Recycling TV ideas

Having seen most of the “Adam-12” episodes, and all of the “Dragnet” episodes (the late 60s version), Jack Webb, or his writers, apparently recycled various character names between two series. Guess it was easier than trying to come up with twice as many names. They were especially fond of “Harry Rustin,” and some permutations of it, like “Harold F. Rustin,” and “Harry Rosten.”

In “Quantum Leap,” there was a seldom-seen, but oft-mentioned “Gooshie” (sp?), portrayed, when necessary, by the late Dennis Wolfberg. Donald Bellisario had a previous series called “Tales of the Gold Monkey,” which also included a recurring character named “Gooshie,” although I don’t remember the actor.

In the short-lived 1983 TV series “Manimal,” episode “Illusion,” there is a scene in which a cab driver (who is one of the bad guys) tells his passengers that he has to step out for a minute. The passengers smell a trap, and have to bust their way out of the now-locked cab before it explodes. This same scene was repeated in “Automan” two months later in episode “The Great Pretender,” also dealing with magicians, with the same actor playing the cabbie. The two series had the same producer.

And this isn’t a coincidence, but more of an homage. In a recent episode of [sup]1[/sup]“Cleopatra 2525,” there is a scene in which Cleo is told she will have to pretend she’s a cyborg (in the series, called “Baileys”). Cleo then says, “No problem,” and goes about walking robotically chanting “Crush! Kill! Destroy!.” This was the same line vocalized by the IDAK Alpha 12 android in “Lost in Space” episode “Revolt of the Androids.”

[sup]1[/sup] For those that aren’t familiar with this series, here is the premise: In the year 2025, aspiring actress “Cleopatra” is trying to make ends meet by doing some exotic dancing on the side. She goes in to visit a plastic surgeon to get a boob job, but something goes wrong. There is some kind of unknown worldwide catastrophe that puts her into suspended animation, until she is discovered in the year Matrix-like 2525, where “machines rule the earth, mankind has been driven underground, and Cleopatra is about to see. . . ‘there’s no place like home.’” A similar premise sans boob job was used in Gene Roddenberry’s “Genesis II” from 1973. One other thought about “Cleopatra 2525” is that the actress, Jennifer Sky, had big eyes, and she is constantly being put into situations where her already-big eyes are bugging out. And two enhance the effect, here two cohorts have relatively beady eyes.

I’m afraid I don’t have much to add about recycling TV ideas. But the fact that someone out there vividly remembers both Manimal and Automan and watches Cleopatra 2525 worries me a great deal :smiley:

The “suspended animation” and “world wide catastrophe”. Shades of FUTURAMA. And if “machines rule the earth”= Bender is darned funny. The parallels are just creapy. There’s a Heinlein quote [I’m not putting it here. Too lazy to look it up. Some one will surely correct me] about all the good plots are just previous stories with the serial numebers filed off, or some such.

When the same producers re-use characters, or story points, it’s usually an inside gag. See how many people get it. Maybe they’ll watch for more, and your ratings go up.

Most T.V. is just repetitive dreck anyway. Recycling story lines is way easier than thinking up original stuff. And it’s better for the environment. You don’t get old plots just taking up valuable space in landfills.

As for recycling character names, TV shows and movies have to clear character names to make sure that John Smith doesn’t sue them for an invasion of privacy, appropriating his name for profit, etc., and to make sure that the fictional character’s name isn’t too close to someone else’s fictional character (Sherry Bobbins – a totally original concept.) So it makes sense for a production company to recycle names that have been already been approved.

As for actually recycling the stories, remember the old writer’s maxim: there are only 14 plots and Shakespeare did them all.