Have you ever thought “I feel like I’ve seen this before…” when watching a TV show? I have. A lot. I also watch a lot of TV. And so I’ve compiled a list of what I thought were the most common recycled show ideas and a little insight on why they’ve been used THAT many times.
(Note: Most of these shows veer on the side of science-fiction or fantasy and usually ran on SyFy or local stations)
I think since bugs terrify a lot of people, it’s a natural idea to make them the enemy. Usually the bugs are terrorizing a town (luckily a small podunk town/village) and our heroes have to stop the bugs.
- Stargate SG-1 2.10, 9.17, X-Files 1.19, 3.12, 4.21, Supernatural 1.8
Maybe it’s because the actor is getting sick of playing the same old role, but there is ALWAYS an episode that hinges on someone that looks just like our hero(es) but is somehow evil. Maybe they’re a clone, maybe they’re a shapeshifter, who knows. I love that Hercules even went so far as to give Kevin Sorbo that evil goatee (see below). Almost every series I’ve ever watched as had this storyline, including one of my favorite episodes of The X-Files, where a shapeshifter acts as Mulder (Small Potatoes, 4.20).
- Stargate SG-1 1.6, 1.19, 9.9, 10.13, X-Files 4.20, Hercules 2.19, 3.11, 4.5, 4.13/14, Xena 3.8, Legend of the Seeker 1.18, Dark Angel 2.19, Buffy 3.16, 6.22, Supernatural 1.6
Multiple Yous / Silly You
I lumped these two ideas together. Just as we love to see our hero be the villain, we also love to see our hero be completely ridiculous. This can either be just one person (maybe they have found someone they look just like, but that person is an idiot) or maybe the storyline involves multiple yous, allowing for variants of silliness (aka “Multiplicity” starring Michael Keaton, arguably his best film).
- Stargate SG-1 9.13, Hercules 4.5, Xena 2.6, Farscape 2.10, 4.7, Buffy 2.6
Time travel / Alternate future
“What would life be like if…” Maybe it’s current day or maybe they venture into the future, but audiences love to see possible futures or “what if” scenarios. This can either be straight time travel or maybe a wish-granting genie. Either way, we get a whole new world.
- Stargate SG-1 3.6, Hercules 3.19, Farscape 4.11, 4.12, Buffy 3.9
We are invisible!
These episodes likely came at a point where technology could now adequately make someone look invisible. The episodes ALWAYS turn out that the hero touched something/messed with something and was turned invisible. They likely can’t communicate with the other heroes, who have to find a way to bring them back.
- Stargate SG-1 3.21, 9.18, Xena 5.12, Buffy 6.11
Eccentric Guy Knows the Truth
Someone crazy knows the truth and our heroes have to debunk them. The crazy person is usually really crazy, so no one would believe them anyways.
- Stargate SG-1 4.11, 5.12, 8.15, 10.6, X-Files 3.20
Our heroes are usually a band of humans. But TV audiences love when someone unlike the rest joins the team. Examples include Teal’c in SG-1, Spike in Buffy (or really anyone that is a vampire/monster/witch/etc), and even Fez in That 70s Show, being a different version of alien then we’re used to. We love to see the fish out of water storylines of someone different trying to cope with our world/our pop culture references/etc.
Oh boy, you know hilarity is about to ensure when two of our heroes (or maybe a hero and a villain) switch bodies. What kind of hijinks will happen next!? And of course the show always has to show you the actor pretending to be the other character (the masculine lead hero playing the submissive sidekick or the strong female hero playing the bookworm best friend).
- Stargate SG-1 9.19, Xena 2.7, Legend of the Seeker 1.7, Farscape 2.9, Buffy 4.16
We love funny little tributes to our actual society but with a tweak on how we came to be. Stargate created the history of the pyramids, X-Files retold the assassination of JFK, and even Hercules and Xena played with how things were invented and came to be (and I doubt that Caesar and Xena were best buds). Wait, Xena’s not real, is she? *shakes head* I watch too much TV.
- Stargate SG-1 2.21, 9.20, X-Files 4.7, Xena 1.12
So now… Here’s where YOU come in.
I have a pretty limited list of TV shows that I’ve seen. Maybe you know other shows really well and could offer some insight. Reply back to this blog and let me know if other shows have ventured into this same territory and I can add them to the list!