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Strictly Formula
aka: Recycled Plot

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"They'd put a check after each gag that got a laugh and use it in the next picture. If a gag got a laugh in three pictures in a row, it became a standard and they'd use it in every picture after that. They had a real nuts-and-bolts approach to making films."
Lee Mishkin, a Famous Studios animator

Stories sometimes have a rigidly adhered-to structure. All the beats fall in the same place. All the characters do the things they are expected to do. The bad guys get got. They get got by the good guys, the same good guys as last week.


The good guys did the same kind of things they did last week to get the bad guys. There was one of three results: The bad guys died, went to prison or were redeemed.

Reading a summary of the story, there is no difference between the last story and the current story, except for a few details about how the bad guys were bad and the specific techniques used by the good guys to "get" them. The Once an Episode events can often be predicted down to the minute.

Pretty dull, huh?

Why, then, is almost every one of the top-rated shows on TV like this? Why do romance novel series and detective novel series outsell works that follow a different pattern?

Because people who read/view them are freed up from discerning the structure and can concentrate on the language and the details. The writer has gotten the shape of the story out of the way of the content of the story. Many Something-of-the-week shows express this trope to some extent, which can be both a strength and a weakness of that format. It begins to suck when the substance is so lacking that it seems like the formula is all that's there. And attempts to shake it up? They Changed It, Now It Sucks!.


The few who read/view for the shape of the story might be left behind. By way of consolation, they are given everything that is not Strictly Formula.

It should also be worth noting that the inventor of great ideas that are much copied can sometimes retroactively acquire a reputation for being formulaic.

See also Status Quo Is God and Same Story, Different Names.

Just watch out. Sometimes the formula isn't there, but just perceived by the general public. A classic case is how every protagonist in H. P. Lovecraft's work dies or goes insane in the end. Except that rarely happens. Then the formula becomes "Common Knowledge", without ever really existing.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • Every Bubblegum Crisis episode ever has essentially the same plot: A person, often an old friend to one of the team, is introduced, and either forms a bond with a team member, or some Backstory about how the old friend and the teammate know each other is exposited. The friend goes away just long enough for something bad to happen to him/her. Irrespective of which teammate's friend it was, Priss gets all pissed off about the situation and decides to take matters into her own hands. As she is suiting up, however, the rest of the team shows up because they've always got her back. The team suits up, and goes off to kick the problem's ass. There's a heartfelt apology from the friend(assuming they survived) who is ultimately never seen again, and a wry signoff/joke. THE END.
  • Most of Cardcaptor Sakura involved one of the Clow Cards attacking or causing chaos in Sakura's neighbourhood, leading her to neutralise and capture it (a occasional variation in the anime version involved Syaoran sometimes stopping the card and earning it instead). The final arc after she becomes Master Of The Cards mostly involves Eriol sending some magical force up against Sakura so she must upgrade one of her cards to stop it. The formula was occasionally put aside to focus on the personal lives of the main characters along with several romantic side arcs.
  • Almost every TV episode of Doraemon falls into this. Similarly to The Fairly OddParents, the episode will almost always begin with Nobita crying about a problem and begging Doraemon for a gadget of the week whether it is getting revenge from the bullies Gian and Suneo, solving his school struggles, or showing off over Suneo's wealth. Nobita will abuse said gadget or it will end up stolen by Gian and Suneo and both misuse it themselves. Doraemon has to get it back and morale is taught or not.
  • Along with borrowing heavily from the series, the Dragon Ball Z Non Serial Movies had a very distinct formula that they rarely broke from: the Z-Warriors are living their lives normally, the villain is introduced and does some damage, alongside various side villains, the heroes attempt to defeat the villain right away but are repulsed, the side villains and the non-central Z-Fighters duke it out, Goku fights evenly with the main villain for a while, the main villain reveals his true power and inflicts a Curb-Stomp Battle onto everyone, and then Goku pulls out a technique that defeats the villain. Piccolo also shows up to save Gohan at some point, and in later movies Vegeta shows up to save Goku saying "you must be defeated by my hand!" Every movie in between Dragon Ball Z: The World's Strongest and Dragon Ball Z: Super Android 13! follows this formula exactly, and the prior and later films don't divert from it much (for instance, sometimes the villain doesn't have a Quirky Miniboss Squad or Goku isn't the main character).
  • Fairy Tail follows the same formula whenever a new dark guild or evil organization rears its ugly head: Fairy Tail mows down all the Mooks with no effort, while the Quirky Miniboss Squad gives them some trouble before getting taken out, all leading up to the climactic battle against the Arc Villain, who (most often) Natsu takes down after being pushed to the brink. Pepper it with some tragic backstories for new villains or known characters, a Heel–Face Turn or two, and at least one of the heroes' new enemies/allies exclaiming how insane Fairy Tail is, and you have your standard story arc.
  • Franken Fran gets a patient who wants something. She gives it to them through super surgery. It comes back to bite them in the ass. Fran tries to fix it, and ends up making it worse. Fran shrugs it off and moves on to the next patient.
  • Hell Girl: Introduce Victim and their problems, revolving around a central Tormentor. Victim contacts Hell Correspondence to deal with the Tormentor. Ai leaves them a straw doll and states the terms of the contract. Victim mulls it over. Tormentor comes back to make their life hell. Victim is driven to the brink of despair and pulls the string near the end of the episode. Flashy torture sequence in which the Tormentor meets Ai and is sentenced to Hell. Victim is shown living with the consequences. This is the fundamental formula for all three seasons of the anime. There is an over-arching plot (particularly in the second series) that is sandwiched in, but usually doesn't take up too much time until the season finale. However, the more creepy and/or unusual episodes, like the abandoned hospital in Episode 17 of the first season shake up the formula. In the manga (which came later), most of the series plot is reduced, further invoking this trope.
  • Most of the cases in Kindaichi Case Files follows Kindaichi and Miyuki (plus some other friends) going on a trip and encountering a series of gruesome murders. When Kindaichi inevitably uncovers the mystery, the killer will start a Motive Rant about how the victims had caused the death, intentionally or otherwise, of the killer's loved one, before breaking down with the burden of their guilt, then trying to commit suicide.
  • Kirby: Right Back at Ya! nearly always followed this formula: Kirby and his friends live their happy lives. Dedede acts stupid and orders a monster, or on rare occasions, NightMare Enterprises sends something over without immediately informing him. The monster attacks. Kirby inhales something and copies its power. The monster is defeated. Kirby and his friends return to living their happy lives. This extends to even the special two-part episodes, and the Series Finale. The only episodes that don't seem to follow this are a couple of the "someone comes to Dream Land to get revenge for something" episodes, and even then, there are many similarities to it.
  • The Laughing Salesman usually goes like this: We meet an ordinary person with some everyday problem. Moguro shows up and offers them a supernatural solution to their problem, which comes with some very strange but very strict guidelines for its use. Moguro's customer uses the supernatural solution, but either due to greed, ambition, pride, or some other character flaw ignores his guidelines and suffers horribly as a result. Moguro closes out the episode with some pithy commentary on how foolish his customer was and walks off laughing.
  • Lupin III:
    • TV episodes generally follow the formula of "Lupin and gang arrive in a new location, and plot to steal something. They do, but Fujiko double-crosses them. Zenigata shows up and attempts to arrest the gang, but fails. The end."
    • The movies and TV specials tend to follow a more strict formula: Opening heist, exposition about the MacGuffin, plot-important Girl of the Week, evil organization attempting to get the girl/item, Goemon shows up for one scene and acts as a Deus ex Machina.
  • Natsume's Book of Friends episodes usually follow this pattern: An ayakashi is trying to kill/possess/drain life force from the main character. Natsume manages to survive, but doesn't kill the creature nor lets Nyanko-sensei finish it off, only takes pity on it instead, upon learning the reason the creature had, which is always some serious problem. Natsume then proceeds to help said ayakashi, often getting exhausted and fainting in the process. When he regains consciousness, the problem is either already solved, or it will be in the next few minutes.
  • Oishinbo stories usually follow this pattern: The staff at the Tozai News are invited to dinner by a highly regarded man. (For some reason, it's always a man and never a woman.) Everybody praises the food, except for Yamaoka who states that it hasn't been prepared the way it should in order to make the flavor ideal. The rest of the Tozai News staff tells him to apologize, but instead he invites everybody present to a dinner in a little while, where he promises to show them how the dish ought to be made. Then, he and Kurita go procure the main ingredient for the meal, while Yamaoka tells Kurita about it. For instance, if he'll be making sashimi Yamaoka will go catch a salmon while explaining while this particular kind of salmon is the best fish for sashimi. The day of Yamaoka's dinner arrives, and he treats everybody to a delicious meal. Once they've started eating, the dinner guests will always gush about how great the food is in a very detailed way, saying things like "Delicious! The sour pork doesn't hide the taste of the salmon!" At this point, Yamaoka will reveal that he made the food in some unconventional and unexpected way, everybody is shocked, and the person who hosted the dinner at the beginning of the chapter will admit that up until now he hadn't truly understood how the dish should be cooked.
  • Most One Piece story arcs: the crew end up in some location they have a reason/are forced to stay at, they get a look around the place whenever there's anything especially interesting about it, find out trouble's brewing, new characters get their stories told, crew heads to confront bad guys, Luffy is indisposed, rest of crew fight similarly skilled opponents, Luffy comes back and beats the Big Bad, crew says their goodbyes to anyone they might have helped or been helped by (often taking the form of a huge village-wide party). Despite this, every story arc manage to be very different from the others.
  • Pokémon:
    • Ash spent 20 years traveling in a very strict pattern. He would be accompanied by one (1) boy, usually elder and a Gym Leader, and one (1) girl of similar age, either a Gym Leader or the female protagonist from the region's respective games (if either partner has a little sibling, they may be included). Ash would travel the region in search of eight (8) gym badges and will take part in one (1) League tournament, which he would lose. The girl of the group, if a female protagonist, would be engaged in her own competitions, usually Pokémon pageantry of some kind, culminating in a final competition, which she would also lose.
    • For a long time, almost every episode followed this formula: Ash and friends meet the person of the week and/or the Pokémon of the week. This person/Pokémon will have a problem. Team Rocket will plot to steal Pikachu and/or the Pokémon of the week and are defeated in short order, with the problem of the week solved either by Team Rocket's defeat or some unrelated event. In the event Team Rocket get defeated much earlier in the episode and the conflict isn't fully resolved and/or they were defeated in a way that didn't involve Pikachu's Thunderbolt, they try again until it nears the episode's end and they get zapped. If the Pokémon of the week does not have a trainer, sometimes Ash or one of his friends will catch it. The only exceptions to this formula are Gym battles, character development episodes, or plot points from the games, but even these tend to have their own formulas.
    • The formula only changed with the Best Wishes series (2011-2013), where Team Rocket got a big boost in competence and much less screentime, the implication being they had their hands full with special directives or other serious business, leaving Ash and co. alone. They didn't show up once per episode, and they didn't have much bearing on Ash's side of the plot. The half-season of Filler before Pokémon X and Y came out turned them back to normal, though they still get a couple episodes of non-absence. Additionally, the Gen 5 arc also altered the "Ash catches five Pokémon in a region, releases or otherwise gives up one, and then catches another Pokémon to replace it" gimmick, where he instead had a team of eight (not counting Pikachu) with no releases, though out of those, four got shafted in terms of screen time to make room for the starters, Scraggy, and the Merchandise-Driven rejoining of Charizard.
    • The Sun and Moon series (2016-2019), where the adventure-style layout was instead changed to a school-based Slice of Life show, threw the old formula completely out the window. Characters of the week are few and far in between, with most interactions being between the main cast and their Pokémon. In contrast to previous seasons, which had 3-4 main characters, there are now 6 main characters, and 1 extra Pokémon sidekick. Pokémon of the week are often implemented into the show more naturally, rather than being overexposed and being made the focus of the whole episode. In contrast to previous seasons, events from previous episodes are often regularly brought back and mentioned, adding more continuity. Team Rocket, while now humorous again, have become surprisingly competent and do not appear in every single episode.
    • Pokémon Journeys (2019-) sees only two total main characters, Ash and Goh, doing research for Professor Cerise across all of the existing regions and Galar, revisiting the adventure layout from previous series while also having elements of Sun and Moon's lesser number of characters of the week and increased focus on humor. Furthermore, there are no female companions this time around, though Chloe, Cerise's daughter, is occasionally given focus. More emphasis on Pokémon catching is present, with Goh regularly catching Pokémon in many episodes. The Team Rocket Trio, especially since Ash is now the champion of Alola, now have a machine that dispenses powerful Pokémon for them, allowing them to still be the balance between competence and silliness that they were in Alola.
    • The movies follow such a rigid formula that you'd swear that they only have two or three plots they recycle every year: Ash and friends will enter a location with a completely different appearance from the region they're supposed to be in, possibly come across the newest Mythical Pokémon/a Pokémon from the next generation of games, then come into conflict with an antagonist; either a one-dimensional bastard human who wants to use the title Pokémon for his (and yes, it's almost always a man) own evil ends, or a big, scary and evil-looking Pokémon with sinister/disasterous goals. If the antagonist is a human, expect them to be irredeemable jackasses through and through, though there is a rare Heel–Face Turn for some of them, but if it's a Pokémon, 90% of the time they're Not Evil, Just Misunderstood, and the other 10% perform a Heel–Face Turn. Oftentimes, the world will be at stake, a large-scale battle happens, a Disney Death or two will occur, Team Rocket show up and do absolutely nothing significant, and a Super Mode or two will be shown off (the portrayal of which may or may not directly contradict how they work in the games). To top it off, despite all that happens across the movie, its events will rarely, if ever, actually be referenced in the actual show. The 20th movie, Pokémon: I Choose You!, avoids this formula. It has no true villain (the closest thing being Ash's Jerkass rival, Cross), Team Rocket doesn't appear, the fate of the world is never at stake, and it takes place in an alternate timeline from the main series. There is a Disney Death, though.
    • The endgame for the Pokémon arcs. After Ash gets the final badge, two things happen. One, the villains of the region get a rushed closure with their downfall being closely related to a Legendary Pokémon who is the Non-Protagonist Resolver. And then Ash enters the league where he'll almost always lose to a guy with stronger Pokémon bordering on Diabolus ex Machina (always a male character), and then he'll ditch his friends and Pokémon and journey to the next region, hitting a giant Reset Button on the way out. X and Y subverted this by first handling the league arc, then making the Villainous Team arc the true finale of the season. And while Zygarde played a major role in stopping Team Flare, Ash and the entire supporting cast (including the Gym Leaders, Hero of Another Story, and Champions) got to play a majorly important role as well. Once again, Sun and Moon completely averts it by having Ash actually WIN the League for the first time since the Orange Islands.
    • Ash wasn't often the only one having to change his teams out per the Bag of Spilling. When Brock was still a major character for Ash's later journeys through Hoenn, the Kanto Battle Frontier, and Sinnoh, he would remove some of the Pokemon from his team as well by leaving them at his gym (Onix, Geodude, and Crobat for Hoenn, Ludicolo for Kanto, and Forretress and Marshtomp for Sinnoh). May also did it to a lesser extent for the Kanto Battle Frontier when she removed Beautifly, Skitty, and Bulbasaur from her team. Even Team Rocket started to do this starting with Unova, where they have to give up all of the Pokemon they have on them before going into a new region (whether or not they leave them directly at Rocket HQ or release them into the wild). While their first case of this for Unova caused them to even leave behind Wobbuffet (their longest lasting Pokemon), he is reinstated for Kalos and is not subjected to this for Alola and Journeys.
    • As the starter Pokemon trio of each region are extremely prominent, Ash has to catch at least one starter for his team in each region (having one, Treecko in Hoenn and Froakie in Kalos), or two (as seen with Turtwig and Chimchar in Sinnoh and Rowlet and Litten in Alola), though he occasionally has the entire trio at times (in Kanto, Johto, and Unova). If he doesn't catch all the starters, that's because one or two travel companions (such as Brock for Mudkip, May for Torchic, Dawn for Piplup, Serena for Fennekin, Clemont for Chespin, and Lana for Popplio) will have at least one or two of them. Journeys threw this completely out the window when Goh ended up with all three of the Galar starters. Ash also usually catches the common bird for the region, a part of the formula that was only thrown aside in Alola and Journeys.
    • Due to Eevee's newfound popularity as a mascot opposite to Pikachu in Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee!, the Alola chapter of the anime started a trend in which a fellow main character other than Ash would catch an Eevee, with Lana having one in Alola and Chloe having one in Journeys. While prior main characters (May in the Kanto Battle Frontier and Serena in Kalos) had Eevee before, these predate this mascot status as these Eevee still evolved (May's becoming Glaceon and Serena's becoming Sylveon), while Lana's and Chloe's have never evolved in order to follow in the footsteps of Ash's Pikachu never evolving.
  • Most Pretty Cure seasons fall into formula to at least some degree, but some are much more noteworthy than others:
    • Every single episode of Pretty Cure Max Heart sees Nagisa encounter some kind of everyday problem, begin to deal with said problem, get attacked out of nowhere by a member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad who summons a Monster of the Week for no real reason, transform alongside Honoka, fight said monster to a standstill until Hikari transforms into Shiny Luminous, and finish up with either Marble Screw Max, Extreme Luminario, or Marble Screw Max Spark; monster gets defeated, miniboss squad member runs off, and Nagisa deals with whatever problem she was worried about, roll credits.
    • Nearly every episode of Smile Pretty Cure! has the girls dealing with some sort of mundane problem or one caused by one of Majorina's gimmick items, cutting to the Quirky Miniboss Squad having some sort of discussion or argument that relates to or causes the problem. One of them goes to wherever the girls happen to be, gives their stock Bad Energy-gathering speech and advances Pierrot's countdown clock one tick. The girls arrive too late to stop this from happening, and the miniboss summons an Akanbe so the girls can collect a new Cure Decor from beating it with Rainbow Healing, Rainbow Burst or Royal Rainbow Burst. Whatever the method used, the miniboss runs off and the girls settle the mundane problem. That this formula means the villains have no actual reason to summon monsters other than to hand powerups to the girls is the source of many a wallbanger.
    • The job episodes of Hugtto! Pretty Cure contain the girls learning about a specific career and being taught the responsibilities of said job. Just when they've got the hang of it, someone else who works for the company, or someone who happens to be visiting for the day becomes a target for the Oshimaida. After the battle, the girls thank the people at the job for the opportunity, and then take a commemorative photo with the Mirai Pad.
  • Sailor Moon: One of the girls makes a new friend or had the friend without ever mentioning it, the friend has some kind of problem (romantic 99% of times), the Big Bad decides that — OMG, coincidence! — said friend is definitely the person who has... whatever the Big Bad is looking for, the Big Bads send a monster of the week, Sailor Moon and company start losing, Tuxedo Mask throws a rose and makes a small speech regarding the problem of the victim of the week, Sailor Moon uses her overly long attack to defeat the monster, figures out the victim didn't have whatever the Big Bad is looking for and the friend's problem is solved by the end of the episode, thanks to the fight or not. Also, the new friend will seem to have formed a strong, meaningful bond with one or all of the Sailor Guardians... and then they are never seen or spoken of again. This was in the anime version, the manga and live-action version was more about the Guardians.
    • It should also be noted that if one were to skip the less plot-oriented filler episodes, this would become less noticeable. The later arcs were also significantly more plot-driven.
  • The Saint Seiya movies (with the exception of the second one) generally follow the same format as the Posidon arc of the manga - Greek God X arrises, proclaims they will destroy all of mankind; Athena confronts said god by herself and is promptly set up for a slow, tortuous death as a human sacrifice and her bronze saints (as the main characters) are given some arbitrary time limit to fight through the bad guy's minions and rescue her. Inevitably, they are all defeated at least once until Seiya (and sometimes Ikki) manages to struggle into the main baddie's chamber, whereupon he focuses all his and his friends' energy into the single punch that he's learned and blows the baddie to space dust. Athena is rescued, roll credits, the end. You could set your watch by it. Some of the other consistent guideposts: Hyouga will get curbstomped ala Worf. Shiryu will get beat within an inch of his life, but triumphs after shedding his armor to unleash his true power, and then collapses. Shun will fight defensively, get ripped apart, and call for his Big Brother with his last conscious breath. Ikki will then teleport in and avenge his little bro by viciously one-shotting the offender, but then gets Worf-stomped by the Dragon or Big Bad. Seiya will get debilitated somehow (blinding or poisoning, usually) and get thrown down a cliff or stairway, or into a ravine, which he will slowly and painfully make his way back up from, for the final confrontation as described above. Like clockwork.
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: Mr. Itoshiki is all riled up about some aspect of society. He lists a bunch of examples, taking the class on an impromptu field trip to do so. He declares that the aspect of society has left him in despair, possibly attempting suicide. Then, either Kafuka or Chiri shows up to show the positive side of the aspect of society or comment on the aspect of society's proper/ improperness. Then there might be some sort of punchline or something. This formula is followed all but the most surreal episodes, with the exception of some of the character introductions.
  • Tis Time for "Torture," Princess establishes the basic formula early on: Tortura greets the Princess with "'Tis time for 'torture', Princess" and introduces that episode's "torture", which is usually a bribe of delicious food or some other Mundane Luxury. The Princess looks like she's going to resist, causing Ex to brag about her strict upbringing or accomplishments on the battlefield, only for the Princess to cave when Tortura introduces some twist to sweeten the deal. At the end Tortura reports to the Hell-Lord with what she found out, only for him to dismiss it as unimportant or for a really trivial reason.
  • Yakitate!! Japan fell into this during the Yakitate 25 arc, with the basic plot elements of every match just repeating themselves after a while. This might be the reason it was eventually aborted to quickly switch to the final battle instead (and the anime version made it Yakitate 9 instead).

