabinet and childrens' cough syrup, which is then lit on fire). Purple drank is typically Sprite and prescription-level cough syrup, used because it contains high levels of codeine.
  • It was discovered that Inception has various similarities to a Donald Duck comic written by Don Rosa and published in 2002. Double example: The comic was based on an idea sent in by a Duck fan just after The Cell was released.
  • Aside from this being the movie that put M. Night Shyamalan on the map, The Sixth Sense - as this article points out, it plays out in an eerily similar fashion to the Are You Afraid of the Dark? episode "The Tale of the Dream Girl".
  • Qatar plans on using an "artificial cloud" to shade their stadium for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Turns out not only did The Simpsons come up with the idea before them, but South Park made fun of building the structure and finding out it was done previously by The Simpsons before Qatar planned on doing it.
  • William Shakespeare once said there are only 6 plots. Stephen King did as well. So did a bunch of other people. The idea that everything's been done before is not even original.
    • Hell, there are several who claim that they're all derivatives of only one plot, that being "Who am I?"
  • Within mainstream music among the more older fans, it's common for them to say It's Been Done or everything is a repeat of prior things. Especially among female stars, the fight to be "completely new" is huge.
  • One tenet of postmodernism is that nothing we can do is original, the trick is either to do old things in new ways, or to lampshade the hell out of it.
  • So the amiibo. Little NFC figures and cards you can scan on the Wii U and New Nintendo 3DS to get perks or activate characters in supported games. Raise your hand if you remember the HyperScan that came out almost a decade earlier... Yeah, thought so. People would rather forget the Hyper Scan ever happened due to its brain-dead design than remember that it pioneered NFC as a gameplay mechanic that games on the New 3DS and Wii U are now rather renowned for.
  • Many people attribute motion gaming to the Wii and the prospect of using a camera to detect motions to the Kinect, forgetting that the PlayStation 2 already did this with the EyeToy camera accessory all the way back in 2003, or that Sony came out with an exercise game that uses the accessory called Kinetic back in 2005, which featured a British woman who'd lead you through a variety of workout routines, with her hair in a ponytail, belly button showing top and dark stretch pants. All while standing in a sterile spacious room and demonstrating with you and commenting on your progress.
  • When Sony unveiled the PlayStation 3's controller prototype back in 2005, people scoffed at the weird boomerang shape, calling it uncomfortable. Sony apparently didn't get the memo that Apple actually used a similar controller design for the Pippin, which received equally negative criticism for the controller a whole decade before, although that wasn't said console's only problem.
  • When developing the Vulcan Cannon, a Gatling-style 20mm cannon, the engineers decided to test the concept by pulling an original Gatling Gun from a museum and hooking it up to an electric motor (it worked quite well, being much faster than hand cranking). As it happens, Gatling himself had worked with the idea in his own time, receiving a patent for an electric-powered Gatling Gun in 1893. Ultimately, it would prove Awesome, but Impractical compared to other automatic weapons available at the time.
  • This is one reason for the Comedy Ghetto. There's only so many times a particular joke, gag, or trope can be funny before Jumping the Shark, especially where many comedy movies and Sitcoms are Strictly Formula. This is especially true of Long Runner Sitcoms that have done (and in many cases rehashed at least once) all or most of the typical sitcom stock plots and Comedy Tropes. Furthermore, sometimes those used-and-abused-and-reused tropes and plots are ones that don't age well as times change; what might have been very funny in The '30s, or hell, even The '90s or the Turn of the Millennium, might not have stayed funny at all in The New '10s, as views on race, gender, sexuality, and such have changed.
  • Every once in a while, someone decides to develop a free-as-in-freedom, non-commercial, open-source, decentralized social network as an alternative to e.g. Facebook, believing that if they haven't heard of anything like this, there isn't anything like this. More recently, they should at least have heard of Diaspora* thanks to the huge media hype around its creation, but that hype was too long ago. And even the Diaspora* makers didn't know that what they wanted to create was already available with a point release, known as Mistpark back then, later renamed Friendika, now known as Friendica.
  • Western and Eastern civilizations both came up with the idea of the dragon.
  • Many teenyboppers in 1978 thought that The Bee Gees and Peter Frampton created Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band from the self-titled movie that came out then, unaware that The Beatles created it eleven years earlier and was put on film in 1968 in Yellow Submarine. United Artists would put Submarine (which bears "starring Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" in the credits) back into TV syndication nationwide while Capitol re-released the Beatles album with a decal reading "the original classic."
  • In 2019, a little known laptop company called XMG released what they claim to be the first laptop with a desktop AMD Ryzen processor inside. Little that they know, Acer had went down that path in 2018 with the Predator Helios 500 AMD Edition, and Asus went down that path a year earlier in 2017 with the ROG Strix GL702ZC. It would be truthful of them to claim that they're releasing the first laptop with a third generation Ryzen desktop processor.
  • Bill Maher accused The Onion of stealing a joke from him in 2009 about birthers wanting to see Barack Obama's placenta. He failed to notice that they actually made this joke in 2008.
  • During development of Jurassic Park (1993), writer David Koepp kept the opening scene faithful to the book. And then Steven Spielberg reminded him that he couldn't use a doctor seeing a grievously harmed body and commenting "This is not a construction accident" because he already featured such a scene in Jaws (the movie eventually showed the dinosaur attack that led to the body instead).

Alternative Title(s): The Simpsons Did It, Nothing New Under The Sun, There IS Nothing New Under The Sun


Polly's Second Story Attempt

Polly tries to tell a story of something that has happened before...again.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / ItsBeenDone

Media sources: