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Recycled Premise

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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. Recycling a premise isn't inherently bad; often times it can allow for unwasting of potentially good plots the original didn't go into, or provide a new take on something that may seem outdated. Of course, money is to be made with some of these examples, but not all of them are inherently negative.

Compare with Gender Flip, Follow the Leader, Setting Update, X Meets Y, This is Your Premise on Drugs or Better by a Different Name. See also Pastiche, for works that borrow and mimick the style, elements or techniques from other works, authors or genres to make something new.

Work-specific examples:


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    Anime and Manga 
  • When you compare the two, The Boy and the Beast is awfully similar to Spirited Away. The protagonists are different genders but they start off about the same age, 9 and 10. The climax and ending is different but the premise of how they get there is basically the same.
  • 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 due to a similar premise of a forest being under siege by a corrupting force, though such similarities are superficial since the actual plots of both movies are quite different.
  • Although they are quite different stylistically, Samurai Champloo has several episodes that have similar plots to those of another Jidaigeki anime, Carried by the Wind: 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.
  • Case Closed 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.
  • Some Pretty Cure series borrow elements from past seasons:
    • Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash★Star is Futari wa Pretty Cure, but themed around nature and spirits.
    • Smile PreCure! is a Lighter and Softer version of Yes! Pretty Cure 5, as both have a Five-Man Band team with the same colors and a fairytale theme.
      • On the topic of Smile Pretty Cure, KiraKira★Pretty Cure à la Mode is this to Smile, as both were made after something happened that caused the series to change tone to a lighter and softer one, note  involve the girls transforming with a compact mirror and charms, have the girls hanging out in a place related to the series' theme note , and have a mid-season power-up that involves a pegasus character. note 
    • HuGtto! Pretty Cure is similar to Doki Doki! PreCure. Both series have a baby the characters have to take care of who came from the world that was in danger, use a smartphone-like item for the Transformation Trinket, have a white and pink wand-like item decorated with hearts used for the Cures' second attack, have an elementary school Cure on the team and use a smart tablet-esque device for the final attack used in the show.
    • Star★Twinkle Pretty Cure is similar to Maho Girls Pretty Cure!, as both series involve an imaginative pink lead obsessed with the season's theme who meets a person from a world dedicated to that topic and goes on trips there with her. Both series also have a unique concept with the Transformation Trinket note , use a smartphone item to take care of the mascot that looks like a book, and have a Sixth Ranger who comes from the alternate world they go to, with Mahoutsukai having Haa-chan become Cure Felice and Star Twinkle having Yuni, who used to be the Phantom Thief Blue Cat, become Cure Cosmo.
    • Futari wa Pretty Cure Splash★Star and Healin' Good♡Pretty Cure both involve the characters saving the spirits of nature. It also reuses the "girls have their own unique fairy partner to transform with alongside another main fairy" element from Doki Doki Pretty Cure.
  • Both Mao and Rin Ne are clearly inspired by the author's earlier work Manga/Inuyasha, with both maintaining the Urban Fantasy genre and the premise of "regular schoolgirl gets involved with a magical boy and turns out to not be so ordinary after all", but focusing on slightly different angles.
    • Rin Ne is about a girl who can see ghosts teaming up with a boy who is half shinigami (death spirit) and helping him in his dealings with ghosts and restless spirits in modern day Tokyo. This one perhaps more directly compares to an even earlier Takahashi work, Ranma ½, although Rin-Ne's Half-Human Hybrid nature is clearly based on Inuyasha.
    • Mao revolves around a girl who can travel back in time, where she terms up with a seemingly immortal teenage mystic wielding a magical sword who seeks revenge on a powerful cat demon and becomes drawn into a conspiracy with its roots in the ancient past. The time-travel plot directly compares to Inuyasha, and Mao's cursed blood acting like acid, his feline traits and his ability to transform into a monstrous humanoid cat all invoke comparisons to Inuyasha himself.

    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.

    Fan Works 
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: "What if Tom was infested by a member of the Yeerk Peace Movement?" borrows its premise from another Animorphs fanfic called The Tocsin, though it ends up going in a completely different direction.