    Asian Animation 
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf often falls into this. Wolffy tries to find a way to capture the goats, he gets really close to winning, and then the goats escape at the last minute. Though later seasons don't follow the formula as much.

    Comic Books 
  • During Brian Michael Bendis' run on Avengers, his formula was, "The Avengers are having a meeting, possibly catered, when someone bursts through the window. Plot ensues."
  • Some strips in The Beano follow or have followed a formula. For example Roger the Dodger always involves Roger coming up with a dodge to get out of something, usually work, and then that dodge fails and Roger ends up doing more work or in the old days getting beaten with a Slipper.
  • Many strips in Whizzer and Chips and other Fleetway comics involved a character with a gimmick eg. Val's Vanishing Cream (with Val and her vanishing cream which made things invisible) which followed a simple formula of Character with gimmick is having fun, a bully spoils that fun, Character uses gimmick to get back at bully and ends with gimmicky character having fun.
  • Jommeke: The series is notorious for repeating the same formulaic jokes again and again, going from Flip the parrot trying to be loved by an actual woman, only to be disappointed that she doesn't want him, to professor Gobelijn accidentally putting something in the town's water supply causing everybody to mutate into something. Jommeke is usually the only one who doesn't get contaminated because he never drinks from the tap.
  • Krazy Kat: Krazy Kat is in love with Ignatz. Ignatz zaps the cat with a brick and gets send to jail by Officer Pup who is sympathethic to Krazy Kat's cause.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Conversed about in relation to comic books in Calvin and Hobbes Get XTREME!:
    Hobbes: The heroes could write to the editor and request new plots. If they refuse, the editors get fried and killed.
  • Many of the chapters of My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic, especially in the first half of the fic, all go the same route: Lightning has to help a friend, one of Titan's minions and the Monster of the Week appear, Lightning charges at the monster and fails to even scratch it, his friend figures out a way to weaken it, Lightning finishes it with the Rainbow Rod, the minion flees and is scolded by Titan, Everybody Laughs Ending, and The Grand Ruler spells out An Aesop.
  • Sleeping with the Girls and its sequel Sleeping With the Girls: Chaos Theory play it semi-straight, but avert this. The Self-Insert (keep reading) is hopping between worlds that typically operate under "Strictly Formula" rules. Being from the "Real" world, he can see these conventions playing out and has played with them in order to accomplish his goals. To prove this, he was able to talk Washu through one of the oldest perverted jokes in anime history, the Perverted Walk Innote . He is able to do this to the second, pointing out every single part of the joke and how it works.
  • No matter what you think of him, fanfiction author Shadowlugia249 (infamous in the fanfiction mocking community) seems to follow a very strict formula in many of his stories: loner protagonist hates his life, buys a toy in the form of an animal from a video game and gets transformed into said character by magic. After his transformation said loner is always happier with his life. This is a more jarring example, especially to those outside the small niche he's aiming these fics at.
  • Eogrus, who made a lot of semi-Slash Fanfics pretended to be Rated K+ or T.
    • Sometimes that have some same plot, that either a character wants to have sex because they have permission, they are old their final wish is to have sex, or "fate" says so, or reversed or zig-zagged with other characters doing the same thing but with different types of sex.
    • If it's a Slash-Action fanfic, they may turn evil and tortured their main character with their crap over some Freudian Excuse that didn't happen in their Canon.
    • If it's Drama with some Slash elements, it may have a character have a sex change for unknown and unexplained events, and have some sex at the end.

    Films — Animated 
  • During the 1990s, Disney had a very successful run from 1989 up until 1994, but after that they were often accused of enforcing this trope. Rebellious princesses who want to marry for love, heroines looking for something beyond what they know, bumbling or fantasy-forbidding fathers, bad guys falling off great heights. Pocahontas especially was accused of adhering to Disney formula, which admittedly is not entirely untrue. Ironically though, the problem seems to have been that all these movies came out in succession, as every single movie of the Disney Renaissance has been Vindicated by History and is now well-loved (some more than others: Pocahontas is still not thought of as a great movie, and The Rescuers Down Under has gained a cult following but isn't anywhere near mainstream).
  • Four consecutive Disney films had a formula of their own: Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia all ditched the classic, Obviously Evil Disney villains in favor of keeping the identity of the Big Bad as a climactic plot twisting reveal, which fans eventually began to expect. The latter three films added to the formula by having another character serve as a decoy villain to further obfuscate the Big Bad's true identity. The trend was broken by Moana, which had a different kind of villain twist: the Big Bad (established as such early on rather than being revealed at the last minute) turns out to be the Big Good, corrupted into a monster for want of the very Macguffin Moana is trying to replace.
  • DreamWorks Animation has also been accused of enforcing this trope in most of their CGI-animated movies during the 2000s: in the beginning, the main character is an outcast (or at the very least is "different"). Throughout the film he becomes a better person. In the end, he saves the day and everyone accepts him for who he is. Add bonus points for pop culture references, fart jokes, gratuitous Celebrity Voice Actors, and the occasional DreamWorks Face, and you're good to go. They later outgrew it, but it's since been adopted by every other CGI animation studio, while DreamWorks has joined Disney and Pixar in the ranks of companies that know there's more to an animated film than that.
  • While this doesn't apply to the films themselves, the teaser posters for Sony Pictures Animation films have followed the formula of main-character(s)-looking-at-main-setting-or-plot-point-with-backs-turned-toward-the-viewer. The poster for the first Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs shows Flint joyously looking at the falling food. The poster for The Smurfs features Papa, Smurfette, and Clumsy spectating New York City from the top of a building. The poster for Arthur Christmas shows Arthur and Evie staring up at his dad's sleigh. The poster for Hotel Transylvania shows some of Drac's friends looking at the titular hotel. The teaser poster for Smurfs: The Lost Village shows some of the Smurfs exploring the Forbidden Forest.
  • An in-universe example in The LEGO Movie with the hit TV show "Where Are My Pants?", which consists entirely of a minifigure asking "Honey, where are my paaaaants?". It's the #1 show in Bricksburg (although, as far as we know, it's the only show).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Justified and deconstructed in The Cabin in the Woods, where there's a massive conspiracy making people follow the strict formula of horror movies because that formula is actually the guidelines for a human sacrifice ritual, and all the right beats need to be hit in order to keep the Ancient Ones satisfied.
  • The Daimajin trilogy follows the same plot in all three films: in feudal Japan, a tyrannical warlord is terrorizing some poor village(s), who call upon their stone guardian god, the titular Daimajin, for help, and he awakens and proceeds to effortlessly demolish their enemies.note 
  • The Indiana Jones films. They start with Indy on an adventure to acquire a treasure that's unrelated to the MacGuffin. After this he will receive a briefing that kicks the main plot into motion, detailing a supernatural object of myth and why it's important that the villains don't get it. He will then visit various exotic locales and use clues to discover the whereabouts of the aforementioned object, fighting the villains as well as picking up a girl and sidekick as he does so. The sidekick or girl (or both) will get captured at some point and Indy will have to rescue them. Indy himself will also be captured at some point, but escape. There will be a prolonged one-on-one fist fight with a guy working for the villains, as well as a chase scene. The Big Bad will eventually get their hands on the MacGuffin, generally by following Indy to it, only to be killed by their own greed or recklessness. Any remaining plot points will then be resolved, and the film will end on an upbeat note.
  • The James Bond movies. First, there's the gun barrel, then a teaser (which might not be related to the plot and often instead depict Bond on another mission); credits with dancing silhouettes and a song from a popular artist; mission briefing by M or a surrogate character; a further briefing with Q regarding gadgets and weapons available for use (though this was averted for the first Daniel Craig Bond film); Bond usually gets involved with a Bond Girl and a female henchman; Bond gambles with the villain; henchmen ordered to kill Bond; female henchman dies; Bond enters the villain's base (voluntarily or captured); the villain reveals his plans (sometimes over dinner); and Bond foils the plans and gets away — along with the Bond Girl — from the Collapsing Lair. Sometimes he must survive one final confrontation with a surviving henchman. And there's always a Chase Scene, many times involving a helicopter. There are numerous Bond films that break the formula, of course:
    • There is no romance with the Bond girl and no female henchman in Quantum of Solace.
    • There is no actual Bond girl in Skyfall beyond a briefly seen secondary character.
    • The Bond girl dies in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Casino Royale (2006).
    • Q does not appear in Live and Let Die, Casino Royale (2006) or Quantum of Solace. It is perhaps not a coincidence that most aversions to the Bond formula have taken place during periods of reinvention for the character.
    • The World Is Not Enough has Elektra King as the first Bond Girl who's also the main villain.
    • Licence to Kill has one of the biggest breaks from formula in having it take entirely in the US and Latin America, having Bond be motivated entirely by revenge in bringing down Sanchez, and Q having a larger role beyond his usual one-scene cameos.
    • Q getting a larger role beyond a One-Scene Wonder became a standard feature beginning with Ben Wishaw's Q in Skyfall.
    • The Bond girl is always a one-off character who appears for that movie and never returns again. For a long time, the sole exception to this was Sylvia Trench, who was in Dr. No and then had a small part in From Russia with Love. Madeleine Swann became the first time a main Bond Girl returned for a second movie, coming back for No Time to Die after appearing in Spectre.
  • The Bourne Series:
    • Jason Bourne (or Aaron Cross) is constantly on the run from corrupt CIA bosses who want him dead to tie up loose ends about yet another unethical black ops program.
    • They hunt him down from a command room with multiple people spying on cameras anywhere in the world, but he always manages to outsmart them and disappear.
    • There's a chase on foot with some Le Parkour.
    • Then a vehicular chase with intense Car Fu.
    • Then an intense Improv Fu fight with the main killer the CIA sent after him.
    • The dirty laundry of the corrupt CIA boss gets exposed.
    • Moby's "Extreme Ways" plays in the ending credits.
  • Star Wars
    Lucas: It’s like poetry, it rhymes.
  • The folks at RedLetterMedia noticed something remarkable about Michael Bay's Transformers movies - if you start the first three at the same time, they sync.
  • As a rule, even avowed non-fans of the genre can effortlessly summarize the plot of any modern Romantic Comedy (eg. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Hitch, et al), purely on the basis that it's... a Romantic Comedy. After just enough setup to introduce our couple and whatever negligible flaws they might (supposedly) have, they'll Meet Cute, then some misunderstanding will drive them apart just long enough to raise the Will They or Won't They? question, which is answered at the end of the film with a definite and invariable They Will. The most critically well-regarded movies in the genre are those that break from the formula in some way, like (500) Days of Summer, which features romantic leads with flaws much deeper than simply being charmingly clumsy or comically workaholic, deconstructs many of the genre's common devices, and ends with both main characters breaking it off and choosing other partners. Celeste And Jesse Forever has the couple already broken up when the film starts, but still living together and being almost in denial about it. They both develop as people with the guy becoming less immature and the woman becoming less of a control freak, but ultimately grow too far apart to rekindle things and start different relationships.
  • The Friday the 13th series didn't actually settle down into its formula of "Jason shows up to kill a bunch of horny teens" until about the third entry, as in the first film Jason wasn't the killer at all, and in the second film his identity wasn't revealed until quite late on, and he looked significantly different to his later appearances. After that the formula generally held true with some small variations for the following films.
  • Every Final Destination movie features someone getting a vision of themselves and other people dying in a big accident. They save themselves and about eight or so other people from it, only for them all to die in horrible ways in the order they would have died in the accident. Failure Is the Only Option because puny humans can't cheat Death.

