Show writers recycling plots from one show to another

Let’s be generous and call it “recycling” rather than self-plagiarizing. Does it bother you when you notice that writers are doing that?

John Shiban and Kim Manners were two of the most prolific writers for The X-Files and now both work on Supernatural writing and directing. And there are episodes that are lifted almost whole cloth from one series to another. I don’t mean that they’re just thematically similar (both shows had episodes about wendigo and so forth) but that they’re virtually the same scene by scene but they changed the setting and characters’ names (like some not very good fanfiction, actually).


Demons - X-Files season 4
Mulder wakes up one morning in a motel room with someone else’s blood all over him. When he calls Scully he finds out he’s been missing for several more days than he can remember.

Born Under A Bad Sign - Supernatural season 2
Sam contacts Dean after being missing for a week. When they reunite, Dean finds Sam covered in blood and with no recollection of what happened.

Monday - X-Files season 6
A woman is forced to relive the same day over and over as she tries to prevent Mulder and Scully from being killed by her boyfriend during a bank robbery attempt.

Mystery Spot - Supernatural season 3
Dean is killed after looking into a case about the disappearance of a man with Sam. The next morning, Sam is shocked to find Dean alive and is hit with the realization that he is reliving the day before over and over again.

Watch the pairs and you’ll have a stronger sense of deja-vu than Mulder does in Monday. I have a niggling feeling there’s one more pair of episodes like this, but I can’t think of what it is off the top of my head.

Anyway… what do you think about doing this sort of thing?

Well, I’m a fan of both shows, so I don’t mind. :smiley: They’re all cribbing from The Twilight Zone anyways…

Are there any noticeably similar plots shared out between Grey’s Anatomy, House, and Scrubs? curious

Douglas Adams recycled his Doctor Who scripts in other works… Although at least he has the excuse that *Robots Of Krikkit *was never made, and *Shada *was not completed. But there’s no excuse for recycling City Of Death.

Here are some episode descriptions from “My Favorite Husband,” a radio show starring Lucille Ball and whose writers included Jess Oppenheimer, Madelyn Pugh Davis, and Bob Carroll, Jr. They may look familiar.

12/11/48:“Respective Moustaches”
My Favorite Husband Episode 22
Story: Liz puts on a fake mustache to show George how ridiculous his real one looks, but by mistake she uses cement instead of spirit gum, and it won’t come off.

My Favorite Husband Episode 49
Story: Liz and George’s visit to their next-door neighbors, the Stones, turns into a disaster when George tries to repair the Stones’ new television set by himself.

4/23/50: “Liz Appears on Television”
My Favorite Husband Episode 85
Story: Liz and Iris make an appearance on a television show celebrating Friendship Week. Their friendship is tested, though, when they discover they’ve bought the same dress for the occasion.

9/9/50: “Gossip”
My Favorite Husband Episode 96
Story: The boys bet the girls $25 that the girls will be caught gossiping before the boys are, then pretend to talk in their sleep about a juicy story, which they made up.

12/30/50: “Liz Has the Flimjabs”
My Favorite Husband Episode 112
Story: Liz fakes illness in an effort to convince George to buy her a mink coat.

1/27/51: “George Is Drafted - Liz’s Baby”
My Favorite Husband Episode 116
Story: George gets a letter asking him to serve on the local draft board, and Liz thinks he’s been drafted.

3/24/51: “Iris and Liz’s Easter”
My Favorite Husband Episode 124
Story: The boys make a deal with the girls–if Liz and Iris can slim down to the same dress size they wore ten years ago, George and Rudolph will buy each of them a whole new Easter outfit.

There are about 20 more obvious examples here:

People commented on the similarity between Kramer being mistaken for being mentally handicapped and Kevin from The Office suffering the same fate. I thought both were hilarious.

Note that the OP asked about instances of writers recycling their own stories from one series to another. If we tried listing every example of shows using storylines that had been used before, hamsters would die.

In the 70s, old I Love Lucy recycles showed up on sitcoms all the time. As I recall.

I lived in Japan from 1982 to 1984 and religiously watched a number of Samurai shows. I couldn’t understand a word (actually not many were spoken a la spagetti westerns) but I knew every plot line and twist from TV westerns in the 1950s and 60s.

You guys are still not getting it. The OP is looking for a particular writer recycling their own scripts.

I don’t think Aaron Sorkin recycled plots, but he used lines from Sports Night in The West Wing.

Certainly, women in both shows have been described as having legs “that go all the way to the floor” and fathers in both shows have told their children the only thing they needed to do to make them proud “was to come home at the end of the day.”

I won’t deal with the first pair, because I honestly can’t remember what happened in the *X-Files * episode and the Supernatural episode didn’t really light my fire.

But I really liked both shows in the second pair, and they took their similar premises in such different directions that I can’t complain. “Monday” was a setting-right-what-once-went-wrong story. “Mystery Spot,” if you think about it, was a setting-wrong-what-probably-would-have-been-just-fine story.

I think the biggest difference is that in ‘Monday’, we never actually find out what causes the time loop. Killing Pam stops it, but it’s not clear if she’s doing it subconsciously or someone / something else is doing it or it’s just some weird random thing going on.

Whereas in ‘Mystery Spot’, it’s made obvious the Trickster is doing it to help Sam, in his own special messed-up way, deal with Dean’s impending death. The whole thing isn’t nearly as random and out-of-the-blue.

Yup, sorry about that. I’ll stress the hamster wheel to make this reply.

If you keep a show on long enough, you see the same stories being re-used in the same series.

Season 1, Episode 5: Help, Help, Don’t Save Me
Original Air Date: 15 October 1964
Darrin refuses to use Samantha’s ideas for an advertising campaign when he thinks they are the product of witchcraft.

Season 8, Episode 24: A Good Turn Never Goes Unpunished
Original Air Date: 11 March 1972
When Sam makes some suggestions for Darrin’s ad campaign, he rejects them thinking that they are the product of witchcraft.

Season 3, Episode 17: The Mail Goes to Jail
Original Air Date: 7 February 1985
Diane gets stuck underneath the bar while trying to check the heating system.

Season 10, Episode 14: No Rest for the Woody
Original Air Date: 9 January 1992
The bar’s furnace is on the fritz, so Rebecca calls the furnace company to fix the problem. While she’s got them on the phone, she has to crawl in through the vent in the wall - usually covered by a grate - to get some information. Carla uses this opportunity to put the grate back into place and leave Rebecca locked in the vent in the wall.