    Film — Animation 
  • 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.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • Doctor Strange (2016): 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.
  • 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.
  • One example is notable for being this to a movie that never actually got made: If the plot, characters, and general feel of Snow Day seem a little bit familiar, there's a reason for that. The film started out as a Big Damn Movie for The Adventures of Pete & Pete, but had to be retooled into a new story because by the time it escaped Development Hell, the main actors had aged out of their roles.
  • A lawsuit happened over similarities between the big-budget Michael Bay film The Island (2005) and an earlier B-movie, Clonus.
  • Depending on who you ask, James Cameron's opus Avatar is essentially either FernGully: The Last Rainforest or Dances with Wolves depending on whether you focus more on the ecological or cultural elements. Similarities to The Outer Limits (1963) episode "The Chameleon", with its Becoming the Mask plot in which a human finds happiness in an alien body, have also been noted.
  • The premise of Slap Shot 3 is 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.
  • Roger Corman's 1955 film The Fast and the Furious was recycled as the movie The Chase (1994).
  • 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 — and despite the fact that the Superman franchise predates Doctor Who by about 25 years, the similarities actually go in the other direction. Once the movie gets over its obligatory Superhero Origin, 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 words... it's "The End of Time" with Kryptonians instead of Time Lords.
  • Kiss of the Tarantula is basically Willard with a gender flipped Villain Protagonist and tarantulas instead of rats.
  • Given it's very similar plotline, most reviews of Double Jeopardy compared it to The Fugitive— even dubbing it "The Female Fugitive"—and not in a flattering way. Casting Tommy Lee Jones in virtually the same type of role as he had in the latter film didn't help—to this day, people still think it's another sequel.
  • Safe Haven. Abused wife catches a bus in the middle of a stormy night to flee her abusive husband, settles in a picturesque town and rebuilds her life while he hunts for her, with him finally stalking her and her new paramour through a local celebration and trying to kill them both. As one review put it, "I liked this movie the first time I saw it, when it was called Sleeping with the Enemy."
  • In 1898, H. G. Wells published The War of the Worlds (1898), which tells the story of how humanity was almost vanquished by a technologically superior Alien Invasion force, but said invasion was halted by the fact the Aliens were susceptible to germs, and was adapted to big screen two times. In 1996, Independence Day was released, which tells the story of how humanity was almost vanquished by a technologically superior Alien Invasion force, but said invasion was halted by a gifted electronics engineer who uploaded a computer virus into the alien ships' computers, and then blew up the mother ship.
  • The following movies have premises that seem recycled from episodes of Amazing Stories:
    • The Green Mile vs "Life on Death Row": A death row inmate uses his magic powers to heal people, and gets executed at the end, though in "Life on Death Row" he comes back to life.
    • Last Action Hero vs "Welcome to My Nightmare": A teenage boy uses a magic ticket that teleports him into the movies, though in the former he goes into an action film, and the latter into horror films.
    • Beetlejuice vs "Boo!": A deceased married couple try to get rid of an annoying married couple that just bought their house. In the former, they decide to compromise and try to get along with their new tenants. In the latter, they chase away the annoying new homeowners, and welcome back the original tenants that they like.
    • Transcendence vs "The Eternal Mind": A scientist dying of a terminal disease forces his wife to help him upload his mind into a computer, and after his body dies, his mind starts to lose his humanity, and the wife has to literally pull the plug.
    • The Truman Show vs "Secret Cinema": The protagonist (in the former a man in the latter a woman) is held virtually captive in a giant studio, and is the unwitting star of a reality TV show in the former, a movie series in the latter, and everyone they knows is an actor. When they begin to suspect that something is up, the protagonist suffers a bout of Sanity Slippage, and in the end, while the former politely escapes his prison, the latter hijacks a garbage truck and empties it on the producers. (This one was similar enough to trigger a lawsuit.)
  • When making Sky High (2005), Disney may have looked to their earlier 2000 Made-for-TV Movie Up, Up and Away! for inspiration as both films center around the teenage son of a pair of famous superheroes who seemingly possesses no powers of his own. The only real difference is that Scott Marshall eventually learns to accept that he doesn't necessarily need powers to be a superhero while Will Stronghold turns out to be a late bloomer when it comes to his powers developing.
  • Sylvester Stallone stars as a jaded, reclusive Professional Killer who generally goes after evil individuals. He is eventually contracted to protect a woman (played by an up-and-coming actress) from a less moral hitman who he used to work with in the past, and whose friendship ended unamicably years earlier. The film ends with a confrontation between the heroic hitman (and the woman) facing off against his old rival in an Abandoned Warehouse. Now, are we talking about 1994's The Specialist or 1996's Assassins?
  • Full Time Killer lifts the central premise of Assassins: a psychotic assassin gunning for the world's top assassin, with a girl in the mix. The villain even admits to being inspired by the film to do what he's doing.
  • The Hustle is a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with a Gender Flip — acknowledged in its tagline, "Giving Dirty Rotten Men a Run for Their Money."
  • If this vehicle slows down, a bomb will explode! Speed, 1994? No, Shinkansen Daibakuha, 1975.
  • The direct sequels to both The Fly (1958) and its remake The Fly (1986), Return of the Fly and The Fly II respectively, are about the Spin-Offspring son of the predecessor's ill-fated scientist (who has spent much of his life unaware of exactly what happened to him) who revives their father's work and ends up undergoing much the same transformation they did — much to the despair of his girlfriend, and no thanks to a seemingly supportive figure (an assistant in the former, a CEO/father figure in the latter) who wants to steal the teleportation technology. He goes after the villains, and gets the happy ending his father could not. There are even similar small details: Both movies open with a scene establishing the demise of the female lead of the predecessor (in '59 with her funeral and in '89 with her Death by Childbirth), while the third corner of the previous film's Love Triangle is still alive, not enthused with the son picking up where the father left off but proving to be helpful nonetheless, and played by their original actor. The main differences lie in the nature of each protagonist's transformation — with Phillipe in Return of the Fly it's another Teleporter Accident; with Martin in The Fly II it's a natural Metamorphosis due to being born as a mutant — and the level of gore involved as the third act gets underway. Someone in 20th Century Fox's marketing department must have noticed this trope because the final trailer for The Fly II opens with a spiel involving the sound of a buzzing fly and the audience being asked if they can hear it — a verbatim lift from the Return of the Fly trailer!
  • Booksmart is, in Broad Strokes, a Gender Flip of Superbad: Two relatively unhip teens who are about to graduate have various adventures trying to attend a Wild Teen Party and meet up with their respective crushes, only to be forced to reconcile with the fact that one of them is leaving after graduation and breaking up the friendship. Fittingly, Beanie Feldstein plays the equivalent role that her brother Jonah Hill plays in Superbad.