  • Every American Girl up to a certain point gets a series of 6 books written to formula down to the titles: Meet [Name] (introduction), Lessons for [Name] (school), [Name]'s Surprise (Christmas), Happy Birthday, [Name]! (birthday), [Name] Saves the Day (some sort of adventure), and Changes for [Name] (ending/wrapup of ongoing plot). They had to break the formula with Kaya, though, since she's Nez Perce and didn't have formal schooling or Christmas, and were similarly loose with the rest of them up until the switchover to BeForever. Post-BeForever books are generally much less formulaic; it helps that they're written as two 200-page books instead of six 80-page ones.
  • The Anita Blake novels are immensely formulaic. Just read the work's page on This Very Wiki. The sex scenes also follow a general formula: Anita is propositioned by one or more people, but refuses on moral grounds. The arduer takes over, hair is pulled and mutual screaming orgasms are achieved.
  • Daniel Handler's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Books 2-7 are all of the same basic pattern of the Baudelaires being sent to a new guardian and Olaf arriving in disguise to try and steal their money. Surprisingly, the formula is broken halfway through the series after the VFD subplot takes over.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • His Azazel stories have a specific formula to them. One of George's friends wants something impossible (to be able to fly, to never have to wait in line, etc.) Azazel uses magic (or superscience, if Asimov was trying to sell the story to a sci-fi outlet) to solve the problem. This, in turn, ruins said friend's life. The only exception, "A Dim Rumble," has Azazel's intervention instead leave a world-shattering super-weapon on the loose.
    • There are a number of other outcomes. There is, for example, a story where a woman becomes more beautiful, but it damages her personality for the worse and hurts her husband. Or a story where a guy is turned into a Living Lie Detector and it causes problems for his girlfriend. In this case we get the formula of ruining the life of someone around the friend. The third formula is George intending to benefit from the change, but failing to. The sole case when George does gain something seems to be in "To the Victor", where he gets laid by a beautiful girl offscreen.
    • Similarly, his Black Widowers stories are just as formulaic. The Widowers meet in the Milano with a guest and dine, waited upon by Henry Jackson. The guest has a problem that he tells he widowers about. The Widowers discuss possible solutions, all are shot down by the guest. Then they turn to the waiter, Henry. The guest is surprised about this, but it is explained Henry is considered a member of the club. Henry then solves the case.
  • The Brother Cadfael novels by Ellis Peters have fairly formulaic romance subplots — as soon as the young lady is introduced, you know she'll be one half of the meant-to-be-together couple, and ditto with the young man; and you know that despite everything that threatens to keep them apart, they will get together in the end, one way or another. This predictability and warm fuzziness are part of the "Cozy Mystery" genre, and it doesn't get boring because the writing is good and the mysteries themselves don't get stale.
  • The Ciaphas Cain stories tend to proceed as follows: the eponymous commissar is deployed to a new crisis zone, and runs into some trouble during or shortly after his arrival there. After that it quickly becomes clear that things are not as they seem, and while Cain and his soldiers fight against the preliminary threat, he soon uncovers evidence of another force at work. While his allies prepare for a push against the first enemy, Cain volunteers to go on a seemingly-unrelated errand or minor supporting mission under the logic that it's less likely to get him killed, only to discover that he's landed right in the middle of the real danger. But instead of running, Cain (often with the help of Jurgen) defeats the threat, excusing his heroism as an attempt to maintain his Fake Ultimate Hero status. The book ends with him being debriefed (and afterwards, presumably de-briefed) by his Inquisitor love interest, usually over dinner. Oh, and at some point he'll assure us that "If I had only known what was waiting for me, I would've [insert cowardly and/or self-deprecating action here]."
  • Lester Dent (best known for his Doc Savage stories) actually had a standard formula he used for all his stories, described here:
    This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words. No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell. The business of building stories seems not much different from the business of building anything else.
  • The Dresden Files has a formula that seems to be followed to the letter in books one, two, three, and five:
    • Harry is working on a low-key wizarding (that is, consulting) job or personal business when two problems develop more or less simultaneously: a police investigation with a supernatural side and a client hiring him for his magical expertise. The two cases almost always turn out to be connected. He butts heads with the police frequently even if he's working on something with their blessing, because they don't know or don't like how the magical world works and he can't tell them. He also butts heads with and insults local crime lord Johnny Marcone, but they're never actually enemies. He is tied up and/or gets his ass kicked several times by Mooks as he's hunting down his two cases. He will do something awesome to save a woman. By the time he and his allies in this story finally find the Big Bad, he is already in bad shape but wins by throwing a Spanner in the Works.
    • The sixth book appears to follow the formula at first but turns out to be a subversion. The later books go completely off the formula. The author says that this was a conscious choice which he did not initially believe would work, but which he made in an attempt to prove his writing teacher wrong. And then came Changes...
  • This is taken to a ridiculous extreme in the Encyclopedia Brown books. The first few pages of every book are word-for-word identical. Chapter 1 is always a case from his father, Chapter 2 is always a case he solves by himself in which he proves that the culprit is Bugs Meaney, and Chapter 3 always features Bugs's attempt at revenge for being foiled in Chapter 2, introducing Sally (cue more verbatim passages) as the explanation for why said revenge is "attempt to frame Encyclopedia" rather than "beat the crap out of Encyclopedia."
  • Meta example: In All the World is a Stage, the theater director reveals that he writes all his plays based on the same 10 dramatic character archetypes, and the public loves it. The protagonist himself ends up writing a play based on the same formula (but IN JAPAN) to make an impression on the actress he fell in love with.
  • The first three Harry Potter books play this fairly straight - Dursleys, Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, Quidditch, Christmas, the big plot issue, end of year feast, everyone goes home. Parts of the formula stay for the later books (Harry always starts out at the Dursleys in the books, no matter what) but Rowling then breaks these down as the universe gets darker and more complicated - and Harry matures. By Deathly Hallows, Voldemort takes over the ministry and Hogwarts, and Harry, Ron, and Hermione spend most of the book in pursuit of his horcruxes. They only return to Hogwarts during the latter half when the search leads them there.
  • A lot of the Haruhi Suzumiya Light Novels, most of which have not been animated, follow a formula when dealing with the entire Brigade: Haruhi gets a hair up her ass about doing some sort of activity. Kyon complains, Koizumi agrees, Nagato says nothing, Mikuru is confused, and they all go along with it. Something strange is going on with whatever activity they are doing, but Haruhi remains oblivious to it, either enjoying whatever they are doing or getting bored. Koizumi and/or Nagato explain whatever is going on, then Koizumi and/or Nagato fixes it, possibly with help from Kyon, though sometimes Mikuru From The Future shows up to settle the matter. In the end Kyon finds out that if the weird event wasn't obviously caused by Haruhi, then it had some connection with her anyway.
  • In The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School, Charlotte Knowles' father writes detective novels. Amy Thomsett notes that they all follow the same pattern: There's an impossible murder that's given an elaborate non-supernatural explanation in the final chapter, the murder victim is always one of two character types (both female), and the most helpful, handsome, learned man in the supporting cast always turns out to be the murderer.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
    • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe lampshades this in-universe with the band ''Disaster Area":
      Their songs are on the whole very simple and mostly follow the familiar theme of boy-being meets girl-being under a silvery moon which then explodes for no adequately explored reason.
    • The Song Cycles of Vassillian composed by the Great Circling Poets of Arium in the same book. There are 794 of them and they all follow exactly the same pattern:
      The first part of each song would tell how there once went forth from the City of Vassillian a party of five sage princes with four horses. The princes, who are of course brave, noble and wise, travel widely in distant lands, fight giant ogres, pursue exotic philosophies, take tea with weird gods and rescue beautiful monsters from ravening princesses before finally announcing that they have achieved enlightenment and that their wanderings are therefore accomplished.
      The second, and much longer, part of each song would then tell of all their bickerings about which one of them is going to have to walk back.
  • In Death: Each story in the series follows this basic formula: A murder occurs. Eve Dallas is called in to investigate the murder. She works the case to figure out who the murderer is. When she does, she goes and gets the bad guy. The series does play around with this formula, like the bad guy might actually get away somehow, the murderer is already identified, or the murderer goes after Eve first. Also, the series focuses on the developing relationship between Eve and Roarke, as well as other characters.
  • Mathemagics discusses how formulaic bodice-ripper romance novels are. One author who writes them under a Pen Name just for the money admits to copying and pasting the publisher-mandated sex scenes from one book to the next, and having heroines who differ mainly by hair color.
  • In the Nero Wolfe books, this and the character interplay between Wolfe and Archie is generally considered one of the big draws of the series. They generally follow a pattern like this: Wolfe gets a case, either because Archie has talked him into accepting a client, because money's low and he's gone hunting for one, or because a matter of honor has compelled him to take the case without payment. The case is almost always a suspicious death that, despite the attitude of the police, is most likely murder. Archie is 'given instructions', which usually revolves around either taking a look at the crime scene, interviewing a person of interest and / or getting persons of interest in the case to Wolfe's office so he can interview them. After the above has taken place a couple of times, Inspector Cramer or some other police officer / authority figure shows up to try and bully / cajole information out of Wolfe; it's usually unsuccessful, although Wolfe may throw out an often-ignored hint or play with Exact Words. Another murder — often with the best suspect so far playing the victim — occurs. Wolfe has a "Eureka!" Moment and Archie is often frozen out of the investigation so that Wolfe can employ other operativesnote  although Archie may have deduced (or at least have strong suspicions) about who the murderer is anyway. One of the other operatives (often Saul Panzer) digs up a vital piece of evidence which clinches the matter, at which point Wolfe summons the suspects and / or the police to his office to outline his theory and expose the murderer.
  • Monk inspired a series of novels written by show writers Lee Goldberg and later Hy Conrad. In most novels, Natalie introduces Monk and Monk quickly solves an unrelated murder, which is meant to establish Monk's detective skills. Then the main murder plot happens, and Monk accuses someone out of pettiness. Monk determines the real killer, who has an airtight alibi; at first, typically only Natalie believes him, until evidence comes proving Monk is right. That said, the formula is sometimes twisted:
    • In Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse, the unrelated murder case happens midway through the story, after the investigation for the main murder starts.
    • In Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu, the story ends up being made of three main murder investigations. The first is the Golden Gate Strangler, a serial killer who has attacked three women. Then there comes the subplot of another serial killer, which turns out to be a spree killer trying to hunt down the witness to her murder of an astrologer. Then there's the death of a police officer which turns out to be connected to the reward to bring in the Golden Gate Strangler.
    • In Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop, there is a variant: many of the threads that set up the main murder mystery's plot occur within the first 14 chapters (Monk and Natalie meeting Bill Peschel and Paul Braddock, the two eventual murder victims), but in the first half, there are two unrelated subplot murders that are solved within one chapter: a small university shooting that Monk solves on the spot, and the assassinations of two judges.
    • In Mr. Monk in Trouble, the unrelated murder at the beginning doesn't have Monk even visit the crime scene but identify the killer based on what he's wearing. This gets a callback when Natalie reads an entry in Abigail Guthrie's journal where Monk's great-great-great grandfather Artemis Monk identifies a killer in the same way without ever going to the crime scene or seeing the dead body. The mysteries in that journal turn out to be Chekhov's Gun for the main plot.
    • An In-Universe case happens in the novel Mr. Monk and the Two Assistants. While in Los Angeles investigating a murder that Sharona's husband has been framed for, Monk and Natalie meet Ian Ludlow, a bestselling murder mystery author who also consults for the LAPD under an arrangement similar to the one Monk has with the SFPD. Natalie buys a few of Ludlow's novels to read. During the drive back to San Francisco, Monk begins thumbing through the books and is quickly unimpressed when he realizes that Ludlow's books have a predictable formula.
    Adrian Monk: [opens Names Are For Tombstones] The beekeeper did it. [Monk puts that down and picks up another one, Death Works Weekends, reads a few pages, then shuts it] The matador did it. [He picks up Death is the Last Word, reads a few pages, then closes it] The massage therapist did it.
    Natalie Teeger: You only glanced at the first couple of pages.
    Adrian Monk: Ludlow is so heavy-handed he might as well reveal the killer on the cover. The murderer always has a personality quirk that is his or her undoing.
    Natalie Teeger: How would you know? You haven't read to the end of any of his books. [Monk picks up one book and quickly flips through it]
    Adrian Monk: The massage therapist is claustrophobic, so she opened the windows at the crime scene. That's how Detective Marshak knew it was her.
    Natalie Teeger: Thanks for ruining the books for me.
    Adrian Monk: They were lousy anyway. You live more interesting mysteries than Ludlow can make up.
    Natalie Teeger: Those are work. These would have been for enjoyment.
    Adrian Monk: What's enjoyable about reading some contrived mystery where the killer is always the least obvious person who is caught the same way every time?
    Natalie Teeger: Nothing anymore. I can never read an Ian Ludlow book again.
    • It turns out that the reason Ludlow's bookwriting has become so formulaic is because, in a desperate need for new book material, he's turned to committing murders himself and acting like the very killers he writes about in his books: he befriends someone for long enough to study the people in their life, then kills them. Then he drops an orgy of excessive clues left and right that are designed to frame the least likely suspect for the crime. And after that, he writes a book. This includes the murder Trevor was framed for, and a later murder where Ludlow frames Natalie for killing a shoe salesman in San Francisco and making it look like an alligator attack. When Monk gets the evidence needed to catch him, he revels in pointing out that Ludlow, like his fictional killers, incriminated himself through a personality quirk of his. Namely, that he can't resist signing his own books whenever he goes into a bookstore that sells them. Monk connects him to the murder for which Natalie was framed because he signed books at three stores in San Francisco including one down the block from a pizzeria where the victim ate his last meal, all on a day when Ludlow purportedly claimed he was in Los Angeles.
  • A typical Point Horror book will follow a teenage female character, who falls in love with another teenager boy, set amidst seemingly paranormal occurrences. As mentioned above, the spooky happenings usually turn out to be perfectly explainable.
  • Every set of Rainbow Magic books follows the same formula: Jack Frost steals/misplaces seven magical items, and Rachel and Kirsty have to find them with the help of seven fairies that guard the items.
  • Brian Jacques' Redwall series runs on four plots: the siege, the kidnapping, the land quest, and the sea quest. All will also need a puzzle/rhyme/prophecy to be solved. All with lots and lots of Food Porn.
  • Anything by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, such as The Rover Boys, The Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Dave Fearless, and The Dana Girls since they're all ghostwritten according to some set format. Virtually all of the book series were about teens going on adventures or solving mysteries, with slight variations on the concept. As such, the books contained very similar themes and portrayals. Characters had platonic love lives, if any at all (rather humorously, this led to the Alternate Character Interpretation that The Hardy Boys were gay, due to their lack of interest in their nominal girlfriends, preference for male friends, and one brother's close friendship with a boy who disliked girls). Suspense was used to heighten tension, but violence was limited — characters could get knocked out or tied up, but nothing worse than that. Language was tame, and even expressions such as "oh gosh" and "oh golly" were dropped after some readers complained that they were merely euphemisms for "oh god".
  • Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, by his own admission, tend to follow the same basic formula every time: Random person has random problem, random person goes to the Good Magician to ask a Question about how to solve that problem, random person gets sent on a seemingly arbitrary quest, seemingly arbitrary complications occur, at the end of the story, it turns out that going on the seemingly arbitrary quest solved the original problem, or the character finds out that the problem they thought they wanted solved wasn't actually the real problem, or they actually wanted something different, either way, they get what they "really" wanted and everybody lives happily ever after.
  • Agatha Christie used this trope to sell millions. She may not have invented the mystery formula, but she is the reason you know it.
  • Dan Brown's novels.
    • You know exactly which character is going to be evil in the end after reading the first few paragraphs (i.e. the character that either has no apparent logical reason to be the villain and/or the one that appears to aid the protagonists the most).
    • Also, the plot of the book is generally predicated around an object, discovery, piece of computer code, etc, which all the sensible characters insist should not exist such as the uncrackable security code in Digital Fortress, the meteorite in Deception Point, the existence of the Illuminati in Angels and Demons, etc. More often than not, this turns out to be the case; the conspiracy or whatever turns out to be a hoax, or a smokescreen hiding the villain's true intent.
    • And the stock Unusual Assassin: Albino Fundamentalist, Deaf Portuguese Man, etc...
  • David Eddings wrote several multi-book series of high fantasy adventure, which were all identical - particularly The Belgariad and its sequel series, The Malloreon. This was because he wanted to see if he could do it and still make it interesting, and in The Malloreon, it actually becomes a plot point when the characters note that it seems like they've been through it all before and start discussing it. It is eventually explained the universe became "stuck" when its Purpose was split in two, so people keep acting out the same patterns until things get set to rights - once it is, things can move forward.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs: A handsome man of physical strength and skill, of high birth — though he may be ignorant of it, and the reader may be too — travels to far-off land and meets a heroine, beautiful, spirited, and prone to be kidnapped. She is also of high birth, though the hero and reader are even more likely to be ignorant of that, and she may be. He has adventures, several of which revolve about rescuing the heroine, and there are misunderstandings between the two of them. In the end, the misunderstandings are resolved, the dangers are dealt with, and they marry.
    Sometimes he diverged from this. The results were often unhappy.
  • Jodi Picoult: Her books tend to have the same (general) formula: People (usually centering on the woman) living a normal life (in some New England town), something big happens/happened to them (i.e. husband is cheating, child is arrested) and there ends up being a court case either involving family members (i.e a family member committed a crime) or involving family members suing each other. Usually the court case involves children or teens. Expect one child to be severely ill and wiser than their years. The parents will/already did forget about the other child, if there is one. It is often a Tear Jerker, but is successful because of that (the judge/jury feels sorry for the defendant). Usually there is a Shocking Swerve near the end. Glaring examples include My Sister's Keeper and Handle with Care, the latter of which has been criticized for being nearly identical to My Sister's Keeper. Most of Picoult's books written before My Sister's Keeper actually are more fluid with the formula, with Harvesting the Heart not following it at all.
  • A common criticism of John Green's books — all but one or two of them are about a nerdy, highly intelligent teenage boy who has his eye on a quirky, mysterious girl, eventually going on a Road Trip where he has a mind-blowing revelation about life. The Fault in Our Stars reverses roles, telling it from the quirky girl's perspective as she falls in love with the nerdy Teen Genius who is fawning over her.
  • P. G. Wodehouse tends to be fairly formulaic in overall plot. Though given that several lines in the formula are evidently "Insert creative and unique funny moments here", who cares?
  • Many of Philip K. Dick's short stories followed the formula: Man invents technology. Technology turns on man. Man fights technology. Technology defeats man. Technology turns on itself.
  • The Lost Years of Merlin: There is a rhyming prophecy saying that Merlin needs to do something. He is racing against the clock, with only X number of days before disaster strikes; to emphasize this, at one point he will be knocked off for a day or longer. In the end there is usually a Prophecy Twist that means another character's actions are needed to save the day. The fourth book averts most of this, however, making it a bit of an Oddball in the Series.
  • Romances do this too, although there are several categories of romance and the beat list differs based on what sort of romance you're writing. In fact, many publishing companies who specialize in romance have their specific formulas, and if you stray too far outside their guidelines, you're not going to get published by them. This allows the reader to treat a new book as a familiar comfort food, differing in the details but not outside the form they've become accustomed to.

    Live-Action TV 
  • According to Jim: Usually Jim does something that he doesn't want his wife to know. His wife finds out about this. Rather than confront him, she will try to maneuver him into having no choice but to confess.
  • Adam Ruins Everything: Each episode opens with a character, the ruinee, performing some mundane activity relating to the topic of the episode and stating some popular misconceptioninvoked. Adam then suddenly appears, corrects the thing they said, turns to the camera, and says "Hi! I'm Adam Conover, and this is Adam Ruins Everything." Adam spends the rest of the episode debunking three common misconceptions about the topic held by the ruinee, at one point bringing in a special guest who is an expert on the topic and enters the scene in a silly way appropriate to the topic, while the ruinee becomes increasingly frustrated until they hit a Heroic BSoD, at which point Adam brings them out of it with a "positive takeaway". Lampshaded in "Adam Ruins Science":
  • The UK version of The Apprentice has a very clear formula that every episode follows (with the exception of the interviews and final task). Namely: We see them in the house, they get a call from Lord Sugar, they go to some famous building to hear him explain the task, get split into teams, choose a leader/come up with a product/brand/whatever, get split into two sub teams for two tasks (which it splits between every few minutes), they complete the 'task', the day ends, they go to the boardroom to hear the results. And then we get to see the winning team enjoy a treat, the losing team stuck in the Bridge Cafe, three people (including the project manager) end up in the firing line with their strengths and weaknesses outlined and someone eventually get fired (complete with catchphrase and walk to taxi). Cue 'next time on The Apprentice' clip montage.
  • Castle: Victim of the week gets killed, Castle talks with Martha and/or Alexis about their problem of the week, Beckett calls, UST begins, Lanie and/or Perlmutter give us the gory details, questioning, more UST, lots of looking at the white board, plot twist, Martha and/or Alexis chime in on the case while working on their problem of the week, more questioning, more UST, Castle epiphany, they get the bad guy (chasing optional), Castle goes home and sees how Martha and/or Alexis solved their problem of the week. And did we mention the UST? Unless it's a two-parter or about Beckett's mother. Then all bets are off. But not the UST.
    • Starting with Season 4, when the UST was finally resolved, those scenes in the formula got switched with Castle and Beckett attempting to hide their relationship from someone. And the plot is always resolved by genre-savvy and there's usually a red-herring genre-not-so-savvy moment where novelist's instinct leads them wrong to justify the continued skepticism of the force as a whole.
    • Another mandatory ingredients: Beckett talks in the interrogation room with Suspect Number 1, tells him with absolute confidence: "That's why you killed her", he denies, surprised, outraged or smug, in the next scene Ryan or Esposito confirms that the Suspect #1 has a rock-solid alibi. Most likely the sequence will be repeated at least once in the same episode, with another suspect(s).
  • Catfish: The TV Show: Almost by design. The episode always starts out with Nev and Max goofing off before reading the e-mail from their latest hopeful. The person details how they've been talking to someone online for a while, but the person either won't video chat with them or won't meet up with them. Nev and Max visit them in their hometown to get more details. They then perform a google image search and find the person whose pictures are being used fradulently, and/or a friend of the potential catfish. They arrange a meetup with said catfish, who 9 times out of 10 is not the person they say they are (and in some instances may even be the wrong gender). At the end of the episode, they catch up with the catfish and catfished person months after filming ended.
  • Cold Case
    • The Beginning: To musical accompaniment related to the era, the Victim of the Week is shown in his/her time period doing whatever he/she does for a living, then cut to the corpse. Flash to present, where Rush & co. get their first lead on the case (either through previously-buried evidence, or a relative of the deceased with new information.) Cue One-Woman Wail and credits.
    • The Middle: The detectives interrogate a chain of suspects, each one revealing another plot development in the flashback. Almost every flashback is preceded by accusing the person of the murder, who then denies it, briefly flashes to their younger self, and reveals another side of the story. They return to the precinct at least once to study evidence, and multiple times for good ole Perp Sweating. The last 20 minutes proceed to deconstruct the suspects' original motives until the person they return to with 5-7 minutes left, who confesses (with this flashback recreating the murder scene.)
    • The End: As another piece of time-period-appropriate music plays, the killer is marched through the precinct, usually seen by another character. Vignettes are shown of the key players of the case going on with their lives in the present, in both their "past" and "present" appearances. A cardboard box marked "Case Closed" is filed in the evidence room. Someone who was really close to the victim sees an apparition of him or her, who turns and slowly fades away. The detectives resolve their romantic tension. Roll end credits.
  • Columbo: Every episode followed the same pattern:
    • The first 20 minutes would see the murderer setting up an elaborate plot to kill their victim
    • Columbo would turn up at the crime scene looking incredibly dishevelled
    • After a brief investigation of the crime scene, Columbo would interview the murderer, generally with the excuse that he was 'just tidying up loose ends'. The conversation would meander, with the Lieutenant seeming to concentrate on anything but the murder, often with rambling stories about his wife or other members of his family. He would then leave, only to casually drop in a line which revealed he'd spotted a crack in the murderer's plan.
    • The murderer would try and continue with his life, only to be continually haunted by Columbo who would turn up in the most unlikeliest locations, continually pestering the murderer.
    • The episode would end either with a) Columbo finding the conclusive piece of evidence and presenting it to the suspect or b) Columbo getting the murderer to incriminate themselves.
  • CSI: Miami
    • Episodes follow the same basic pattern: a murder victim is found, after which we get a cavalcade of people who just happened to be at the murder scene shortly before or after the murder ("I was never there", "We have evidence to show that you were", "OK, I was there, but I didn't kill him", repeat at least 2 or 3 times), and by the end of the episode they get the person who did it to confess. The original CSI was at least a bit more varied than this (in that only maybe 40% of episodes follow this format).
    • CSI and CSI: Miami both can be boiled down to: Murder victim and initial interviewee, most of the episode is focused on a Red Herring who turns out to be innocent, and wait, it turns out to be the first person all along.
    • Every single interrogation goes the exact same way: suspect is initially uncooperative, Horatio removes his shades and makes a smoothly intoned threat, cut to the suspect looking down, beat, suspect reveals everything they know. Every single one.
    • Every teaser ends with Horatio's putting on his shades then making a pun. YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!
  • In Deadtime Stories, the individual stories themselves vary, but the Framing Device always follows a certain pattern:
    • The babysitter shows up at the kids' house, and either the kids jump out and scare her, or she jumps out and scares them.
    • The kids ask to be read a deadtime story. The babysitter does so (sometimes trying to trick the kids into thinking she won't).
    • At some point during the story, we cut back to the kids and babysitter, as they talk about the story a bit. Then we return to the story.
    • Near the end of the story, we cut back again to the kids and babysitter, as the babysitter promises the story isn't open yet. She then says some variation of "buckle your seatbelts, because you're in for a bumpy ride!"
    • We see the Cruel Twist Ending, and a cut between the story and real world as both the characters in the story, and the kids being read the story, scream at each other.
  • Doctor Who is very much not this trope, but has fallen into it during brief periods:
    • Terry Nation's Dalek stories became notorious for having the same virtually identical plot about the human resistance taking on the Daleks and winning. When Philip Hinchcliffe pointed out to him that the Dalek episode Nation had written for the new Doctor was exactly the same as several of the old ones ("we like it, but we like it so much we think we've already bought it multiple times before") Terry Nation completely broke all of the rules when he wrote "Genesis of the Daleks", the best story of his career and one of the best Doctor Who stories ever. Unfortunately, the addition of Davros just meant Dalek stories from that point on were a different identical plotline which now had Davros getting backstabbed by his own Daleks at the end.
    • Season 5. Six out of seven stories in the season are virtually identical "base under siege" plots and five out of seven feature a recurring monster. The one non-siege, non-recurring-enemy plot, "The Enemy of the World", was considered by the 80s fandom as being a bizarre Out-of-Genre Experience in this context and panned, though after its rediscovery it was re-evaluated as one of Troughton's best. All of the stories in this season are considered decent, most fans will have at least one story in this season they consider a classic, and many fans - particularly the BNFs of the 80s - praise the show for settling down into a routine of solid horror stories here; but many others mourn the loss of Doctor Who's trademark Genre Roulette in favour of a routine of going to a base on [PLANET] to fight [MONSTER] along with with a band of [3-6] people, one of whom is the commander, and some of whom are working with the monsters and are the real threat. Season 6, while the quality is more patchy (it contains hated stories like "The Dominators" and "The Space Pirates") does at least change up the formula with a Space Western, a psychedelic Mind Screw, Anachronism Stew, Spy Fiction, Alien Invasion, an early Robert Holmes story incorporating some of his Creator Thumbprints, a Wham Episode...
    • Ask any Classic Who fan what a Classic Who story is supposed to be like, and they will immediately tell you - after a cutaway introducing the characters in this new world, the Doctor and his assistant exit the TARDIS, run into a mild scrape that hints at a bigger mystery, and then get captured while the villains put more of their machinations in motion. Either the Doctor or the assistant sees something scary (after escaping, or while trying to help save the other), which is the first Cliffhanger, roll credits. The middle two episodes are a lot of time running down corridors and/or getting chased in quarries, while the villains slowly pick off sympathetic guest characters and each other, and the Doctor attempts to get the suspicious locals on his side despite his funny behaviour. In the final episode, most of the villains have been taken care of by guest characters, but the biggest threat remains, and so (after some more running) the Doctor does something mildly sciencey/Magic from Technology and saves the day. This was by no means the plot template for all serials, but it certainly feels like it was, being the typical form of the iconic Hinchcliffe era and the Williams era as well as a few Pertwees, early Troughtons and most 80s Who. Both the old and new series have lampshaded this structure on numerous occasions, and the Classic story "Carnival of Monsters" and the New series episode "Heaven Sent" both trap the Doctor in an artificial dimension made up of corridors, a chasing monster and a time loop.
  • The TLC Reality Show Four Weddings is formulaic by design (four brides attend each other's weddings, rate them in various categories, top bride wins dream honeymoon), but even who they have is formulaic. They will usually have someone who has a traditional wedding, someone who has a traditional wedding WITH A TWIST (she's wearing sneakers, they're all going to dance), a Sassy Black Woman who has something unusual (i.e. praise dancers, a rapper), a destination wedding, and a foreign wedding. Something will go wrong in one of the weddings, and there will be one that the other brides hate.
  • Almost every episode of the Girls x Heroine! TV shows amounts to the following: the characters will run into something in their daily lives; the enemies will sneak a corrupted MacGuffin into a human's hands, turning them into the Monster of the Week; the girls fight and defeat them, purifying the MacGuffin.
  • Highlander: The Series tends to follow a general formula, with a few variations: Duncan meets an immortal he met some time in the past, and ends up decapitating him.
  • Home Improvement has to be one of the most formulaic shows ever aired. The layout: Tim makes fun of Al on Tool Time and later does something stupid to upset Jill, who is dealing with the latest parenting issue; Tim goes to Wilson (who doesn't show his face in a new and clever way) for advice, parrots back a mangled apology to Jill, and all is well.
  • Every episode of CBBC show Hounded follows a basic formula, though it's Justified by the "Groundhog Day" Loop the series takes place in. After waking up and delivering the opening exposition, Rufus goes to work and meets his "new" co-workers (who invariably get his name wrong). Rufus' future self turns up and zaps him into an Alternate Universe to stop Dr. Muhahaha's Evil Plan of the Week, giving him a bunch of random items that later turn out to be quite useful. Rufus meets up with the AU versions of his co-workers, there's a weird musical interlude, Mu's plan is thwarted...and then, despite Rufus' best efforts, Dr. Mu or his assistant hit their Reset Button and the whole day starts over again.
  • House has the main character go through almost the exact same pattern every episode to find the solutions everybody else misses. This was much truer of House in seasons one through three. After the mass firing at the end of season three, things were mixed up just a bit for a while, returned to normal, but went off the rails (in a VERY good way) once House started seeing dead people. Many episodes still fit into the basic formula of the show from before, but they have also done others that completely break the mold. House's moment of realization was even lampshaded in one episode, when House stopped talking in the middle of a conversation and the other party said, "You're about to run out of here, aren't you?" He did. It was lampshaded another time when Cuddy asked him how he was going to come up with the diagnosis, and House said he'd go and talk to Wilson about something completely unrelated.
    • Parodied in the "Did you try the medicine drug?" story, which has been turned into a GIF.
    • Also parodied in a golden-era Cracked article.
  • In the documentary series I Shouldn't Be Alive, the story is always: people go on a trip, their technology fails and/or they make a stupid mistake, and they get lost in the wilderness. The searchers usually miss them the first time, and they see an opportunity for rescue but aren't spotted. They fend off depression, a dangerous animal, and/or a medical condition, and are found just hours before death. The story ends with The Reveal: Real Life rescue photos.
  • There is very little that sets Investigation Discovery true-crime shows apart barring the most basic of theming. And that's exactly what makes them so addicting.
  • Jerry Springer turned this into an art-form for trash talk shows. Every episode follows a similar format regardless of which subject is being tackled (usually cheating partners or KKK zealots):
    • Most segments start out innocently enough with the guest talking about how they found out about the show (they just happened across it on TV) and start talking about how much they love their boyfriend/girlfriend. The audience appreciatively coos in response, while Jerry plays dumb and acts as if everything is normal.
    • The guest reveals that they've (a) either been cheating on them with someone else, who they've also brought to the show, (b) know that their significant other is cheating on them and is going to confront them on television, or (c) are going to reveal a shocking secret about themselves to their family. At this point, the audience begins to grow increasingly hostile, while Jerry tries to rationalize the situation.
    • If the guest is cheating on their partner, they'll bring out the person they're cheating on him/her with. S/he will yell and scream at the audience that "they don't know" him/her, while the audience grows openly hostile, with several members standing up and threatening to walk down to the stage and assault the person themselves.
    • The aggrieved lover will come out on stage, and 9 times out of 10, a bell will sound in the background, with both or all participants beginning to beat each other as security staff struggle to separate them. If the fight is brief, the bell will likely sound again and the participants will go back to fighting. Eventually, the group is separated and the aggrieved party will sit on the opposite side of the stage, sometimes with a guard sitting between them.
    • During the Q&A session at the end of each episode, expect to see at least one guest insult an audience member and attack them, at least one additional fight, and at least one girl (sometimes two) who accept free beads in exchange for getting up on stage and pole-dancing while flashing the audience.
    • Every episode ends with Jerry moralizing the current subject and musing about why people mistreat the ones they love, before telling the audience to love each other and stay safe.
  • Kamen Rider:
  • Every episode of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (U.S.) follows the more-or-less exact same format:
    • Prior to Gordon's arrival, we get a montage of the restaurant owner's experience serving a test dinner to a number of patrons and learn about their history with the restaurant. At least one of the participants is incredibly neurotic, snarky or both, and there's lots of yelling and screaming in the kitchen.
    • Gordon meets one-on-one with the restaurant owner, who without fail claims that their food quality is "10 out of 10" and is at a loss to understand what's going wrong with their business. Interviews are spliced in from other participants who explain clearly how the business is losing money, and how the owner is too short-sighted to understand what's going on.
    • Gordon arrives for a sample lunch and is met by one of the waitresses, who usually criticizes the restaurant's food and tries to warn Gordon away from certain dishes (or overstates the quality of the food). Gordon proceeds to make snarky jabs at the poor quality of the food, while the servers, chefs and owner get plenty of reaction shots as they struggle to deal with what's happening. Expect to see the chef always lose his cool and start getting flustered or angry.
    • Gordon pulls the staff together for a quick post-lunch discussion and tries to yell sense into them, while the chef or owner refuses to admit that anything is wrong and yells back at him. Expect to see waitresses crying and the chef storming out of the kitchen after Gordon lambasts him in front of everyone.
    • A test dinner service is held that night, and Gordon watches in dismay as the cooks quickly lose it under pressure and begin yelling at each other. Gordon conducts an inspection of the food storage and inevitably comes across old/moldy food, raw meat being stored on the same shelf as cooked items, cockroaches, rats, mildew and/or mold. Gordon confronts the chef and cooks, who play dumb and often make the excuse that they were "going to throw it out" or "it was made yesterday", while the owner stares in disbelief.
    • Gordon pulls everyone in again for another meeting and yells at them for their lack of care, before threatening to walk out on them. It is at this point that the owner will have a dramatic change of heart and finally admit that something is wrong while piano music plays in the background. If this doesn't work, expect Gordon to pull together members of the owner's family for an intervention, complete with lots of tears and anguished cries for help.
    • Gordon redesigns the restaurant and begins to give the cooks lessons and how to prepare a handful of signature dishes they can use for the following night's service. Once the next dinner begins, the chefs initially have trouble keeping up with orders but quickly pull things together and get orders out.
    • The staff have learned overnight how to fix their restaurant, and Gordon cautions them to stick to the principles he's taught them before leaving.
  • Law & Order: There's always a plot-irrelevant prelude leading to the discovery of a corpse, the cops questioning irrelevant characters, a plot twist at the 20-minute mark, an arrest at 30 minutes at which point we switch from the cops to the DAs, and another plot twist 45 minutes into the show where the DA finds out what really happened.
  • Every episode of Life After People. Two or three prominent cities / buildings and a selection of animals (usually household pets, farm animals and / or pests) and plants around a certain theme are selected. Every episode then jumps forward one day, several days, a week, a month, a year, a century and so forth to show how they cope without human care (spoiler: the buildings eventually collapse or crumble away; the animals and plants usually thrive, albeit undergoing lots of changes in the process) until a point is reached several centuries or millennia in the future where there's nothing left. Each episode also features a brief look into a real-life location which has been abandoned by people to see what effects nature has had on it.
  • Lucifer (2016) can fall into this at times. The Police Procedural plot line typically goes like this: 1) Someone is murdered (or almost murdered) 2) Lucifer and Chloe investigate the crime that usually relates to a personal problem in Lucifer's life somehow 4) The evidence points to one person but that person didn't do it 5) They figure out that it's actually the person they least suspected. Episodes that are more Myth Arc heavy typically won't be as formulaic, however.
  • Tabloid talk show Maury has a pretty limited set of episodes, e.g. people with congenital defects (or "heroes" as the show often refers to them), paternity tests ("That baby looks nothing like me!"), disrespectful teenagers who are cured of being brats by boot camp ("You don't know me!") and "Jack Hanna brings animals that pee all over the stage". Not only are the topics limited to about a dozen options or so, each topic itself is played strictly to formula: if you've seen one "Who's the daddy?" episode you've seen all of them.
  • Medium: 1) Alison has a dream with an obvious twist which anybody but her would be able to guess. 2) Allison has breakfast with her family and some small but endearing drama develops. 3) Alison meets up with her boss or that cop, and they present a case and she tells them that either a) she's either been dreaming about and which she knows something is wrong or b) there's another more important case which is tangentially related. Alison knows they have the wrong suspect. 4) The small family drama reaches its head. 5) Alison takes some small step to hunting down the killer herself. 6) The police's first suspect proves to be wrong. 7) Alison has her life threatened as a result of her stupidity during step five. 8) Alison survives and solves her mystery. 9) The small family crisis resolves itself. 10) Alison has another dream confirming that everything will be fine now. 11) Alison makes some sort of glib, self-satisfied comment to her husband.
  • Mission: Impossible. Nearly every episode begins with Jim finding the tape and getting the mission, picking out the photos of the team he's using and then explaining part of the plan to the team in his house while they sit around testing the gadgets they're going to use.
  • Monk: While solving a murder is the main plot for most episodes, there are a few episodes in which Monk helps investigate other crimes, such as kidnappings in the season two episode "Mr. Monk and the Missing Granny" and the season three episode "Mr. Monk and the Kid", or a failed murder plot in the season six episode "Mr. Monk and the Daredevil". There are a number of times where the episode is not about the murder itself but about finding evidence to arrest the killer, e.g. "Mr. Monk Goes to a Rock Concert", "Mr. Monk and the Birds and the Bees", or "Mr. Monk and the Genius", and episodes where the murder is related to the main plot, e.g. in "Mr. Monk on Wheels". And some episodes actually start as a totally different type of case, but eventually a murder happens, e.g. a suspected abduction turns into a murder case in "Mr. Monk Gets Hypnotized". Episodes generally follow one of four plot lines:
    • The killer is known, and how the crime was committed is known. Monk spends the episode trying to find evidence to arrest that person.
    • Monk knows who the killer is, and knows what the motive is, but the killer has a seemingly air-tight alibi. The episode is spent trying to break that alibi and find out how the killer did it.
    • In a number of episodes, the plot involves trying to find out the killer, how the murder was done, and why.
    • In some episodes, the killer's M.O. is known, but not who did it or why.
  • Murder, She Wrote always followed the same formula. There's a murder, and the victim had several possible enemies. One of the suspects is Jessica's niece, nephew, long-lost friend or love interest of the same, and the police always zero in on that person. Jessica must then catch the real killer, usually by Engineered Public Confession or by using something only the killer would know. If the murderer's story is particularly tragic, it ends with Jessica shaking her head sadly, otherwise there's a Mood Whiplash cut to the Everybody Laughs Ending. The pacing was also always the same. Expect the body to fall at about the 20 minute mark, and the wrongful arrest of the obvious suspect at the 40. On the rare occasion there was a dead body before 15 minutes, there's going to be a second death in the show later. And finally, only once in a blue moon was the last frame of the episode (which is frozen in place with the Executive Producer credit) something other than Jessica alone.
  • Perry Mason: Each episode ends with The Perry Mason Method: Mason will call back a previous witness who seemed inconsequential for the entire episode, then grill him into admitting that he was the real culprit in open court, exonerating Mason's client.
  • Police, Camera, Action! zig-zags this trope, although the general formula is:
    • Cold Open with narration on what's to come in the episode (from April 1997 onwards)
    • Presenter (usually Alastair Stewart) does link from location (often with staged police pursuit or similar), footage of careless driving, and one footage involving a police pursuit (three intros before the commercial break, two intros after the commercial break, although some episodes do it as two intros/three intros, and vary the amount of links).
    • Discussion of An Aesop in each sequence.
    • Creative Closing Credits ("And finally..."), although this is not done for the 2007 Soft Reboot series.
    • Where it is not Strictly Formula though, is in terms of content, which is always Different in Every Episode, precisely to avoid this trope being too problematic.
  • The first couple seasons of Power Rangers (before they left Earth), outside of season premieres and finales, generally followed a fairly strict formula. A minor dilemma involving the civilian identities of the rangers pops up, the Big Bad (Rita/Zedd/King Mondo/Divatox/whoever) takes inspiration from it and have their monster creator design the Monster of the Aesop around it, a Mook attack occurs for whatever reason (no morphing just yet), this escalates into the Monster of the Aesop attacking (requiring the Rangers to morph), Big Bad makes it grow (sometimes without bothering to wait for the Rangers to fight it on foot), the Rangers call forth their Humongous Mecha, Monster of the Aesop gets squished by Stock Footage, and the plot ends with the Rangers solving their civilian issue. Sure, sometimes it swaps things up (some episodes have the Rangers defeat the monster on foot), but it almost always followed that general formula.
    • On a series-wide basis, one thing that's almost always present is a ranger's rivalry with one of the enemy generals - there's been 5 cases (Zeo, Turbo, Time Force, Ninja Storm and Jungle Fury) where this wasn't presentnote .
    • This also applies to its source material, Super Sentai - aside from episode plots, starting with Hurricaneger, Sentai has used a 5 year pattern - said pattern being Experimentalnote , Wacky Stuffnote , Actionnote , Fantasynote  and Anniversarynote .
  • The show 7th Heaven always seemed to feature the same plot: kid makes mistake, kid must pay for mistake, kid's mistake affects overly righteous parents, righteous parents forces kid to learn from mistake. And to make matters worse, the kids always seemed to suffer from Aesop Amnesia as they would commit that very same mistake in the next episode.
  • Typically, a Rosie and Jim episode goes like this:
    • The host is writing a new book (John), drawing a new picture (Pat) or writing a new song (Neil)
    • In order to find inspiration for the book/picture/song, they go off on a trip down the canal with the two eponymous ragdolls following them, often times they'll be presented with a problem that prompts them to go on the adventure in the first place and they'll often learn something new about wherever they're visiting.
    • Duck calls Rosie And Jim back to the Ragdoll and they'll play a game related to their adventure before the host comes back and starts writing their new book/drawing their new picture/writing their new song inspired by what happened during the day.
  • The Sifl and Olly Show:
    • Each episode is broken into segments, with most segments being found in every episode, including "Calls From the Public," "Rock Facts," "A Word With Chester," "Precious Roy's Home Shopping Network" and "It's Almost the End of the Show."
    • Precious Roy segments would also follow the same internal formula: Sifl and Olly introduce the product, during which time Sifl admits to having a specific problem that the product would solve. Olly agrees that Sifl has "serious-ass _____ problems." They take some calls, which cause Sifl to lose his temper and have to be calmed down by Olly. Then they hear from Precious Roy, who spouts a non-sequitur and finishes with his catchphrase, "Suckers!"
  • Star Trek has a habit of recycling old character traits and mixing/overlapping them into new crewmen. For instance, each show has featured or at least attempted a do-over of Spock and Bones. Each show features a wet ensign (Chekhov, Wesley, Nog, Kim, Mayweather) who is supposedly representative of Earth's finest. Each show features the Klingons, or some thinly-disguised variant thereof. Each show tended to revolve around a bartender after the success of Whoopi Goldberg's Guinan (famously, the Enterprise series finale sidelined the regular castmates in favor of "Chef"). It is also common for Trek series to feature one (or more) character who feels trapped between two cultures.Voyager had the others well-beaten in this respect: It had the Half-Klingon hybrid B'Elanna Torres, the ostracized Native American Chakotay, the former Borg drone Seven of Nine, and the Emergency Medical Hologram.
    • Voyager, in its bid to succeed in syndication like its predecessor TNG, soon attracted criticism for the formulaic nature of its plots. The series leaned heavily on a particular trifecta: crewman gets stranded on planet, time travel, or a negative space wedgie which attacks the ship — with two or more sometimes occurring in the same episode! Apart from a few exceptions, such as Tom Paris and the Doctor, the characters also tended to run in circles and re-learn the same "lessons" over and over. Janeway learns the importance of holding onto her principles. Tuvok learns to put aside logic and trust his gut. B'Elanna learns to control her temper. Neelix dotes on children. Seven rediscovers her humanity. For the most part, you can view these episodes in any chronological order and not miss a thing.
      • SF Debris noted that episodes centred around Torres boiled down to one of three plots - she's pissed off, she's broken something and has to fix it, or she wants to screw someone.
  • That '70s Show got pretty bad for this when Eric and Donna were dating. A dozen episodes a season of "Eric says something jerk-y, Donna freaks out, both talk to their respective groups, Donna realizes she overreacted, they make up, the end".
  • Time Gentlemen Please follows the same formula every episode. A plotline is introduced, usually involving a recurring character entering the pub and talking to Al Murray. He attempts to resolve the situation, which usually results in him annoying other characters. Throughout the episode, the characters say their catchphrases, constantly. Somebody tries to touch Lesley's Tigger, which results in Leslie almost beating them up but being bribed free crisps just in time. At some point the plotline is resolved. Usually, all of this takes place within the pub. If there ever was a show that is the archetype of strictly formula (namely being built entirely around catchphrases and one location) this is it.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: To a point. However, when maximum possible mileage has been obtained from a gag (eg: Harper being in the dark about magic), they stop doing it.
  • The X-Files seem to follow this pattern: Something creepy happens on a remote location, followed by the opening montage and theme. Mulder and Scully are informed, he tells her about existing X-files like this and reveals his crackpot theory; she offers a scientific explanation. The duo travels to the site and encounters several witnesses/survivors. They run around the woods/darkened rooms and bicker a lot. One or more of the survivors are killed in a grisly fashion. If it's a Myth Arc episode, Mulder meets with his current Mysterious Informant. Scully does the science but finds nothing. Mulder, meanwhile, witnesses something that completely confirms his earlier theory. The culprit is killed, captured, or destroyed if it's not human. Any evidence the duo uncovered is mysteriously destroyed or not-so-mysteriously confiscated by The Government. Scully or Mulder writes a report saying that the evidence of supernatural is inconclusive, and the file is closed.
  • Disney Channel is probably an even worse offender than Nickelodeon. Since the huge success of Lizzie McGuire and That's So Raven, almost all of their shows have had some teenager(s) living a normal life with a TWIST, with their one same sex friend and one friend of the opposite sex (possibly a future love interest). There's almost always a ditz and person who's an absolute jerk, usually because they're a popular kid at school. Also, the star will be (either in-universe or in real life) a singer who sings the theme song of the show and/or gets shoehorned into singing as much as possible in the show.
  • The USA Network has a habit of creating shows with Strictly Formula individual episodes that integrate into a far more interesting Myth Arc via B-plots. This allows them to establish a dedicated following while avoiding Continuity Lockout—which means that casual viewers can tune in to most episodes and still be entertained enough to stick with it. Juliet Litman of Grantland noted the system and has a series of reviews dedicated to it.
    • Burn Notice: The standard week-to-week plots are this; the overarching Myth Arc isn't. In the standard plots, someone comes to Michael who needs... extralegal assistance. Mike will usually have to go through plans A through C, with a little bit of Indy Ploy, before saving the Client Of The Week, often while having to work around the client's good-intentioned "assistance". The Myth Arc tends to be a lot more chaotic, usually merging with the usual plot in the season finales.
    • Monk. Every. Episode. Which is fitting: he has so many phobias that need his life to go completely according to schedule, and the show shows his life.
  • Every single Brazilian Soap Opera (which usually have a 6-8 months run), specially the ones aired by TV Globo, can specially Egregious at this. 90% of the main plots are about a forbidden love between a lovable underdog and a lovable rich, and the antagonist in these cases is always a Rich Bastard who is "in love" with the aforementioned rich part of the Official Couple, and spends the whole run of the show using one gambit after another to try and break them apart. There's a Foreign Background for a couple of episodes (usually Europe, Middle East or Asia) and a set of Plucky Comic Relief characters. In the last episode, the main couple get married and the villain is killed or goes to jail. Sometimes the villain will be killed by an unknown murderer some 20-30 episodes prior to the end, and the subsequent episodes will completely revolve around the mystery of who killed the villain.
  • Dave Barry wrote a book about his family's trip to Japan, and describes how his wife was able to accurately describe what was happening in an episode of a Tokyo Soap Opera without knowing a word of Japanese, just through knowledge of soap tropes.
  • Without a Trace, like the above-mentioned Cold Case, was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and is part of the CSI Verse. In fact, having premiered a year before Cold Case, the latter show is arguably its Spiritual Successor. Despite technically being its polar opposite—WAT has the urgent need to find the possibly still-alive victim, CC's victim is long dead—it follows a similar format:
    • (1) The victim disappears after an opening sequence in which we meet them and get a hint of what led to their disappearance, (2) The cops are brought in, (3) We get numerous interviews with friends and family that lead to flashbacks that start to spell out what happened culminating in one that finally tells us everything, (4) Then the victim is found alive or dead.
    • There are some slight variations on the ending—sometimes, like CC, there's a musical montage of the cops and the victim's loved ones.
    • Throughout the episode, from the moment the victim vanishes, we get a time stamp of how long they've been missing—from as little as 27 minutes to as much as 4 days—to heighten the tension and the desperate need to find them.