  • 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.
  • Michael Crichton wrote the script for the 1973 film Westworld, which was about a bunch of tourists who go to the eponymous western themed amusement park, and 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.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Material from the Do-It-Yourself Book spin-off activity book is often re-used in the main series later.
    • Fregley's line "Betcha I can find your 'tickle spot'!" is used verbatim in The Meltdown.
    • Greg playing a game that supposedly determines his future, and getting an awful result, was re-used in Wrecking Ball. It's the same game both times, too, and these are its only appearances in the series.
    • The concept of Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid, a spin-off from Rowley's point of view, originated here. However, the DIY version is six pages long, full color, and written in cursive.
  • Tik-Tok of Oz: Along with containing lawyer-friendly expies of Dorothy and Ozma (stemming from the play that the book was based on not being able to use the characters due to them appearing in other Oz plays), the plot heavily resembles that of Ozma of Oz (an American girl washes ashore in Ev after a shipwreck, meets Tik-Tok, leading eventually to a confrontation with the Nome King), combined with elements from The Marvelous Land of Oz (Queen Anne's plot to conquer Oz and the world has shades of the rebel leader Jinjur), Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (the Rose Kingdom resembles the Mangaboos) and The Road to Oz (Polychrome and Shaggy Man’s involvement). Despite this, it’s not a book to skip if you’re a fan of the series, as several plot-relevent events occur that affect future stories (Ruggedo the Nome King being dethroned and replaced with Kaliko for one thing), and the novel is actually a fan favorite.
  • Australian actress Magda Szubanski recently released a series of children's books called Timmy the Ticked-Off Pony, which is essentially a child-friendly version of Bojack Horseman. Like his predecessor, Timmy is an anthropomorphic equine with terrible people-skills who is obsessed with fame and fortune, yet always manages to humiliate himself. The difference being that while Bojack is shown to be a complex protagonist that the audience is meant to see as neither hero nor villain, Timmy is simply an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist whose mishaps are played entirely for laughs.