  • AC/DC is often accused of being formulaic, but they actually embrace it. Once they defended themselves: "People say all our ten albums are the same. They actually mean eleven, because they always forget our live album."
  • Played for Laughs in The Axis Of Awesome songs How To Write A Love Song and 4 Chord Song where they point out the long standing formula for R&B style love songs and pop songs, respectively.
  • When you buy a Cannibal Corpse album, you know what you're getting: a bunch of fast, thrashy death metal songs plus a few slower, more groovy or atmospheric tracks, and (depending on what Pat O'Brien was feeling during the writing process) maybe a Technical Death Metal song or two. While they have been accused of being formulaic, the typical fan response is that while they may be predictable, they're so good at what they do and have such strong chemistry as writers that it doesn't matter.
  • Dismember had only had one major change in their career, that being focusing a lot on Melodic Death Metal. And even then it only became slightly more noticeable as they kept their famous buzzsaw-like guitar tone throughout the years.
  • The Ramones made formula into a concept. Throughout their entire career they played the same kind of Three Chords and the Truth songs about similar topics and wore the same leather jackets and ripped jeans. This was also a decision on behalf of Joey, who suffered from OCD and needed things to be the same.
  • The Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller song "Along Came Jones" is a gentle mocking of this trope, with the Dastardly Whiplash villain Salty Sam menacing the heroine Sweet Sue and being thwarted by the eponymous cowboy hero over and over again. Ray Stevens' version includes this comment from Sue:
    Sweet Sue: He's tyin' me up again, same routine...
  • Weezer's 2001 self-titled album uses extremely similar song structures throughout. A lot these are things that are typical of pop songs in general, but there are specific repeated quirks like having the guitar solo reiterate the verse melody note for note (every song on the album) or starting the song with a guitar melody that is repeated vocally in the bridge later on (every song after the first four tracks). Even B-Side tracks from the same era tend to do this.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Its first ten years saw Zenjo become known for having foreign 'outsiders' brutalize the local wrestlers to championship acquisition, especially in tag team competition. Other perpetrators of this formula included Capitol Sport Promotions in Puerto Rico, specifically in matches with Carlos Colon, staring with Canadian\Sudanese champion Abdullah the Butcher and that other All Japan with its "Four Pillars"(Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada, Kenta Kobashi, Akira Taue) during the 1990s.
  • Since its inception, Ring of Honor has recruited wrestlers who were either fans of or trained extensively in Japanese strong style. This leads critics to complain about singles matches following a feeling out wrestling process-high impact pro wrestling moves-exploit opened weaknesses-go for pin formula. Of course when someone different comes in, such as British chain wrestlers Douglas Williams and Nigel McGuinness or the Capoeira of TaDarius Thomas, a different set of critics will complain about how "awkward" they look and count down the number of shows it takes them to adapt to strong style wrestling.
  • The main angle of TNA is that operating unhindered is simply the time in between the sieges of the promotion, which include Sports Entertainment Xtreme, "The Kings Of Wrestling" to Planet Jarrett, the Main Event Mafia, Immortal, Aces & Eights, The Director Of Wrestling Operations to the Almighty Beat Down Clan and GFW.
  • Dragon Gate is known for actively promoting division in the ranks of its roster. Unfortunately, because Good Is Dumb, the common formula is that The Bad Guy Wins over the baby face power stables only for further division in the victorious group via heel face turns.
  • One of the central reasons why WWE's The Authority angle is so unpopular is the feeling that they induce this on every show they take a prominent role on, which has been almost all of them since they formed in 2013. Almost every episode begins with a member of the Authority, or occasionally the face they're feuding with, cutting a promo, which will usually be interrupted by their enemy, usually setting up both the episode's main event, and the next match. Then the show ends with the main event, which will almost always end with the Authority heel either scoring a cheap victory or a disqualification/no-contest when a different heel interferes. Even in the occasional event that the face actually wins, the episode will almost always end with the Authority beating down the faces and standing tall.

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Hoobs, another UK Henson preschooler show: The Hoobs have a problem which leads to them asking a question. Hubba-Hubba appears on screen to declare that an answer to this question would make an excellent entry in the Hoobipedia. They attempt various solutions, inspired by (in order) asking the Tiddley-Peeps (children), reading an animated story Hubba-Hubba found on Hoobnet, asking Roma the roving reporter, and asking some different Tiddley-Peeps. This final suggestion proves to be the correct one, and the Motorettes sing a song about it before the Hoobs give their report to Hubba-Hubba. Some episodes play with the formula; for instance when the question was "How can we get the Hoobmobile from the island it's stuck on?", it was Roma who talked to the Tiddley-Peeps, because the others were trapped.
  • Quite a few recurring Sesame Street segments, both classic and contemporary, tend to follow a basic plot formula, usually with little or no variation, though there are often exceptions:
    • The Super Grover segments usually were played out in the same way: Super Grover detects a problem while flying in the air (it could be two kids fighting over something, a boy being afraid to get his hair cut, or even a girl's computer not turning on), then dives down to the "problem," often crashing into something in the landing, and when he is told of the problem, he usually comes up with a ridiculous explanation or solution (sometimes like dancing around going "Wubba Wubba!"), only for the child to solve his or her problem by him/herself. Naturally, Super Grover takes the credit.
    • In at least two of the books, Super Grover made things worse. In one he attempted to save one of his friends from an evil witch that was threatening her. The problem? The witch wasn't real, it was a play, and he utterly ruined it for her. She is shown to be extremely angry at him at the end of the story. In the other, he is fishing with friends when he notices that the boat is leaking very, very slightly. His solution? Pick the boat up out of the water and deposit it back on Sesame Street, wrecking it.
    • The Sesame Street News segments also followed a basic formula to many of them: after the "NEWS FLASH" intro logo and music, we fade to the "news scene" where Kermit the Frog, clad in a reporters' trenchcoat, hat and microphone, is talking to someone off-camera or facing the wrong way or doing something else not related to his duty, before realizing he is on camera and begins his report. Everything goes smoothly as he interviews who he is supposed to, but then halfway into the report, things begin to go wrong (usually with the fairy tale/nursery rhyme being parodied in the sketch not going as it traditionally does), and something bad typically happens to Kermit. The segment then ends with Kermit, usually embarrassed or somewhat shaken up, returning the viewers to the "regularly-scheduled program."
    • Elmo's World has such a strict formula that the main Sesame Street segment has parodied it as "Cookie's World".
    • Since the "Blocks" era (2002–2006), each episode has followed the same distinct pattern (which varies by season). The street stories are condensed into one block and shown at the beginning, while either Elmo's World or Elmo the Musical is shown at the tail end. Starting in Season 38 and lasting until Season 45, Murray opened each show by talking to real people who demonstrated "the Word on the Street" and would announce the sponsors at the end.
  • Sesame Tree, the Northern Ireland co-production of Sesame Street: Potto and Hilda have a problem (or in season two, Archie arrives with a problem). The Big Whizzing Machine recieves a message from a kid asking about something related to the problem. The Bookworms find a book that sends Hilda to visit a school. Potto uses his computer to watch a relevant Sesame Street "kids around the world" segment and Muppet sketch. Potto gets a phone call from Hilda leading to a segment about how the kids at the school she's visiting deal with the problem. They realise they can now solve their problem, and answer the question.

  • Believe It!, Richard Wilson's "radiography" on BBC Radio 4. Every episode of the first season opens with Richard describing a scene from his childhood. This is then enacted with Young Richard played by David Tennant, and leads to someone's death. This death haunts Richard, leading to an event in his adulthood (playing himself) involving someone famous, which almost certainly didn't happen. The second season shakes it up a bit.
  • Bobby Pickett and Peter Ferrera's Star Drek mercilessly lampshades the conventions and formulas of Star Trek:
    Captain Jerk: Into the elevator, Mr. Schlock. Let's beam down to the planet's surface so I can find an alien to fall in love with before the program's over.
    Schlock: You usually do.
    Captain Jerk: (laughs) Ain't I something?

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Joyce Grenfell's "Writer of Children's Books" monologue, in which the author explains how she writes her books and seems entirely unaware she's just described writing the same book twice, only the children have different names and are on holiday in a different place. The implication seems to be that all her books are like this.

  • Opera librettos often suffer from that (granted, many people don’t think the plot is important at all). The 19th century Italian opera often goes like this: the soprano and Tenor Boy are in love, the Evil Sounds Deep romantic rivals plot, the leads make mistakes and fall victim to the plots.
    • An especially blatant example is Luigi Illica with his librettos for Andrea Chenier and Tosca (the latter in collaboration with Giuseppe Giacosa). In the late 18th century, the heroine is in love with a revolutionary artist, a high-ranked official secretly obsesses over the heroine, orders the artist’s arrest and presents the girl with Scarpia Ultimatum. What happens afterwards is the part where the two plots differ, but the girl and the artist end up dead anyway by the end of both.

  • LEGO BIONICLE in its early years ('01-'03). Whenever Fan Dumb starts an it went downhill in '04 topic on an online forum, someone always points out that all of those years followed the same formula: the six heroes are a given - the Big Bad unleashes something bad - the village elders somehow know all about said bad things - heroes collect stuff - they go underground to defeat the current boss. Thankfully later years did away with this concept, and gave justification for the elders' secret knowledge. This argument is also frequently brought up when someone berates Bionicle's "replacement" line, Hero Factory for being too darn formulaic and predictable, though in the latter's case, that was the point, since LEGO wanted to avoid another overly-complex and difficult to follow storyline.
    • One of the Bionicle comics from 2003 even lampshaded the stories becoming a little formulaic:
    Lewa: Has anyone else noticed that every time we go underground, something really bad happens?
    Tahu: Yes, Lewa, we have all noticed.
    • The toys also changed noticeably back then (it was part of a general shift at Lego due to bankruptcy). Bionicle toys started shifting a lot away from the rest of Lego, with tons of unique, space-filling parts that meant that they couldn't be rebuilt into many things. That took a lot of the wonder and excitement out of it.
    • Another entry for the toys is the dreaded "Inika build", named after the Toa Inika sets from 2006. Almost all Toa and various other canister sets released between '06 and '09 followed the same general body-plan, using mostly the same LEGO pieces, while earlier series tended to variate the builds every year or so. Hero Factory did away with this almost entirely with its second set-line.