    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, a film that series creator Gy Waldron had written and directed a few years earlier.
    • 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.
  • From the advertisements, at least, Fringe looked suspiciously similar to Strange World. In practice, it ended up being quite a bit like The X-Files, involving a special FBI team that investigates Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane events and combining Monster of the Week episodes with Myth Arc episodes.
  • The early Metal Heroes shows (Gavan, Sharivan, Shaider, Juspion, 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 first three above) 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. It wasn't until Chōjinki Metalder that things got shaken up.
  • 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 Gorō 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.
    • Game Shakers takes many elements from iCarly, with both shows being about kids who become famous through the internet. The main difference is that iCarly is about web videos and Game Shakers being about mobile gaming. The pilot for Game Shakers hits many of the same beats as the iCarly pilot. Game Shakers seems to acknowledge this in a crossover episode where the cast of Game Shakers are revealed to be huge fans of iCarly.
  • 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 avoid paying royalties to the original book the radio show was adapted from. 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 series (with a different cast and crew), but that show went nowhere and was soon forgotten.
  • 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).
  • Goodson-Todman would duplicate their panel game motif after the success of What's My Line?, prompting I've Got a Secret, The Name's The Same, Make The Connection, and To Tell the Truth.
  • Family Feud's premise was derived from the end game of the original Match Game (1962-69 — "Name a type of car college students would drive").
  • 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.
  • After Bob Stewart left Goodson-Todman and created Pyramid, many of his shows afterwards were word games of some kind akin to Pyramid, and oftentimes some of these gameplay elements would be reused from pilots Stewart created that didn't sell or earlier series of his — Go, for instance, was previously the "Instant Reaction" Bonus Round of Chain Reaction, and the idea of having multiple celebrities and civilians creating questions one word at a time had originated in the 1977 Stewart pilot Get Rich Quick!. It also helped he drew from the same general pool of hosts, announcers and celebrity partners for basically every show he did, most notably Bill Cullen.
  • 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 Micallef's Mad as Hell? Yes.
  • Parks and Recreation is essentially "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.
  • The Noddy Shop was basically Shining Time Station, but set in a toy store instead of a train station.
  • Me Too was basically Balamory, but set in a city instead of an island town.
  • The first two episodes of the Netflix series 'What/If' are basically a gender-flipped version of 'An Indecent Proposal.' Props for its lampshading, though.
    Anne: I actually quite enjoyed that movie.
  • Even the show's creators have acknowledged that the premise of Ted Lasso is Major League moved to the world of English Association Football, centered on a character Jason Sudeikis previously created for a series of NBC Sports promos for their coverage of the Premier League.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 would sometimes reuse material from their obscure and probably non-canon "season zero". Since those episodes were only broadcasted on the local station KTMA (so very few people saw them), and everyone involved considered those episodes Old Shame, the showrunners didn't mind raiding that whole season for ideas to do again, but better.
    • In season three, they riffed on nine movies that had been featured before on season zero. (The movies in question were Fugitive Alien, Star Force: Fugitive Alien II, Mighty Jack, Time of the Apes, and several Gamera films: Gamera, Gamera vs. Barugon, Gamera vs. Gaos, Gamera vs. Guiron, and Gamera vs. Zigra.) And season thirteen (still upcoming, as of November 2021) is also scheduled to feature a movie that they'd previously riffed during season zero (The Million Eyes of Sumuru).
    • They also reused the premise of a Mirror Universe with roles swapped: the mad scientists become the ones forced to watch the bad movies, and the test subjects become their tormentors. In season 0, episode 8, "Gamera vs. Guiron", this shows up as a dream sequence and only lasts for one host segment. They did it again in season 6, episode 11, "Last of the Wild Horses", only this time the mirror universe is real, two characters swap places with their mirror counterparts, and this plot lasts the entire episode.
  • Odd Squad:
    • The episode "Three Portals Down" takes a few cues from "Portalandia" from earlier in Season 3 — numbered dimensions (though none of them are the 17th Dimension seen in the latter episode), odd creatures that escape from them (including the butterfly that shoots Eye Beams that was seen in the latter episode), and Orla being the primary focus.
    • "Welcome to Odd Squad" is a mix of "Odd Squad Needs You" and "Nature of the Sandbeast", though it's more derivative of the former due to the main premise being Orpita shooting an Odd Squad recruitment video.
    • "Sunny Sides Add Up" takes a lot of elements from the "Odd Beginnings" two-part Season 3 premiere, from the Sticky Sisters raiding yet another Odd Squad Headquarters to danger being created when the Ancient Artifact of the episode (the Golden Sundial) is moved.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The role-playing game Rotted Capes is pretty clearly meant to be Marvel Zombies, but with a homebrew superhero world overrun by the undead because the developer obviously couldn't afford to license the Marvel Universe.