    Video Games 
  • Ace Combat, from the second game on (at least outside Japan). The protagonist's nation is under attack by another nation, almost always reaching Back from the Brink, then after a series of skirmishes one or more enemy ace squadrons appear. The good guys usually take back their capital or some other important city by half-time. At least one superweapon will be deployed and destroyed. A twist will reveal that the apparent enemy is just a Disc-One Final Boss. An Airstrike Impossible mission will occur. The enemy ace squadron(s) will be shot down. Another superweapon will appear and be destroyed, along with the true enemies. The Player Character will go from annonymous airman to the best pilot in hisotry. Peace is achieved once more. The first game is missing the enemy aces and the major twist, as well as deviating in a few other ways. But exceptions include:
    • in Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies, Erusea just simply acts out of dickery with no outside influence. In Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception, the war itself was just a ploy for loads of money by the other country's leader, and no enemy squadron acts as Gryphus 1's counterpart, save for the almost-throwaway Alect squadron.
    • Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War doesn't deviate from the formula, but it plays with it a bit by having your squadron unwittingly work for the villains until the major twist. The true enemy is a cabal run by both countries' former mutual enemy, which has infiltrated them and manipulates the pro-war extremists on both sides to prolong the war and cause suffering out of a desire for revenge.
    • Ace Combat 5 also plays with the formulaic mission progression - as in 04, the first twelve or so missions of the game involve pushing the enemy out of your country, followed by invasion of their country. By the 18th mission (which was the last level of 04), you're pushing deep into enemy territory... but it doesn't feel as climactic as the previous game's 18th mission. Then you get surprised with mission 18+, and it turns out you've still got a third of the game to go.
  • BioWare's RPGs from Neverwinter Nights onward have mostly identical structures: Semi-Tutorial Level, event that sets up initial quest, initial quest succeeds at high cost, status quo is shaken up and leads to new, more open area with more sidequests, the Player Character attains full status in whatever Heroes "R" Us s/he enlisted in (Jedi, Spirit Monk, Spectre, Grey Warden) and gets larger task to gather four clues/allies. Each part of The Quest involves a separate zone with multiple stages that can be solved in different ways, with numerous Side Quests in each area. Progress in each area will be completely useless towards completing the others, except in terms of equipment and party members recruited there to aid you in combat. A fifth area will open up after three of them are complete, you may or may not be forced to complete it immediately. Once all five are done, the plot will continue in a linear fashion to the final area, generally with no sidequests, culminating in a cinematic conclusion. Deviations from the formula include:
  • Doom:
    • The series is always some variation of "a UAC base is overrun by demons during the middle of a teleportation experiment, and the Doomguy must kill them all". The series is really ambiguous as to whether or not a given Continuity Reboot (Doom RPG series, Final Doom, the first two novels, etc.) is taking place concurrently or on its own timeline, with the exception of Doom 3 which is most certainly its own timeline.
    • Most 32-map long Game Mods for Doom II ape the original game's level progression: the first third of the levels is set in a futuristic high-tech base; the second third is set in cities, castles and other "Earth" locations; the final third is set in Hell. Also, map 7, just like the original, typically involves killing Mancubuses and Arachnotrons, and the final level typically involves a boss fight against something that launches monster-spawning cubes and which requires precisely-aimed rockets fired down a shaft of some sort to damage it. The only real deviation from the formula is that the secret levels are actually connected to whatever bare-bones Excuse Plot the mod has, rather than the completely random Wolfenstein 3D interlude from the original game.
    • Monster closets in these mods also follow the same general formula, in that 9 times out of 10 they are filled with as many Revenants as possible and open as soon as you grab either a key or a helpful item, which will likely happen every five minutes. Apparently the only way to make a level harder is to spawn a million Revenants in it.
    • The 2016 Continuity Reboot actively invokes this trope as part of the plot, by claiming that all of the Doomguy's exploits are part of a Cycle of Revenge/You Can't Fight Fate situation where his spirit is inextricably bound to fighting demons, and that his constant forays to Hell and back are part of a cosmic balancing act to counteract the forces of the underworld. The reboot itself also throws copious amounts of Lampshade Hanging at the plot itself, with Doomguy being subtly characterized as someone who's fed up with the constant machinations of the surviving people around him and the demons regarding him as The Dreaded in-universe for his actions against them (with it being implied that this has happened many, many times before).
  • The Elder Scrolls series: Start with an epic title theme, then let the player customize the Featureless Protagonist, whose only backstory is being a convictnote . At the end of the Tutorial Level, the prisoner is released into the Wide Open Sandbox with a quest to Save the World and/or to prevent The Empire from crumbling. No matter how grand the task, Take Your Time is the policy (unless the mission comes with a specific time limit, and this only rarely happens) and every Weird Trade Union in the sandbox provides a Sidequest Sidestory at least as long as the main quest. At the end of the latter, the ex-convict receives a fancy title and conspicuously disappears from the series. Put a snappy one-word subtitle referencing the primary location of the game on it and you are done.
  • In all Etrian Odyssey games except the fourth and sixth, you're the guide of a new team of explorers determined to explore the secrets, wonders and dangers of the Yggdrasil Labyrinth. Whether you're climbing it upward or going downward varies, but in all cases you're exploring six strata, with the first five being mandatory to finish the adventure and the sixth being a formidable Bonus Dungeon only for the bravest (or craziest) team. The fourth game shakes it up by having the team travel across the world towards the fabled tree, venturing through four overworld lands (each with its own stratum) in the process. The sixth game does the same thing except the explorers are going around the tree before getting in.
  • Similarly, the Fallout series follows a similar set of story beats: the hero - usually but not always a Vault Dweller - must leave their home which, through external circumstances, they cannot return to. They must travel through the Wasteland, recruiting companions along the way, to find what they're looking for: either something that will save their home or a lost family member, or both. They can help struggling towns, join themed factions, and complete a number of side quests. Along the way, a larger threat presents itself, and by the time the hero finds what they're looking for, it in some way has been rendered invalid by the larger conflict. Ultimately, the hero takes charge of whatever faction they choose and decide the conflict once and for all. Of all the games, only Fallout: New Vegas strays from this, and even they keep the main beats (searching for an artifact, side quests, goofy side factions, larger conflict) but changes up the details.
  • Final Fantasy has a few plot templates that it tends to revisit. You can make a workable Final Fantasy plot outline out of mixing and matching them:
    • Four warriors rise up to bring light to the Crystals that keep the forces of nature working (I, III, IV, V, IX, The 4 Warriors of Light);
    • A band of unlikely heroes must come together and fight against The Empire, only the Empire ends up being a minor threat compared to the godlike force of nature that has it in its thrall (II, VI, VII, VIII, XII, XIII. X is an inversion, where the godlike force is the first opponent but it turns out The Empire is the true enemy.);
    • Halfway through the game the world gets destroyed or damaged, putting us in a changed world map. You Can't Thwart Stage One and so the rest of the game will be spent killing the Big Bad before he/she finishes what he/she is trying to do (V, VI, VIII. VII touched on this mildly);
    • An Omnicidal Maniac villain. In FF using the crystals it will represent the element of Void between Light and Darkness. In others it will either be a god, or be attempting to become a god. Likely to have white hair.
    • There are three women in the party - a noble, strong-hearted princess-type, a streetwise, clever flirt, and a precocious childish girl (II, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XII). This can be played with:
      • IV doesn't quite fit. Rosa is one of the clearest examples of the princess-type in Final Fantasy, but Rydia is encountered first as a precocious child, and later as an sexy adult... but she keeps her more childish, innocent personality. Porom, who is only encountered as a child, acts confident and mature, and is, if anything, more grown-up than Cecil.
      • VII fits the three roles, but has princess-type be the streetwise, clever flirt, while the noble, strong-hearted girl is a girl-next-door type who works as a bartender and fistfights.
      • XIII has a sexy girl and a childish girl but the third girl blends the princess archetype with the role of the Bishounen boy hero expanded on below.
      • XV has the three roles, but gives them to three male characters (mean, sexy Gladio; childish and innocent Prompto; and Noctis, who like his predecessor in XIII with whom he is meant to contast, combines the strong-hearted prince(ss) role with the boy hero part.)
    • The hero is a pretty swordsman who is probably more thoughtful and introspective than the typical RPG protagonist (even FF's biggest Idiot Hero, Bartz from V, has a sad backstory that stops him in his tracks at times). If it's a PS1 game he will also be a bit humorously adolescent as a personality quirk, and if Tetsuya Nomura designed him he will probably be a Perpetual Frowner with a Defrosting Ice King arc (Tidus of X is the one exception);
    • The setting is a mixture of historical stuff and sci-fi-influenced Magic from Technology, if not pure modern-day-but-with-Magitek;
    • Eidolons/Summons/Espers may offer support to the heroes on their journey or manipulate events behind the scenes;
    • A man named Cid will appear and help the party get access to an airship;
    • While facing the final boss, who will probably be a God of Evil and/or Faux Symbolism angelic image, the heroes' friends all over the world and in the afterlife will pray for the heroes, sending them the strength to deal with it (most early ones).
  • Fire Emblem plots can basically be described as follows: The Good Prince's country is invaded by The Empire. You Killed My Father! The prince goes on a quest to gather allies and reclaim his throne, coming into conflict with a Tin Tyrant and an Evil Sorcerer. He eventually gets his hands on the Infinity +1 Sword and skewers the Disc-One Final Boss, at which point the Eldritch Abomination Greater-Scope Villain will rear its ugly head. The prince kills that and lives Happily Ever After, the end. While there have been variations on the formula over the years, the only true exceptions are Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 (a midquel where you control an underdog who spends half of the story just running from the empire) and Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest and Fire Emblem: Three Houses' Crimson Flower route (where you are actually on the empire's side).
  • Many Kirby platform games (among them Kirby's Adventure, Kirby's Return to Dream Land, and Kirby Triple Deluxe) follow a distinct formula. Popstar, or occasionally a series of other planets, is endangered or inconvenienced in some way and Kirby heads off to stop it. The first world is always a grassland world, and island and snow worlds are also commonly seen. Levels are usually connected via a Hub Level. In most cases, the world names are alliterative and spell out a plot-relevant acronym (V-I-B-G-Y-O-R, C-R-O-W-N-E-D, F-L-O-W-E-R, etc.) After defeating what appears to be the final boss, the plot begins to thicken and it turns out that Kirby's attempts to fix things have actually made them significantly worse. The player then faces the real final boss, sometimes after an Unexpected Shmup Level, and the day is saved and everyone goes home.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Each dungeon in the series is typically preceded by being forced to perform some task in the Overworld in order to open the door or access the dungeon. The dungeons themselves follow the pattern of "Enter dungeon, defeat the miniboss to get new item (or possibly just finding the item in the dungeon and using it to beat the miniboss), use new item to defeat boss, use new item to open/get to next dungeon, lather, rinse, repeat".
    • From A Link to the Past onwards, almost all console games (as well as Phantom Hourglass and A Link Between Worlds which are handhelds) start with a quest for three plot coupons, followed by a storyline twist that (depending on the game) might lead to exploring 3, 5 or 7 additional dungeons before meeting the Big Bad. Before or after the plot twist, the Master Sword may be collected. The NES and handheld games, as well as Majora's Mask and Breath of the Wild, showcase instead a quest for an even number of Plot Coupons (4-8) that is carried over through the entire adventure. Subversions happen at times, though, as in the case of The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks having an extra dungeon after the main four, or The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap having one more as well due to a case of Your Princess Is in Another Castle! in one of the earlier dungeons.
    • Aonuma and Miyamoto went out of their way to change up the Zelda formula for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Not only is the rest of the overworld dungeon-like, most of the dungeons themselves sport the format of a more compact space, but a higher density in puzzles, enemies and obstacles. This is best appreciated with the first three dungeons, whose goal of completion isn't even on the Plot Coupons (you do collect some in the first two, but finding Zelda is the main focus). Also, half the boss fights take place outside the conventional dungeons - this includes the airborne battle against a Bilocyte-controlled Levias, the finale against Ghirahim, the Final Boss and all three battles with the Imprisoned. Also, the first fight with Ghirahim breaks formula even further—you actually can't use the dungeon's item (the Beetle) to even inflict damage on this guy, let alone defeat him. Straight-up swordplay time!
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, while being quite old-school otherwise, breaks the formula regarding dungeon items, as you rent them from a shop instead of finding them in the dungeons themselves. This means there are fewer Broken Bridges and linearity than in previous installments.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild takes the modern Zelda formula and smashes it with full force against the wall. Whatever sticks is tossed into a blender with the very first game's nonlinear, open-world formula and some Survival Sandbox elements such as Breakable Weapons and Item Crafting (cooking food in this case). The result is an Elder Scrolls-esque open world where you can tackle the quests and dungeons in any order you want, just like in the first game. No more finding special items and gadgets, those are given to you from the get-go after a few tutorials. And the Master Sword is no longer a Sword of Plot Advancement, just a good (and unbreakable) sword. It's also optional; in fact, you can skip it, the quests and the dungeons and just dash straight to the Final Boss right after the tutorials, in your underwear armed with a few sticks.
  • To an extent Wily escapes and comes back with another plan to take over the world once more in the Mega Man (Classic) series. Any new villain is either really Wily in disguise, or is being manipulated by him. Wily is always the villain, and there's always 8 Robot Masters (except in the first game, where Wily only stole six of the eight robots).
  • The Mega Man X series to an extent. New reploids are introduced and they turn out to be evil or just backstab people. Usually Sigma is involved. In fact, it's a plot twist in the last game when he really wasn't secretly behind it all.
  • Metal Gear:
    • The series is extremely repetitive, starting from Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, which originated the default plot template of the series and introduced the basic obstacles the protagonist has to face - a Quirky Miniboss Squad with weird powers who give out their backstory before dying, a run up a staircase chased by enemies, a boss fight with four soldiers in an enclosed space, meeting a female soldier in disguise, a fight with a Cyber Ninja who used to be the hero's friend, using a shape memory alloy key, a female character getting tragically shot by a sexy adversary on a long pinch point between two tower buildings, mysterious radio calls about avoiding Claymore mines which eventually turn out to be from a disguised enemy, the hero having to dive off a building, a fight with a Hind D, etcetera.
    • Metal Gear Solid added in a few extra points such as a lead villain who is a Not So Different Evil Counterpart hellbent on getting revenge on the hero, and sequences involving breaking panels with a Nikita missile to rescue a hostage. As Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear: Ghost Babel are just as much remakes of Metal Gear 2 as they are sequels, they both play the plot structure very straight.
    • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty also repeated most of this (with a few Expy swaps here and there, such as a Harrier jet instead of a Hind D), and found a way to work it into the storyline by establishing that the entire story of the game was a purposeful retread in order to convert the main character into a copy of Solid Snake, by forcing him to relive his greatest adventure.
    • Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops also borrows a lot from this plot structure, adding a Ninja and an evil 'brother' for Big Boss, but switches it up a little by having Big Boss go through the formula grinder instead of Snake or Raiden, showing how his reactions are fairly different.
    • Metal Gear Solid 3 and Metal Gear Solid 4 have different plots, although the latter incorporates a lot of mostly superficial Internal Homage.
    • Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain also had different plots, though still with similar elements, while Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes had a condensed version of the same formulaic plot.
  • Metroid:
    • In most games, the heroine lands on a planet or spacestation and something happens to her powers: They're either lost, damaged, or simply absent, so she has to rebuild her gear gradually, and make her way through the various areas and locales by using the powerups she gains (often by defeating big bosses) until meeting the final boss.
    • Each game in the Metroid Prime Trilogy follows a sub-formula on its own. The first game is more or less like the 2D games in terms of progression, as you're randomly exploring a world that just happens to be divided into visually distinct regions, occasionally fighting bosses. In the second game, the objective in each of the three main areas is to find a temple, located in the Dark World counterpart of said areas; each temple is locked and three keys scattered through the areas are needed to get access to them, and inside lies a Marathon Boss that guards a large percentage of sacred light, the game's Plot Coupon. In the third game, the objective is to disinfect entire planets, three of them again, and each planet has a Phazon-infected bounty hunter as a Mini-Boss; in addition, the three planetary bosses are fought in nearly identical chambers. Last, but not least, each of the three console Prime titles culminates with a Fetch Quest of 9-12 items related to the access to the final stage, where the Final Boss awaits. Metroid Prime: Hunters, being a Gaiden Game, breaks the formula by presenting the fetch quest as the primary objective in the game, and the locations are explored with the purpose of collecting the Octoliths in mind from the get-go.
    • Metroid: Other M seeked to change the formula in various aspects, like being more story-centric (a trend first seen in Fusion and Corruption, but never to this extent), and Samus having all of her powerups since the beginning, but only using them when she's given the permission to do so (or decides she needs them, in one case).
  • The cutscenes in Mutant Rampage: Body Slam — save for the intro and ending — have the same basic dialogue structure, almost as if it was written in a madlib program. The recycled animation doesn't help much.
  • Pokémon:
    • Kid gets his or her starter and Pokédex from the local professor, battles his or her rival whose starter has a type advantage, goes on a journey to get all 8 badges and become champion, runs into an evil team a couple times and defeats them between the 7th and 8th Gyms, maybe fights a few legendary Pokémon, and finally defeats the Elite Four and current Champion.
    • By the time Pokémon Black and White came around, the developers caught on. The games’ story is a Deconstruction of the classic Pokémon formula, and breaks from the the norm during the endgame. The climactic battle is with the evil team leader, who has already defeated the Champion by the time the player has beaten the Elite Four. You also have to best The Man Behind the Man before the credits roll, and the Champion fight is only in the post-game.
    • Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire zigzag this trope. The story is only about 70% done when you beat the Elite 4, after which it starts an Adaptation Expansion with the Delta Episode. Said Delta Episode's climax involves getting Rayquaza to destroy an oncoming Meteorite to prevent it from destroying the planet. Said Meteorite also contains Deoxys inside it. This was originally the climax of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team.
    • Pokémon Sun and Moon departs from the Gym system and instead implements the Trial system, which involves performing trials and fighting a powerful "Totem Pokémon" at the end. Much like Black and White, the game is also much more story and character based.
    • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: You start out the game as a human that has been turned into a Pokémon. Soon after, you meet a partner Pokémon who wants to form an exploration team with you. The first half of the game is just the two of you going on adventures, while in the second half, there is an apocalyptic event that needs to be stopped by the team. There's always one Pokémon that seems to be nice, but turns out to be evil. The apocalypse is eventually stopped after taking down a version mascot legendary (as well as an Eldritch Abomination in the last two games). However, it ends in a tearjerking scene where the player character (and in the last game, the partner) must disappear from the world, although they're always brought back.
  • Professor Layton's formula is as follows: Layton gets a letter telling him to go to a certain town, town has secret of some sort, Evil Tower of Ominousness is present, Layton unmasks disguised villain, town secret is revealed (it's always completely insane), Layton does something really fucking badass, Big Bad is thwarted (usually this villain is sympathetic in some way), player is left crying for one reason or another, then one last puzzle. Not always in this order, so the degree to which it's strictly formula varies. There are three minigames, you unlock extra content for these minigames by solving specific puzzles, beating these minigames 100% unlocks a trio of bonus puzzles each. The formula is shaken in the sixth and seventh main games, though in different ways: Azran Legacy has Layton and his friends visit multiple locations instead of one while working on their overarching case, while Mystery Journey has it the other way around as the new protagonist (Layton's daughter) works on multiple cases in London instead of one.
  • Saints Row and Saints Row 2 had a very specific formula for their respective main storylines. In the opening scene, the Featureless Protagonist finds himself in the Vice City of Stilwater, which is controlled by three large gangs and a thoroughly corrupt police force. The fourth gang, the 3rd Street Saints, starts off with no turf to their name, but this quickly changes when Playa/Boss (re)joins them. Playa meets three Saints lieutenants, each of whom is ordered to investigate one of the rival gangs. Each gang is Color-Coded for Your Convenience, represents a particular ethnicity (black, Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian), and controls a particular Black Market niche (any combination of drugs, small arms, gambling, prostitution, pornography, car theft, and street racing). Playa can tackle them in any order, one mission at a time, with each gang's story arc having roughly the same Narrative Beats: 1) Playa draws attention to the Saints by taking and/or destroying rival merchandise, facilities, vehicles, and key personnel; 2) the rivals retaliate by either assaulting his home turf, the Saints Row (in the first game), or by kidnapping and/or killing the Saints' lieutenant assigned to them (second game); 3) Playa retaliates in kind, killing the responsible rival lieutenant or even their leader; 4) which prompts another retaliation against his lieutenants or turf; 5) Playa mobilizes the Saints to break the spine of the rivals' business; 6) the rivals pull all stops and take desperate measures that invariably fail, losing most of their power base; 7) Playa delivers one final humiliation, either by taking over the rivals' business completely or by eradicating their remaining fighting force; 8) which finally allows him to go after the rivals' leader or last surviving lieutenant, ending them for good. Once all three rival gangs are destroyed, another short mission sequence against a fifth faction, which has only been pulling the strings until now, rounds off the game's story with either the Saints' defeat (first game) or utter domination (sequel).
  • Ken Levine's three Shock games (System Shock 2, BioShock and BioShock Infinite) all follow the same general narrative structure (as described by Ben Croshaw: "An oblivious man with a significant history arrives in a large residential environment in an unconventional location and must piece together a backstory involving a discovery that corrupted the people."). System Shock 2 and BioShock even use the same mid-game twist (in which Mission Control is revealed to be the game's actual villain). They are likewise very similar in terms of gameplay: all three games are first-person shooters with prominent RPG Elements, affording the player a creative and deep blend of gunplay and sci-fi superpowers. Infinite recognizes the similarities in the game's final chapters: There's always a man, there's always a city, there's always a lighthouse.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog series almost always sticks to two basic plots;
  • The Strider series consists of "The Resistance makes Strider Hiryu parachute into villain-occupied Russian city to chop up futuristic stormtroopers, the Kuniang sisters, a flying bounty hunter, and usually a robotic dragon before he finally takes on Grandmaster Meio". The only direct sequel even brought Meio Back from the Dead just to keep the formula, though it otherwise shook things up with a rogue Strider and levels outside of Russia.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Bowser kidnaps the princess, go save her. Eight worlds. Starts with a grass world, then usually a desert world and a water themed world. Various other stock location themes in the middle, such as ice, sky, and mountains. Ends in a volcanic world, fight through Bowser's Castle, defeat Bowser, save princess. And in each world, expect to find a fortress guarded by a Mini-Boss, as well as a Castle housing the local Boss at the end. This formula becomes more noticeable in the New Super Mario Bros. subseries, as the only old-school game to faithfully follow it is Super Mario Bros. 3.note 
    • 3D Super Mario Bros. 120 collectible items (Stars or Shine Sprites). Every so often this unlocks a new world, you fight Bowser three times including the final battle, some form of coin collecting mission is involved somewhere and you can always reach the final battle with around half the stars/shine sprites you need for 100% completion, although it gives you a shorter ending. This pattern is changed with Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World, in which the collectible items (Star Medals and Green Stars, respectively) are only secondary, and the worlds are structured in the style of the 2D games. Super Mario Odyssey sticks closer to the usual 3D formula, but the number of plot coupons (Power Moons) is much higher (880 without counting the purchasable Moons from shops) and Bowser is only fought twice.
    • With the Mario series' rigid story structure being so set in stone, the RPG spinoffs have gone out of their way to hang lampshades on it in the style of "The princess got kidnapped? That's the third time this week!", usually putting some kind of spin on it.
    • The fan game/ROM hack formula; take the same formula for the 2D games listed above, then add 'after Bowser is defeated, there's a plot twist as this [new villain from some other franchise] takes over, go stop him in his own dimension'. Every single VIP Mario game follows this. Brutal Mario mostly does. An SMWC Production does. A Super Mario Thing does (except with Bowser replaced with King Charles). It's very likely the bonus world will be some surrealistic crazy fourth wall breakng area with lots of gimmicks too.
  • Telltale Games became fairly notorious for this in their post-The Walking Dead years, and internal documents have suggested it was company policy — a darkly-toned episodic adventure game based on an existing license that largely ditches traditional inventory puzzles in favor of a focus on choices and Quick Time Events, characters occasionally remembering prior decisions, and a big climactic ending where the main character has to make a major choice.
  • Touhou has a similar plot for each game: some Big Bad (who is never really evil) causes some incident that gets the protagonists' attention, protagonists go out and beat up unrelated bosses for a few stages (usually two), until finally encountering someone related to the incident at hand (typically a minion of the Big Bad, but not always), which sets them on the track towards resolving the incident. The Big Bad's Battle Butler is fought on Stage 5, the Big Bad herself on Stage 6, then everyone has a tea party. In the Extra Stage, the protagonists wind up fighting someone who had absolutely no relevance to the events of the main game, but is usually related to the Big Bad (family, friend or sometimes enemy). This boss is typically presented as more powerful than the Big Bad herself. Some subversions do occur occasionally: In Unidentified Fantastic Object, for example, the first boss is immediately relevant to the story (though the second is not). In Double Dealing Character, meanwhile, the Big Bad is beaten first, in stage 5, while her Unwitting Pawn is the Final Boss.

    Visual Novels 
  • So far with the Ace Attorney series, you have:
    • A case where either the lawyer the player controls being new, gaining amnesia or otherwise rusty who covers a case of utmost importance that leads to a plot point that will become very important later on. The culprit is usually shown in the intro in addition to being completely obvious. Justified in that this is the obligatory Tutorial Mode.
    • Two cases that are almost always unrelated to said plotpoints from the first case the player has to solve, one of which involves defending/prosecuting someone famous or is otherwise very high profile.
    • Another case that either related to the regulars or the player, will almost always throw back to the plot point in the aforementioned first case and usually has something to do with some kind of dilemma the regular in question has, solving it by the end.
    • Charley the plant. Or (step)ladders.
    • Sometimes a bonus case that either further relates to, or shoots a throwback of, the aforementioned plot point.
    • Sometimes having one of the regulars be accused of some kind of crime the player will have to defend them for or prosecute against with an exception or so that the regular had really did it, which may overlap with points 1-3.
    • At least one villain of the final case is always pure evil.
    • The same is always done with all the characters too, as they will always be one of the following:
      • Normal, uninvolved: usually an assistant or protagonist with wacky hair. (e.g. Phoenix, Maya, Trucy, etc.)
      • Enemy prosecutor/detective; aggressive, has a defining characteristic (e.g. famous guitarist Klavier, coffee addict with visor Godot, German sadist with a whip Von Karma, etc. etc.)
      • Dim Judge: only serves to give you a game over, always take the side of the obvious big bad and give the defense/prosecution an excuse to spell everything out.
      • Normal, bland; usually defendant or common witness who is uninteresting (but still has a wacky personality), only exists so you have a case or so you have more than one person to tear apart in court. Only notably subverted for Matt Engarde, who is actually the villain hiding behind a dumb persona. (e.g. attention seeking Larry Butz, who only occasionally proves useful).
      • Minor but antagonistic; obviously guilty of something, if there's a reveal of their actions/past/M.O. they'll serve as a red herring for the real killer or padding out plot. (e.g. Wendy Oldbag claims to be a key witness, actually only a time wasting, attention seeking old gossip in all of her appearances).
      • Big Bad: behind it all, obviously guilty not far into court questioning, will quickly jump between "innocent" and "angry" emotions, will always pull the evidence card on you even though they confess with their exaggerated responses - for some reason, changing back to innocent mode and demanding evidence instantly removes all suspicion. Almost always hoist by their own petard by confession only, whether it's an unintentional (e.g. Villainous Breakdown) or intentional (e.g. Engarde confessing for protection).
  • Danganronpa has one for the murders/cases:
    • Chapter 1/1st murder: A heavily advertised character, one presented as important to the plot and/or who seems to have ties to previous casts and has Plot Armor, gets killed/executed. (The first game has Sayaka, who was played as the Deuteragonist and Love Interest; the second has Togami, who was a survivor from the previous game, or so the fans were led to believe; the interquel has Yuta, sister of Aoi from the first game; the anime has Chisa, who is important in Side:Despair but is the first to die in Side:Future; the third game has Rantaro, who is played up as a suspicious person and has an unknown talent in a similar way to past survivors such as Kyoko and Hajime. The third game also has Kaede, who turns out to be the first murderer (except not) and a Decoy Protagonist.) The first attempt at murder doesn't kill the intended target (Sayaka was trying to kill Leon but got killed herself, Teruteru was aiming for Nagito, Kaede tried to kill the mastermind). The first execution is usually one of the most brutal to set the tone.
    • Chapter 2/2nd murder: A murder occurs because someone flew off the handle, sometimes because of their past (Mondo/Chihiro, Peko/Mahiru, Kirumi/Ryouma). Usually tragic. The killer tends to have connections with a criminal gang. A Serial Killer/multiple murderer becomes involved but turns out to be innocent (Genocide Jack/Jill/Syo, Sparkling Justice, Maki and/or Korekiyo).
    • Chapter 3/3rd murder: Double murder, two victims are found (Kiyotaka/Hifumi, Ibuki/Hiyoko, Seiko/Sonosuke, Angie/Tenko), with one of the victims being a comic relief character getting shooed out. Character with Nonstandard Character Design is dead by this point (Hifumi, Teruteru, Bandai, Ryoma). The killer tends to be the one unsympathetic killer (Celeste kills for her selfish dream and money, Mikan kills for despair-induced "love", Ruruka kills her own boyfriend to save her own ass, and Korekiyo kills for his... relationship with his dead sister.)
    • Chapter 4/4th murder: Big Guy Fatality Syndrome is in full effect (Sakura, Nidai, Gozu (though he was only the second death) and Juzo, Gonta), with The Big Guy accepting their death. The trial ends in a Tear Jerker and the death was committed for a noble cause (end the internal conflict of the group, get the group out of the funhouse, save Kokichi's life and protect everyone from the truth about the outside world).
    • Chapter 5/5th murder: Played up as the final chapter, complete with remix of the investigation theme. Two of the main characters are in danger, pretty much sought out by the mastermind (Kyouko and Makoto, Nagito and Chiaki, Maki and Kokichi). The murder is part of a trap/larger plan rather than an end in itself (stop Kyouko's investigation, kill the Despair members, fool the mastermind). The class trial is blatantly unfair (Monokuma himself is the culprit, and he forces a premature voting time; the blackened "culprit" is randomized and unidentifiable; the victim is unidentifiable and the primary suspect is allowed to remain anonymous in the class trial). The death of the final victim is always the most brutal and gruesome one, but it sets the stage for the Killing Game ending once and for all. (In the first, Mukuro is impaled several times all over her body by spears and then her corpse is blown up. In the second, Nagito maims himself, which includes stabbing his thighs several times, cutting off a part of the skin in his arm and stabbing his other hand, just so he can be poisoned and then impaled in the gut by a spear. In the third, Kokichi Oma is crushed to death with a hydraulic press). The trial ends in the execution of a character among the main group (Makoto, Chiaki, Kyouko, Kaito), which doesn’t go as planned (Alter Ego hijacks the Death Trap and saves Makoto, Chiaki and Monomi are A.I.s so they can’t really die, Kyouko has an antidote handy, and Kaito succumbs to his illness before the execution is complete) and the last victim is the secondary antagonist (Mukuro, Nagito, Kokichi).
    • Chapter 6/Final trial: The Mastermind is revealed, and the truth of the Ontological Mystery comes out. It's usually a person that no one expected (Junko Enoshima, Hajime/Izuru Kamukura and Junko again, Monaca Towa and Shiro/Kurokuma, Kazuo Tengan, Tsumugi Shirogane and Team Danganronpa). Said mastermind is the leader of, or affiliated with, an evil organization (Ultimate Despair, Remnants Of Despair, Warriors Of Hope, Future Foundation (or some parts of it, anyway), Team Danganronpa). Junko turns out to be behind it all, directly or indirectly. The rug is pulled out from beneath the surviving cast, leaving them close to the Despair Event Horizon by the revelation of what led to the killing game, which reveals the setting and plot to be completely different from what it seemed. The Hero uses the power of hope (or disappointment in Shuichi’s case) to defeat the villain anyway.
    • In a grimly amusing example, even the very first killing game shown in Side:Despair runs through the above plot points in the 5 minutes that it lasted. Ikuta, the most outspoken member, gets shot point blank by Mukuro to get the other kids to play along. Karen goes off the handle once when she figures out her mom's been kidnapped. Tsubasa and Taro get killed by a very bitter Kurosaki. Hino actively antagonized Kamukura, and had the grimmest death out of the cast through getting his head torn up by falling on his own chainsaw. The mastermind was once again Junko, a girl who wasn't involved with the student council at all, and it's revealed afterward to Kamakura that the whole thing was being used to brainwash people into despair through an altered video of their deaths. They even have a missing member; when it was all over, Murasame managed to escape without anyone noticing.
    • There are also some general Once an Episode occurrences/character archetypes that aren’t limited to a single chapter. In each installment, the protagonist can be identified as the one with an ahoge, to the point where a previously-non protagonist character (Toko Fukawa) gains one upon being Promoted to Playable, and Shuichi’s ahoge was obscured underneath his hat just to hide his status as the true protagonist. Other character archetypes include: a character with a Non-Standard Character Design who dies early in the story (Hifumi, Teruteru, Daisuke, Ryoma); a sexy dark-skinned girl who’s name starts with an A (Aoi, Akane, Angie); a Gentle Giant who dies eventually (Sakura, Nekomaru, Gozu, Gonta); a character who doesn’t remember their talent (Kyoko, Hajime, Rantaro); a “nerdy” character (Hifumi, Chiaki, Komaru, Ryota, Tsumugi); a character who gets executed despite committing no crime (Alter Ego, Monomi, Kaede); and a Cute and Psycho female Big Bad, usually Junko but also Monaca and Tsumugi, though they are not necessarily the only Big Bad.
  • Each of the Romance Games of Voltage, Inc. assembles its cast of potential love interests from a pool of seven established archetypes: the confident alpha male, the Defrosting Ice Queen, the Nice Guy, The Quiet One, the Handsome Lech, the immature Keet, and the older guy. Each archetype has its own sliding scale of variations, and types may overlap or combine depending on the size of a given game's cast, but it's very rare indeed for any of the company's games to feature a love interest who can't be easily and accurately identified as one of the seven - often before the game is even out.
  • The later books released for Choices: Stories You Play have turned into this from April 2019, onward. Each new series is released every month, always stars a female protagonist and each one is heavily (if not, purely) romance-based. There are three love interests for the main character: a white male that is usually forced on our protagonist and receives the most screentime, a less prominent second male love interest that usually fits the role of "best friend" and a token female love interest that receives the least screentime (and when she does appear, she's usually paywalled). The plot revolves about something generic involving the protagonist (reporting for a news station, being a singer, visiting family for a summer vacation, attending a bachelorette party, parenthood etc.) that could have worked just as well with a male protagonist (but every "gender-locked" book always has to have a female protagonist for some reason). Each book has reused character designs for many characters (even the main character) and each book is a standalone.

  • Suicide for Hire has a clear pattern of story arcs. Arc and Hunter come across their next client, client tells a long and sordid tale of why they want to die, Arc tries to get the client to reconsider, client does something stupid that convinces Arc that they're hopeless, Hunter plots their client's Karmic Death and makes sure they follow through.

    Web Original 
  • The Annoying Orange: A new character is introduced to the kitchen, Orange annoys the new character, then the new character gets killed.
  • Geography Now: Paul first talks about the flagnote , and then in order political geography, physical geography, demographics and international relationships.
  • Go Animate "grounded" videos: a person gets into trouble, and the viewer always knows how it turns out: "OHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOH! [troublemaker's name]! How dare you [troublemaker's misdeed]! That's it! You are grounded, grounded, grounded for [abnormally long period of time]! Go to your room now!" "Wah-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-ah."
  • Life Hacks For Kids: There's always three hacks per episode, except when she feels like adding a fourth hack. "That's it for this episode - oh wait! I still have one more!"
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic parody video "Friendship is Magic, bitch" is this, at least for the first one. Complaints are filed, and Celestia listens. Then she asks a simple question that determines how she responds, which all lead to the same outcome: "Do you like bananas?"
    • Yes: "So you're a bitch that likes bananas? Well guess what? YOU'RE ABOUT TO GO BANANAS, ON THE MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONAH! BEEEEEEEEYITCH!"
    • No: "So you're a bitch that doesn't like bananas? Well guess what? YOU WON'T FIND ANY BANANAS, ON THE MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONAH! BEEEEEEEEYITCH!"
    • No answer: "You're a bitch that doesn't know whether or not you like bananas? Well guess what? I KNOW WHERE YOU CAN FIND OUT! ON THE MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONAH! BEEEEEEEEYITCH!"
  • Phelous: Phelous talks in a monotone, sarcastic voice about a video that irritates him. Occasionally he puts on a goofy face.
  • Most SuperMarioLogan videos follow two simple, sometimes click-bait formulas:
    • Mario and Jeffy, and sometimes Rosalina, sitting on the couch with Jeffy doing something annoying, then they talk for a while. Throw in some stuff in there, like Mario taking Jeffy to someplace like McDonald's, Jeffy getting a new toy, you get the idea. Then Jeffy causes some sort of bad thing that contributes to the plot, and Mario has to fix it in time. Then the video ends with a plot twist or Here We Go Again! scheme. In the case of the babysitter videos, Mario hires some character to babysit Jeffy while he takes care of a problem or emergency, and Jeffy starts annoying the character with his usual shtick.
    • Junior and his friends Joseph and Cody sitting on the couch, sometimes watching TV. Then they get into a conversation, with some repetitive savage Running Gags and fillers here and there (e.g. Joseph mentioning his dead mom/poor home life or Junior making fun of Cody's mom and calling her a pig/whale/cow), and Junior does something stupid. Then there's more filler where they ask Chef Pee Pee for help or try to fix it or Brooklyn T. Guy comes over or something, and to top it all off, the video ends with a plot twist spoiler or, to a lesser extent, another savage joke. In the case of the "KEN" videos, Cody's imaginary boyfriend Ken gets lost or is split from Cody, which causes him to break down into tears, and Junior and Joseph try to fix whatever happened that caused Cody to cry uncontrollably.
  • Thrilling Adventure Hour: The "Captain Laserbeam" and "Moonshine Holler" segments.
    • The Adventures of Captain Laserbeam start with the Captain doing some bit of charity work for Apex City only to get called to action by the Adventurekateers. With the Adventurekateers, Captain Laserbeam rattles off various possible villains of the week trying to work out who actually is there, in the process going through various random bantering with the Adventurekateers. Teaming up with other heroes is discussed, as is the Adventurekateers going into action and being flatly rebuffed before Captain Laserbeam goes after the villain himself. Villain puts Captain Laserbeam in a deathtrap, only for the various ramblings of the Adventurekateers to give the Captain a burst of Heroic Resolve. The villain cries This Cannot Be!, and gets arrested by Captain Laserbeam.
    • Down in Moonshine Holler starts with Banjo Bindlestuff and Gummy riding the rails to the wherever the Hobo Princess was sighted last. There, Banjo sees a Damsel in Distress he may or may not initially mistake for the Hobo Princess he seeks. He seeks to help her with her problems, but runs into the dilemma of whether or not to access the vast wealth he renounced, knowing it would doom his chances with the Hobo Princess, and having to resolve the problems in the Hobo Way. Upon doing so, the saved Damsel gives him a kiss on his sooty cheek, invites him to stay with her, only for Banjo to politely refuse and continue his journey. Also, at least Once an Episode, Banjo will insist he absolutely is not vanished millionaire Jasper Manorlodge.
  • Creepypasta tend to be fairly similar to each other, largely due to Follow the Leader being in play. This is especially notable in the case of the Video Game creepypasta genre, which copy so heavily from the most famous stories that they are all nearly the same. Expect to see the story begin with the main character buying a beat-up old copy of an old game they played as a kid while experiencing a bout of nostalgia, then find that the content on this particular copy is unusually dark or violent. Expect to see bodies of water replaced with blood by default and for the main character to assume everything is a glitch at first, only to realize everything is caused instead by some kind of supernatural force. These stories ended up being so similar to each other that several creepypasta-hosting sites outright disallow them.
  • Fandango's Brian the Minion shorts follow the same basic formula: The titular minion sits down to watch a Universal movie, old or new. Kevin, Stuart, and Bob come in and disrupt his experience, causing Brian to get angry. The usher comes in and, always jumping to the wrong conclusion, kicks Brian out, to the other three minions' mocking laughter.
  • The works of Tim Burton are so formulaic that both College Humor and Honest Trailers have made videos parodying this.
  • The Nostalgia Critic's reviews have adopted a very predictable formula since the reboot happened. To wit:
    • Opening skit that makes an extended joke about the movie that will be lampooned throughout the review; may (or may not) contain an Original Character of his.
    • "Hel-looo, I'm the Nostalgia Critic, I remember it so you don't have to!"
    • What follows is a plot summary of the film, typically glossing over any subplots, with jokes inserted at every major plot point, with usually threenote  more skits at around the middle to close to the end of the video.
    • In certain reviews, there will be a skit involving his original characters at strategic points; often entirely unrelated to the film in question.
    • Many pop-culture references, internet memes, lame puns, jokes related to the actors in the movienote , jokes lambasting the writers/actors/directors/etc., will be made.
    • If the movie is particulairy heinous, he might have a skit or two in which he rants at the writers/actors/directors/Hollywood in general, and so on, for not putting any effort into their craft/being Totally Radical/only caring about money, etc. Unlike the rest of the video, this will be played completely seriously.
    • After the plot summary/review is over, he makes a short critical appraisal of the film, e.g., "The moral isn't bad for kids, but the acting was terrible and the jokes were really lame", ending it with a Incredibly Lame Pun relating to the film.
    • "I'm the Nostalgia Critic, I remember it so you don't have to!"
    • Finally, there will be a short wrap-up skit tying into, or finishing off, the skit from the beginning. If the skit involves his original characters, it might end in a cliffhanger and continue on in the next review.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius: Most episodes have Jimmy invent something to solve a problem, only for it to backfire, forcing Jimmy to find a way to reverse the effects, usually with another invention and/or a "brain blast".
  • Most episodes of American Dad!, particularly in later seasons, revolve around Stan doing something callous to a family member (usually in some ill-advised attempt to improve their lives after observing some supposed defect about them) and, after causing an escalating amount of chaos in his stubborn goals, eventually learning a lesson about being more considerate and tolerant. On rarer occasions another Smith member gets an Aesop, usually Steve revolving around his own formula of gaining popularity or impressing a girl.
  • Animaniacs:
    • The segments featuring the Warner siblings were formulaic. Usually, we’d first be introduced to the person who the Warners would be pestering (usually with them being a jerk to someone else). Then the Warners would show up and begin bothering the person.
    • The Buttons and Mindy shorts were extremely formulaic. The parents leave their preschool child Mindy in the yard while they go out for some reason with no supervision other than Buttons the dog. Mindy gets out of the yard and starts following some random thing, while Buttons gets into danger trying to protect his charge. Eventually Mindy ends up right back where she started from, where the parents find the two and see no evidence that their child has been out and about and considerable evidence that Buttons have been misbehaving in some manner, getting the dog in trouble.
      • This was deliberately lampshaded in Mesozoic Mindy, where all the dialogue except for a few key words was reduced to grunts: "Buttons! UG Mindy! No OOG tarpit!". At the end of the episode, Buttons fell into the tarpit while protecting Mindy, resulting in him getting scolded.
    • Chicken Boo: Various people have an issue. Someone with "Boo" in their name is called forth to deal with said problem. Said person is extremely obviously a six-foot-tall rooster in a Paper-Thin Disguise, which one person immediately sees through, but that person can't convince anyone else "He's a chicken, I tell you! A giant chicken!". Boo saves the day, but his disguise comes loose, and the people he just saved immediately turn against him, while the lone complainer acts smug. Boo walks off into the sunset alone.
    • Katie Ka-Boom: Katie is having a perfectly fine day when some perceived slight causes her to overreact (except she never overreacts; she's a teenager!) She (literally) turns into a monster. Her family tries to talk her down, but only succeeds in making her angrier. Eventually she (still literally) explodes, leaving the house in shambles. She then immediately reverts to normal as either the problem fixes itself, or she easily fixes it, and waltzes off like nothing happened.
    • Pinky and the Brain. "Gee, Brain. What do you want to do tonight?" "Same thing we do every night, Pinky: try to take over the world!" "Pinky! Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" "I think so, Brain, but [non sequitur]." Brain explains zany scheme for how to take over the world. Pinky initially thinks it's brilliant, then points out an apparent flaw. Brain irritatedly explains that he's taken this flaw into account and has a way to work around it. They launch the zany scheme. The scheme fails, usually due to Pinky stupidly screwing up a simple task and/or Brain getting so distracted by his frustration with Pinky that he misses a critical opportunity. Back to the lab. Rinse. Repeat.
  • Much of Avatar: The Last Airbender's first season had its episodes structured as so: Team Avatar needs to make a stop somewhere for rest/money/bending practice reasons. At this location, they meet someone who or learn something that that won't be important until much later. Some conflict ensues and, depending on its nature, the group either fights the antagonists and escape, solves the locals' problems, or both.
  • The British preschool-aimed series Boo! adheres to the same format every episode. The only difference between each episode is the setting, where the viewer has to play a "game" similar to hide and seek and find the eponymous main character, a blue puppet... thing... that seems to have the power to transform to match its settings the third time it is "found". Boo's three friends, the stuffed animals Growling Tiger, Laughing Duck and Sleeping Bear, also tag along Every. Single. Episode. It then ends with one of a few stock songs that teach the viewers about colours, sounds, etc. And then Boo's hiding again and the narrators say, "We have to find him next time when we all play BOO!" Evidently, children around a certain age generally learn best through repetition.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers had this down to an art form. Almost every episode followed the same plot points.
    • Some kid/environmentalist/native is doing something good.
    • The Rogue's Gallery villain of the day shows up, saying politically and environmentally incorrect things while destroying the environment/eroding moral values/polluting.
    • Cut to Hope Island/the Geocruisernote  where the Planeteers are going to wherever the plot happens to be. Odds are good that one of the Planeteers will know/be related/is fascinated by the subject of said kid/environmentalist/native in point one. Gaia calls and says that ecovillain of the week is doing bad stuff.
    • They get there. Wheeler makes an observation about the situation, which is inevitably wrong. The other team members (and sometimes Gaia) have to correct his stupid, ignorant ways.
    • The Planeteers try talking it out with the locals. With the exception of the kid/environmentalist/native mentioned earlier, everyone is for the ecovillain's plan, as it seems to be good for the time being because it draws in tourism/stimulates the economy/the natural thing that the planeteers are trying to save is annoying.
    • The kid/environmentalist/native is now an ally of the kids and they try to talk to the ecovillain to make him stop. He/she tries to kill the heroes.
    • The Planeteers get captured, Wheeler's fire ring does nothing. Someone comes along and saves them as the Ecovillain revs up their doomsday/mining/invention.
    • They summon Captain Planet. He flies in and is almost immediately incapacitated by the pollutant of the day. The Planeteers and the ally of the episode help wash him off. Captain Planet saves the day while making incredibly bad jokes.
    • Everyone learns a lesson about (INSERT MORAL OR ENVIRONMENTAL LESSON HERE.) These people never have a problem again.
    • Planeteer Alert!
    • End credits, theme song.
  • Nearly all the Casper cartoons boil down to this:
    • Five seconds of an invisible Casper riding a bike, playing with a yoyo, etc., he fades in.
    • Casper's lonely, so he tries to befriend people, who run off screaming "A GHOST!".
    • Casper meets a small child or animal, often helping them out of a jam.
    • Casper and the friend play. Sometimes the friend discovers Casper's a ghost and runs off afraid, leaving Casper unhappy.
    • A large baddie threatens the little friend, so Casper appears, demanding, "You leave my friend alone!"; so the baddie runs off in fear. All ends well.
  • Code Lyoko, the first season. Life at school, XANA's attack threatens real world, go into Lyoko to stop XANA, Return to the Past; back at school with knowledge of what will happen that day. This was done away with from season 2 on: writing-wise, Character Development moved over the series like a storm; storyline-wise, constantly banging on the reset button made XANA grow exponentially stronger with each use. Oops.
    • Also the whole "Jeremie thinks it's XANA", "Odd think's it's not", "Aelita or a Tower Scan shows it is" and so now "One of the Lyoko Warriors must stay behind to be in danger and make the Return to the Past more dramatic".
  • It does have a continuity/Myth Arc, but the general formula of Danny Phantom is followed in a strict pattern: Danny and co. have some personal problem, a ghost appears and somehow meddles in their personal problem, Danny goes ghost and beats the crap out of it, sends it to the Phantom Zone, and solves the personal problem, usually inspired by the battle.
    Danny: There's a rhythm to these things. Ghosts attack, we exchange witty banter, I kick ghost butt, and we all go home having learned a valuable lesson about honesty, or some such nonsense.
  • The general story for each episode of The Dreamstone; Urpgor invents a device for Zordrak to help capture the stone, Sgt Blob and his men are sent to the Land Of Dreams with device in hand, the Urpneys steal the stone but screw things up (either due to their incompetance, the heroes' intervening or some other horrible twist of luck) and the Noops retrieve the stone from them just in time to prevent Zordrak sending nightmares to the Land Of Dreams. Oh and Frizz moans something for the final line. A handful of exceptions exist (usually when Zordrak finds a method of sending nightmares different from stealing the stone) but they are outweighed by the usual formula.
  • Nearly every episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy starts with the Eds goofing around or engaged in one of Eddy's shady business ventures. Then they stumble upon some other distraction, usually an opportunity for Eddy to scam, impress, or mess with one or more of the other cul-de-sac kids. Hilarity Ensues as Eddy drags Ed and Edd into his scheme and the three suffer a number of humiliations and Amusing Injuries. And if it looks like Eddy's scheme is actually going well, either one of the other kids will finally Pull the Thread or the Kanker Sisters show up and ruin everything. This is actually discussed in "Ed, Ed and Away":
    Edd: Ten hours of hard work, and for what?!
    Ed: To fleece the masses!
    Eddy: Check's in the mail, Ed.
    Edd: It's the same thing, day in and day out! It's so monotonous... a pipe dream, at best!
    Ed: You are not alone, my friend. I dream of pipes, too.
  • Family Guy: The series has basically three types of comedy: 1) referencing other stuff 2) tasteless shock comedy 3) Overly Long Gag. Various pop culture characters and people will turn up - in a cutaway or just randomly in an episode - and be there for the sake of the reference. Often they will do something outrageous (drugs, violence, rape, death, get a horrible illness...) that they would never do in their own universe. In both cases the reference and the shock value alone are usually sufficient enough as a joke. Other scenes will be an Overly Long Gag that goes on for several seconds or minutes and will be nothing but one or two characters just repeating the same activity over and over again (Peter rubbing his wounded knee, Peter fighting Ernie the chicken, a clip of Conway Twitty...). Oh yes, and at various points an anthropomorphic animal will interact with humans in a realistic situation, the joke being: "Oh, that's a talking penguin/sheep/dog/elephant".
  • The Fairly Oddparents goes by this formula: Something in Timmy's life sucks, so he makes a wish to change it. It works out great at first, but eventually has unexpected consequences that usually put everyone in big danger, and Timmy for one reason or another is unable to wish things back to normal. So he and his fairies spend the rest of the episode trying to find a way to fix whatever's preventing him from wishing things right again, or finding another way to fix the problem, and save the day just in time. In the end, Timmy learns an important life lesson. And then forgets it.
    • And then there's the movie specials. Every movie would involve Cosmo and Wanda (and in more recent specials, Poof) being separated from Timmy, but they get back together in the end.
  • Every episode of The Frog Show follows this formula: The ferret tries to catch the frog. Someone else gets the frog. The ferret tries to get the frog back from whoever took it. The ferret manages to get the frog. However, the ferret ultimately fails to eat the frog anyway as it gets returned to its home pond.
  • Grojband: Each episode follows a certain pattern — Some new music gig opportunity shows up, Corey announces to the band that they're going to play that gig, a problem comes up (usually Trina trying to ruin the gig in some way), Corey and the gang make Trina go into "Diary Mode" (make her feel a certain emotion strongly enough to make her write it down in her diary), they take the diary and play a song related to the episode's plot using the new diary entry, the problem is resolved, and finally, Corey gives a Spoof Aesop and then says "Thanks for coming out everyone!" before closing a garage door to symbolize the end of the episode.
  • In season 1 of Hero: 108, a typical episode follows this pattern: a new animal species therorize the humans, Commander ApeTrully attempts to make peace with the animal king by offering them a gift of gold, the animals usually refuse the gift and capture him and he calls for First Squad with his device. First Squad arrive on the location where he's captured on their turtle tanks and there they fight off the animals and then either: they refuse to give up and a contest takes place, in which the animals show their abilities and at least one member of First Squad must defeat them or First Squad help them with a certain problem or make them realise something. At the end, the animal king joins Big Green and often gets a certain job in the base. There are quite a few episodes which deviate a bit from the formula and season 2 stops following it completely.
  • Inspector Gadget. Gadget receives a classified assignment in the form of an exploding message from the chief of police. The message blows up in the chief's face after Gadget is done reading it. His niece, Penny, and dog, Brain, secretly get involved in the mission. Brain tries to keep Gadget alive from the assassins out to get Gadget, who in turn mistakes Brain for a criminal, while helping the villain agents he thinks are doing innocent civilian deeds. Meanwhile, Penny snoops around, gets in danger or captured and tied up, gets rescued or free, and ultimately solves the case. Gadget receives credit for the case that his niece had solved. A dumb joke is made, and we get an Every Body Laughs Ending. Repeat Next time, Gadget!. Finish with the And Knowing Is Half the Battle epilogue.
  • The first season of the 1990s Iron Man TV show went this way. Tony Stark creates some fantastic new invention, the Mandarin has it stolen, his minions play with it or chat, Iron Man's team is watching TV, they get into action, Iron man saves the device and saves the day.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures follows a plot formula, though it is seasonal rather than just episodic. In all 5 seasons, the heroes must search for several different magical objects or creatures scattered around the world, before the villains get to them first.
  • Johnny Test largely follows the formula of "his super-genius twin sisters invent something" > "Johnny uses it" > "something goes horribly wrong". Also, the Voice of Reason is a talking dog.
  • The first season of Kaeloo went mostly like this: Kaeloo suggests a game, Mr. Cat does horrible stuff to Quack Quack, Kaeloo Hulks Out and beats Mr. Cat up. And during all this, Stumpy does random stupid and/or crazy things. This is lampshaded in the final episode of Season 1, which was ironically just before Season 2 started and the show stopped being formulaic.
    • In-universe, the Mr. Coolskin comic books which Stumpy reads. While the audience doesn't get to see the story, the show's characters point out that all the books have almost identical plotlines.