  • 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.
  • When Kenner had a hit with M.A.S.K., it reused the toys' main premise (tiny figures + gimmicky vehicles) for two similar lines, Sky Commanders and Shadow Strikers. Later, the first set of toys for Vor-Tech: Undercover Conversion Squad were direct remakes of some of the original MASK series.

    Video Games 

  • 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 
  • After Hanna-Barbera made The Flintstones, a sitcom (more specifically The Honeymooners) set in Hollywood Prehistory, 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.
  • Due to being an extremely long runner that thrives on Negative Continuity most of the time, The Simpsons often recycles themes and plots of previous episodes entirely unintentionally because the writers have lost track of what's going on (no one can tell Lou from Eddie). Some of these might be running jokes. Who knows?
    • Homer has dressed up as Santa repeatedly ("Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", "Homer vs. Dignity", etc.).
    • Homer has twice become a Smithers.
    • Several family members have switched religions and Marge used Reverend Lovejoy's help to get them back ("Homer the Heretic", "The Joy of Sect", "She of Little Faith", "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star").
    • The Simpson family has gone on vacations full of gags poking fun at the location with a third act involving them in danger ("Bart vs. Australia", "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson", "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo", "Blame It on Lisa", etc.)
    • Lisa has been upstaged by a peer while Homer is involved in a wacky scheme to make money off of a fatty food additive twice ("Lisa's Rival" and "Lard of the Dance").
    • Lisa has gone to a better school only to be challenged.
    • Both Bart and Lisa in turn served as Krusty's assistant ("Bart Gets Famous" and "All About Lisa").
    • Both of them 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.
    • "Flaming Moe's" (season 3) and "Moe'N'a Lisa" (season 18) use the same premise of Moe stealing a Simpson family member's idea and getting popular off it while refusing to give credit.
    • "Tis the Fifteenth Season" and "Simpsons Christmas Stories" both have scenes about Moe's annual Christmas suicide attempt.
    • In "Lisa's Pony", Apu tells Homer that only one guy eats the hot dogs (which Homer recognizes as himself). In "Pranksta Rap", Chief Wiggum finds out that he and Milhouse's dad are the only two people to buy a cheap brand of popcorn from Apu. However, this joke is also a plot point in "Pranksta Rap".
    • A character surprised to learn that "There's a New Mexico" is a gag in Season 5's "Boy-Scoutz 'n the Hood" (a "Homer is really dumb" bit) and also in Season 12's "Homer vs. Dignity" (a "Burns is really, really old" bit).
    • Both Marge and Ralph have said "I'm a Star Wars!", multiple seasons apart.
    • Episodes in seasons 3 and 10 use the same joke to start a transition: Ralph speaking to the class and sharing something disgusting.
    • The trope is also referenced and played with in Season 11's "Saddlesore Galactica". 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 Season 3's "Lisa's Pony". 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 are wildly different, owing in part to the show becoming noticeably Denser and Wackier in the intervening years.
    • For whatever reason, both Marge ("The Seven-Beer Snitch") and Kang and Kodos ("Gump Roast") have said "Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost."
    • Bart has worked on a golf course twice: in season 20's "Lost Verizon" and season 32's "Wad Goals."
    • Both Homer ("Little Big Girl") and Mr. Burns ("The Old Man and the Lisa") have been confused about the difference between ketchup and catsup.
    • Marge has advised her children to tell a teacher if they're being bullied on two separate occasions, only to be told that their bully is their teacher (Bart in Season 17's "My Fair Laddy", Lisa in Season 24's "Black-Eyed, Please").
      Marge: If you're being bullied, you should tell your teacher!
      Bart/Lisa: My bully is my teacher.
    • An inter-series example occurs in "Homer the Moe", which has a scene where Homer tries to smash the glass on a jukebox with his bare fist and bleeding as a result. Family Guy had precisely the same gag in "Let's Go to the Hop" a year earlier.
  • 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.
  • Hanna-Barbera cartoons re-imagined as Darker and Edgier for the sake of parody.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Season 7 infamously used the same premise three times: To get the Krabby Patty secret formula, Plankton dresses up as someone SpongeBob knows and trusts (his grandma, Gary, and Sandy). In Season 2, he dressed as Krabs, and in his first appearance ever, controlled SpongeBob's body. A much later episode uses a similar plot, with Plankton posing as a sentient wad of cash and fooling Mr. Krabs.