  • Each episode of Llan-ar-goll-en follows the same formula: Prys and Ceri are hanging out at their lighthouse until something goes missing, and the person missing the thing will sound the siren. The detectives get called to action, and start investigating the scene once they arrive. While gathering more clues, the conflict is later boiled down to three suspects. Once this happens, Prys thinks he's cracked the case and goes to (lightheartedly) interrogate these suspects. After a lot of wrong accusations, Ceri figures out the truth and solves the mystery correctly. Cue her Signing Off Catchphrase and The Stinger, and expect an Everybody Laughs Ending. And that's just the abridged version, where you're missing out on all of the catchphrases that are said Once an Episode.
  • Looney Tunes. Most of the major characters exist primarily in Strictly Formula cartoons. For example:
    • Pepé Le Pew chasing the accidentally white-striped black cat, who runs in terror from his stench.
    • Wile E. Coyote using physics-defying ACME devices in inevitably failed attempts to catch the Road Runner. Lampshaded in a fake Cartoon Network commercial for ACME devices. "We put rockets..." (sound of explosion) "... on everything."
    • Ralph Wolf trying to catch Sam Sheepdog's charges, only to find himself stopped by Sam in ridiculous ways. Work is over, the two punch clocks and say goodnight.
    • Different directors also often created opposing formulas for particular characters, for example Bob Clampett interpreted Daffy Duck as The Prankster, Chuck Jones recreated him as a Fake Ultimate Hero in various genre parodies, Friz Freleng made him a show biz fanatic (usually in bitter rivalry with Bugs Bunny) while Robert McKimson often utilized him as a Loveable Rogue.
    • Many pairings between Speedy Gonzales and Sylvester (including "Speedy Gonzales", "Canery Woes", and "Here Today, Gone Tamale") involve starving mice wanting to get cheese from a factory, building, or ship being guarded by Sylvester, leading one of them to get help from Speedy Gonzales, who's friends with his sister (to which another mouse will reply, "Speedy Gonzales is friends with everybody's SEE-STER!"). This was repeated odd times with Daffy, though variations were more common.
    • Most Bugs Bunny cartoons follow the pattern established in A Wild Hare: a hunter goes after Bugs, Bugs introduces himself with "Eh, what's up, Doc?", then procedes to outsmart the hunter in various ways. Over time, additional elements and variations are introduced - Bugs Faking the Dead, Bugs saying "This Means War!", Bugs taking the Wrong Turn at Albuquerque, etc. By 1957 the formula is so established that Chuck Jones is able to deconstruct it in What's Opera, Doc?, which takes the bare elements of the typical Bugs/Elmer cartoon and restages it as grand opera. note 
  • Mike the Knight: Mike is given a quest by his mother the queen. He decides there's a better way of doing it that the way he's supposed to, and undergoes his Transformation Sequence, ending with his drawing his sword and being annoyed that Evie's magic has turned it into something apparently random. Eventually, everything goes wrong because of his bad decision, and he declares "It's time to be a knight, and do it right!" Whatever his sword has become turns out to be useful in sorting everything out. Fernando the Bard then sings a song about the Aesop Mike has learned.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: A civilian feels they have been wronged (often by Chloe), and they get akumatized. Marinette and Adrien transform into their superhero personas, fight the villain, Ladybug conjures up her lucky Charm, defeats the villain and uses a World-Healing Wave to fix all the collateral damage. Repeat for the next episode. A few episodes in the third season avert this by having someone getting akumatized offscreen, or Ladybug de-akumatizing the villain before summoning her Lucky Charm to solve a different problem and use the World-Healing Wave.
  • Most early episodes of Moral Orel follow the formula of Orel learning some kind of Christian lesson and then taking it to its Logical Extreme (i.e. a combination of lectures about providing for the poor, the importance of money and the importance of not wasting what you paid for leading to Orel getting a part-time job, giving his earning to a poor guy in an alley who turns out to be a drug dealer and then getting addicted to the crack the dealer pushes on him because it'd be wasteful not to smoke it), until Clay pulls up in his car to take Orel to his study (cue a Loud Gulp from Orel) for an off-screen belt beating and the delivery of the episode's Spoof Aesop (i.e. Orel's true sin wasn't smoking crack, but using slang while doing so) before Clay gets up without putting on his belt and his pants fall down. That being said, the show does use the formula to pull a few extra gags on occasion (such as Clay plowing his car through a forest and knocking down a few trees to get to Orel.)
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In the first season, characters learn a valuable lesson about friendship every episode (usually after one of the characters causes a problem or conflict by acting ignorant or confrontational), and then Twilight Sparkle writes a letter to her mentor Princess Celestia summing the lesson up in a few sentences. As of "Lesson Zero" other characters can write letters to Celestia as well, and a few episodes involve no closing letter at all, but An Aesop about friendship is still always present.
    • A side formula is always present in episodes involving the Cutie Mark Crusaders, with the three fillies trying to take up some new activity or talent in order to earn their cutie marks (with inevitable failure). Usually this causes some problem or embarrassment that merges into the Friendship Aesop formula above.
    • Another common formula is one of the main characters having a problem, and going to each of her friends in turn looking for a solution.
    • The entire series is run on the following formula: Start out the Season with a 2-Part Story where the ponies are faced with a major threat, spend the next 22 episodes delving in hijinks and Slice of Life stories, then end the Season off with another 2-parter where the ponies are faced with another major threat. There are some exceptions, of course.
  • PAW Patrol: Most episodes will boil down to this: Someone in Adventure Bay has a problem and calls Ryder (who says his catchphrase "No job's too big, no pup's too small"), the group go to the lookout with Marshall crashing into the elevator, 2 of the pups set out with Ryder to solve the problem, end of episode with Ryder saying his other catchphrase "Whenever you're in trouble, just yelp for help!"
    • There are exceptions of course, such as the special episodes having the entire team dispatch.
  • Phineas and Ferb: The title characters decide to take on a ridiculously ambitious project, while their pet Perry the Platypus slips away to adopt his Secret Identity and thwart his Mad Scientist Arch-Enemy Dr. Doofenshmirtz. There's a song, Doofenshmirtz captures Perry. While Perry is trapped Doofenshmirtz explains his Evil Plan to Perry, along with the motivation. Perry escapes and they fight, the boys and their friends enjoy their creation while their big sister Candace runs herself ragged trying to bust them to their mother. Doof is thwarted, the results of his scheme coincidently hide the evidence of P&F's activities, and Candace is left with nothing except maybe a Throw the Dog a Bone moment. Having established this formula, the show then riffs around it, subverting or double subverting parts of it, and leaving it behind for the odd episode. The formula is so recognizable that they were able to pull off an episode with no intelligible dialogue set in caveman-times and still have it be completely obvious what was going on and what the characters were saying just based on the formula and running gags.
  • The Popeye cartoons have gotten an unfair reputation as being this, but while that does apply to the bulk of the Famous Studios shorts, this is surprisingly not the case with the Fleischer Studios Popeye cartoons. Despite the notoriety of the spinach cliche and the characters love triangle, more than half of their shorts eschew the latter formula or have some clever variation of it. Out of the 109 Fleischer shorts, 49 of them (close to half of them) don't feature Bluto at all. Even shorts that do feature both Bluto and the spinach have clever gags and unique situations built around them—one short, "Fighting Pals", twists the formula by having Popeye tearing through a jungle in search of Bluto, and when he's clearly battered and fatigued from his endless search, Bluto ends up saving his life with the spinach! "Lets Celebrake" is completely devoid of conflict, as Popeye lets Olive and Bluto go out together so Popeye can take Olive's grandmother out for New Years Eve. And on top of that, there are 19 of the Fleischer Popeyes where he doesn't eat the spinach, or spinach is absent altogether.note 
  • Puppy Dog Pals:
    • Episodes begin with Bingo and/or Rolly or Keia doing an activity
    • Bob (and occasionally someone else) wants to do or needs something
    • Something goes wrong
    • Bob leaves for work
    • ARF tells Bingo, Rolly, and occasionally Keia what they need to do on their mission
    • The puppies gear up for their mission
    • They encounter their destination
    • They encounter the problem
    • They meet another character from the destination
    • The guest character helps them fix the problem
    • A song is performed
    • The puppies find something to help fix the problem
    • The puppies return home
    • Bob comes home from work
    • He finds out that the problem is fixed
    • Bob does what he desired to do at the beginning of the episode
  • Redakai boasts an oddly rigid structure where a fight must happen at act one, and then another fight as the climax for each episode which the good guys win. Sadly, they are often poorly done and prevent the episodes from setting up any atmosphere, partly thanks to the power-up scenes that go into each one. It is particularly obvious in some episodes that the battles are just shoehorned in and destroy otherwise salvageable plots.
  • Regular Show plots tend to follow a formula; a character has a conflict, initial attempts to resolve the conflict fail and eventually characters trying to resolve the conflict leads to a bizarre confrontation with a supernatural, ultra-powerful and/or over-the-top obstacle or monster. Usually between the second and third stages there's a montage.
  • Scooby-Doo. Every episode will involve a trap that they have to bribe Scooby with Scooby Snacks for, and it will go horribly awry but succeed in getting the Monster of the Week anyway Despite the Plan. Said monster will turn out to be a man in disguise, and he would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for You Meddling Kids!
    • And the solution is explained in each episode using clues that weren't revealed to the audience until the end.
    • Subsequent movies and revival series departed from this formula by featuring actual monsters.
  • In Sheep in the Big City, General Specific needs to capture Sheep for his sheep-powered ray gun. Every episode has the same plot: General Specific gets another chance to capture Sheep. Chase Scenes occur as the secret military organization tries to grab Sheep. Each episode changes how General Specific tries to nab Sheep, and what else Sheep was doing in the Big city. But the outcome is always the same: The military surrounds or captures Sheep for a moment, but Sheep always escapes, and by the end of each episode, Sheep is always out of danger.
  • Shimmer and Shine did this in the first season. Leah and Zac are doing something, then Leah calls Shimmer and Shine, who are in Zahramay Falls also doing something, and fly on their magic carpet to the human world. The genies work to help Leah with whatever she wants to do, along with granting the wishes she makes, but since they're still genies in training, they take her wishes differently and too literally. Nevertheless, the problem is solved in the end without any wishes and all, and it ends with the twins returning home.
  • While The Simpsons isn't a strictly formula show, there is a pattern in many episodes.
    • The creators have a lot of material to work off of with their characters, so what usually happens is that a member of the Simpsons family (usually Bart or Homer) purposefully or inadvertently destroy the life of a secondary character and are then driven by guilt to help them, though it isn't always the fault of the family. Sometimes the character will even end up staying at the Simpsons' home until their life is put back in order. Some examples include: "Krusty Gets Busted", "When Flanders Failed", "Like Father, Like Clown", "Bart the Lover", "The Otto Show", "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?", "Krusty Gets Kancelled", "Homer and Apu", and "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song". And that is just from the first five seasons, as it gets more prevalent in later seasons, to the point where it is the basis for The Movie.
    • The formula "the Simpsons visit X state/country/continent" is used frequently, often lampshaded with Homer announcing, "The Simpsons are going to X!"
    • A number of episodes, from all eras of the show, involve Homer and Marge breaking up, or nearly so, over something especially boorish, selfish and thoughtless that Homer does. Occasionally there's a variation in which mutual stubbornness is the cause. They inevitably reconcile by the conclusion.
    • The Show Within a Show, The Itchy and Scratchy Show, also revolves around the strict formula of Itchy playing psychotic pranks on Scratchy that inevitably leave him comically disemboweled or killed. The show seems to poke fun at cartoon writers' inability to diverse from the formula, with several episodes revolving around the cartoon taking a new direction or gimmick, and being significantly poorer in quality.
    • Many episodes also feature Homer getting a new job. He's been an astronaut, voice actor, inventor, etc.
    • On later seasons, a good amount on episodes are based on one member of The Simpsons (and a few times the whole familiy or a side character) meeting a new character voiced by a Special Guest Star, who has a heavy 2010s personality that makes sharp contrast with the Simpsons' 90s personalities. Everything comes down to a climax, and the character gets a reason for never being seen again.
  • South Park: A lot of jokes are Refuge in Audacity comedy about taboo subjects other shows wouldn't dare to touch and often tie in directly with events that happened in the week of broadcast. Celebrities will randomly appear and be humiliated, often by dying in horribly violent death. The same will inevitably happen to Kenny, though he will return to life following the end of the episode. The entire town will get involved in a media frenzy, hype or public outrage, only Stan and Kyle remain the voice of reason and provide an aesop or Broken Aesop near the end. Every Real Life activist, group, organization, party, religion,... will be made a Butt-Monkey and be simplistically mispresented too for Rule of Funny. It's even lampshaded in the episode "Butt Out" when Kyle discovered that it's been done before, and the episode ended like it was, much to his disappointment.
    • Parodied in one episode, where we see trailers for upcoming comedy movies starring Rob Schneider. In the past few years, Rob had done two movies, The Hot Chick and The Animal, which both focused on an everyman character being turned into something else, at which Hilarity Ensues as he learns that being a [x] is harder than it looks. Consequently, the episode features multiple fake trailers for films that follow the exact same pattern as those movies—first Rob gets turned into a carrot, then a stapler, and then we see one trailer where the whole thing is complete gibberish and yet you can still figure out it's following the usual formula. It concludes with Rob Schneider accidentally getting possessed by Kenny, which is shown as following the exact same formula.
  • Special Agent Oso: Oso does a training assignment and fails. He is then called away to help a child by Mr. Dos and Paw Pilot assigns Oso "three special steps" to complete the task. Paw Pilot then starts singing about the mission as a strange music video is shown. When he arrives, Oso follows the steps carefully when helping the child, needing the audience's help for very simple tasks. As the final step is completed in the nick of time, Oso returns to complete his training exercise, using the knowledge he got from his mission to earn his training award. Oso then receives a special assignment digi-medal for helping the child. The episode finishes off with a corny one-liner.
  • Super Why!: One of the kids will have a (mundane) problem; the Super Readers gather in the clubhouse to discuss it; they (magically) choose a book to find the answer; they enter it in their "Y-Flyers"; they read the story and decide to help its characters; they even do it in the same order (first Alpha Pig, then Wonder Red and/or Princess Presto, and finally Super Why, each one giving a spelling/reading lesson in the process with the help of the audience) and then solve the story by changing its ending (by swapping a word in the text); they then return to the clubhouse, where, with the 'Super Letters' they gathered in their Super Duper Computer along the way, they spell a phrase that gives the answer to their problem as well.
  • The 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series follows this formula in many episodes that don't involve Shredder and Krang causing havoc with their fully powered Technodrome or appearances of minor villains. Most episodes involve Shredder and Krang steal a state-of-the-art equipment or a power source which the turtles defend and save the day.
  • Thomas & Friends:
    • The stories written by the Rev. W. Awdry have common elements. Two engines disagree on something; one being in the right and the other being in the wrong. The wrong engine always gets their comeuppance and is punished, with the right engine asserting themself and being rewarded.
    • Series 8-16 followed a similar format. An engine is given a job to do, but something stops them from doing the job right, either by taking a shortcut, doing something different, or adding something to make it seem better. After doing this three times, everything goes downhill, Sir Topham Hatt scolds them ("You have caused confusion and delay!"), and they proceed to correct their mistake. The job is finished in the nick of time, and ends with an Everybody Laughs Ending.
  • Many ThunderCats (1985) episodes followed the formula of Mumm-ra transforming and hatching his evil plan, Lion-O using his sword's Sight Beyond Sight ability, getting into trouble with the Monster of the Week that necessitates using the Sword of Omens to call upon the others and then taking the problem down with the combined team.
  • Tom and Jerry can be summed up as this: Cat and Mouse chase each other until Tom (or Jerry in some cases) loses. John Kricfalusi (creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show) sums the formula in the funniest way:
    "Tom and Jerry is about as uninspired a cartoon series as was ever created. It's pure generic cartoon thinking of the time. What is a cartoon? Uh... it's where a cat chases a mouse and there is lots of hurt and noise and mayhem. It's hard to be more basic than that, so Bill and Joe didn't fix something that wasn't broken for 15 or 16 years. For that whole period they didn't even try to create new characters."
    • In fairness there were variations, especially in the later shorts. Sometimes a third member would come into the fray, which either became a common foe the two teamed up against, or one of them tried to play against the other. In some cartoons they are even allies who try to avoid a mutual dilemma (eg. playing Badly Battered Babysitter to a runaway infant).
  • Most Total Drama episodes start with some sort of conflict between two or more campers, a challenge which plays off that conflict (which takes up most of the episode), and an elimination ceremony that will resolve it unless the conflict is over several episodes (except for when they didn't do an elimination). It makes it extremely difficult to vary the amount of screentime, leading to Ensemble Dark Horse and Spotlight-Stealing Squad for multiple characters.
  • Totally Spies!: Meet villain of the episode, girls having some problem in their personal lives, Jerry whoops them away and explains the situation, go on mission, run into villain, one or all girls get captured or discovered, one or all of them gets mutated / brainwashed etc, break free, confront villains, beat them, change back to normal. End episode. Sometime the plots factor into the daily life problems, sometimes not.
  • Cartoons produced by Total Television are notorious for being this, most notably Underdog, Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, Go Go Gophers, The World Of Commander McBragg, and others. The fact that the entire studio's output was written by just two people probably contributed to this.
  • Wallace & Gromit: Not all of them, but mostly it's: Wallace and Gromit opens new business. Business don't go so well. Wallace invents crazy new device to help business. Gromit makes a face. New invention goes awry/falls into the wrong hands/etc. Big action chase scene at the end. Gromit makes Aside Glance.
  • On Wild Animal Baby Explorers, the Explorers are outside doing something when one of them wonders something related to animals. They decide to go exploring and sing the song "Let's explore, more and more / There's so much to do and see! (Wild Animal Baby!) / Let's explore, there's fun galore / In making new discoveries." They begin exploring and at some point meet up with Miss Sally, their mentor, who has useful info for them. Sometime during the exploration, Sammy the skunk hides and they have to find him. Eventually, the exploration comes to an end and they say "Out and about, over and out!" They then talk about what their favorite thing they saw was on the exploration and then one of them prompts the others to imitate something they saw one of the animals they explored doing. As they do this, recap footage begins playing of animals explored in the episode as a Bragging Theme Tune of sorts plays, talking about their exploration and how they're "the greatest bunch in history." After a brief coda, the episode ends.
  • This is how a typical season of Winx Club plays out; a new villain is introduced once per season, he/she attacks the city or any place, the girls use their transformations that are right from previous seasons but fail to defeat it, a new set of mini characters will appear (ex. the pets) that are later thrown into limbo right in the next season, new characters appear to give the six girls new transformations, then they now use them to defeat the villains. Sometimes either the transformations stay permanent throughout the season or sometimes they gain some little transformations or transformations with some stupid dancing even though the world is in danger (Butterflix anyone?), and finally, the girls defeat the main villain and celebrate at the end.
  • Wunschpunsch manages to take this trope to Scooby-Doo-like levels. Each episode follows this pattern: We see the villains shower attention upon their pets or going about their daily business (Bubonic commonly cooks, Tyrannia works on her appearance). Maledictus T. Maggot shows up and berates them for not having cast any evil spells lately and forces them to cooperate. The villains berate each other for their lack of achievement before coming up with an idea for a spell. They use their combined power to cast the spell. Their pets witness the resulting devastation and plot to stop it before it becomes permanent. They fail to find a solution and seek out the aid of a wise turtle who gives them a cryptic riddle. Meanwhile, the villains take jabs at each other as they revel in their wickedness. The animals figure out the riddle and reverse the spell at the last minute. Maggot shows up and gives the villains their Cool and Unusual Punishment. The animals rejoice.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Formula Fiction, Recycled Plot


RDC World 1 - Shonen Anime

A Parody of the Shonen Anime formula by a black anime fan

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / StrictlyFormula

Media sources:

Main / StrictlyFormula