    • "Chum Caverns", "Chum Bucket Supreme", and "Spongicus" use the same basic plot of the Chum Bucket getting popular thanks to a new gimmick.
    • "Boss for a Day" almost entirely consists of plot points from previous episodes: Mr. Krabs gets injured and sent to the hospital ("Squid's Day Off"), SpongeBob is appointed manager ("Squid's Day Off", "Gullible Pants"), SpongeBob's nitpicking drives away someone trying to make Krabby Patties ("Someone's in the Kitchen with Sandy"), Patrick works at the Krusty Krab ("Big Pink Loser", "Bummer Vacation"), SpongeBob gets multiple clones ("CopyBob DittoPants")...
    • "Culture Shock": In an attempt to bring culture to the Krusty Krab, Squidward organizes a show in which he is the star and SpongeBob has an unremarkable role. To his surprise, the audience hates him and loves SpongeBob. "The Play's the Thing": In an attempt to bring culture to the Krusty Krab, Squidward organizes a show in which he is the star and SpongeBob has an unremarkable role. To his surprise, the audience hates him and loves SpongeBob.
    • Notably averted with "Sleepy Time" and "Dream Hoppers". While both of them involve SpongeBob going into peoples' dreams, "Dream Hoppers" takes the format of a No-Dialogue Episode where actions are timed to the music (and has a more consistent plot of SpongeBob and Patrick chasing a Krabby Patty through the dreams), making it a very unique episode for the show.
    • "SpongeBob Meets the Strangler" and "Good Ol' Whatshisname" both end with someone going to jail but being relieved that at least they've got away from SpongeBob (The Tattletale Strangler in the former and Squidward in the latter), only to find that their cellmate is Patrick.
    • "Boat Smarts" is an educational video where Squidward plays the good driver and SpongeBob plays the bad driver, and every scene ends with Squidward getting injured. "Yellow Pavement" is the exact same thing, down to reusing multiple jokes.
    • "Goofy Scoopers", "Sir Urchin and Snail Fail", and "We Heart Hoops" all follow the same premise of SpongeBob and Patrick wanting to meet their favorite celebrities. It's especially noticeable since the episodes are so close together — the former two are season 13 and the last one is early season 14.
    • In "Krusty Dogs", a popular new menu item forces Krabby Patties off the menu, to SpongeBob's dismay, and he has to get them back. Add Sandy and you have season 13's "Hot Crossed Nuts".
    • "Hiccup Plague" and "Allergy Attack!", both in consecutive seasons, revolve around everyone catching an illness and the hijinks that ensue.
    • "My Friend Patty" and the Kamp Koral episode "Patrick Takes the Cake" have the exact same plot beats. A main character tries to protect a sentient food item from others trying to eat it, only for the food to reveal that it actually wants to be eaten, leading them to share it. Both episodes premiered just two months apart.
    • "Arbor Day Disarray" and the The Patrick Star Show episode "A Root Galoot" both revolve around the characters taking care of a plant-themed guest, only for them to be a jerkass who overstays their welcome.
  • The Life and Times of Juniper Lee is basically just American Dragon: Jake Long or Monster Allergies, though more closely American Dragon.
    • Teenage main character of Asian descent is the protector of the magical world and has to keep up The Masquerade? Check.
    • The power/responsibility to protect The Masquerade is inherited yet skipped their parents' generation? Check.
    • Mentored by their grandparent (of the same gender as them, but of a different gender from the parent who the responsibility skipped) as well as a grey 600 year old talking dog? Check.
    • Annoying gender-flipped younger sibling, who's in on the secret? Check.
  • Stōked is essentially what 6teen would be like if it took place at a beachfront hotel instead of a shopping mall. The six main characters are very similar the cast on 6teen - Johnny is Wyatt, Emma is Jen, Reef is Jonesy, Broseph is Jude, Fin is Nikki, and Lo is Caitlin. This also extends to a number of supporting characters too.
  • Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors borrows liberally from Star Wars: a youthful, inexperienced hero, his Robot Buddy, a powerful wizard, and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold mercenary pursue a Big Bad and his forces across space. The major difference is that the Princess Leia equivalent is a little girl.
  • De Patie Freleng Enterprises did quite a few derivative series.


Video Example(s):


Top Gun Does a Star Wars

This Producer in the Pitch Meeting can't help but note that Top Gun: Maverick's final mission is the same as A New Hope's final mission.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / RecycledPremise

Media sources: