Same But Different Movies & TV Shows
August 18, 2009 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Looking for "the same, but different" movies or TV shows.

Just made the depressing discovery that a TV script I've been working on (and am pleased with) has been done before. Not just "kinda similar," but the exact premise as a fairly recent episode of a hugely popular show.

I realize that this is not uncommon; ideas and story lines are constantly borrowed and redone, and this is all par for the course in Scriptland. I'm just trying to decide whether to scrap the whole thing and move on to something else, or to try to tweak my current script so that it's funnier/more clever/more original to the point of a viable "new" story.

So, my question: what movies/TV shows do you know of that have unmistakably, remarkably similar premises or story lines, but are distinct in their own right?

Not looking for examples of remakes (e.g., the two versions of Psycho); a good example of what I'm looking for would be Girlfight and Million Dollar Baby. Both about female boxers overcoming prejudice and their own fears, but each its own story, with differences in character, setting, etc.

What other examples can you think of?
posted by Rykey to Media & Arts (42 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
30 Rock and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip both take place behind the scenes at an SNL-type sketch comedy show. Only 30 Rock is still alive, though.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:26 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, Aaron Sorkin's series tend have repeated plot devices between -- I'll try to think of/scour plot summaries for more specific examples, but there are episodes of Sports Night and of West Wing where the characters basically go through exactly the same things. (Maybe not always the whole episode, but a single character's story). Perhaps see: Jeremy dating Jenny (the porn star) vs. Sam dating Laurie (the call girl), but there are a lot of others too.
posted by brainmouse at 10:27 AM on August 18, 2009

As mentioned in Family guy, almost every single dance movie ever is a "I'm rich and you're poor but lets dance anyway and fall in love and surprise everyone". Seriously, think about it. Dirty Dancing, Step Up, Save the last Dance, Strictly Ballroom.... the list goes on.
posted by gwenlister at 10:28 AM on August 18, 2009

I honestly never really saw that there was that much of a difference between Everybody Loves Raymond, According To Jim, The King of Queens, or Yes, Dear.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:29 AM on August 18, 2009

what movies/TV shows do you know of that have unmistakably, remarkably similar premises or story lines

TV Tropes has a few examples of recycled premises and scripts.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:31 AM on August 18, 2009

The Mentalist and Psych leap to mind. Psych even poked fun at the similarities in a recent episode.
posted by cerebus19 at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2009

La Femme Nikita & Alias... although in the former she's forced to do it and in Alias she joins on her own (despite being lied to about it). La Femme Nikita (on USA) was cancelled a year or so before Alias started, if I remember correctly.
posted by Bunglegirl at 10:35 AM on August 18, 2009

I never saw Made of Honor, but isn't it the same plot as My Best Friend's Wedding?
posted by yawper at 10:38 AM on August 18, 2009

Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire.

The Secret of my Success and Working Girl. Annoyingly similar plot details.
posted by Melismata at 10:40 AM on August 18, 2009

Not the same plot, but 2006 was a popular year for movies about 19th century magicians: e.g. The Prestige and The Illusionist.
posted by witchstone at 10:44 AM on August 18, 2009

In addition to the TV Tropes pages burnmp3s links to, you might also be interested in Follow The Leader, Dueling Movies, and Dueling Shows.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:46 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

A Bug's Life and Antz

Twilight and True Blood (yes, True Blood is better, but both have you thinking it's a show about vampires, and then BOOM, they've got werewolves too.)

X Animated Film about young pampered animal being left in the woods and forced to fend for itself, grow up, and learn valuable life lessons.
posted by scrutiny at 10:48 AM on August 18, 2009

Not overarching series premises, but within 2 weeks of each other in 2007 House and Scrubs each had an episode in which the patient's mysterious illness was explained when their head was shaved to reveal the bulls-eye rash characteristic of a lyme-disease-causing tick bite.
posted by vytae at 10:55 AM on August 18, 2009

Excellent responses so far! Thanks and keep 'em coming...
posted by Rykey at 11:01 AM on August 18, 2009

Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie are the same show.

Based on the trailer, it looks like Bangkok Dangerous is a non-comedy version of Grosse Pointe Blank.

And 30 Rock is the Dick Van Dyke Show.
posted by The World Famous at 11:04 AM on August 18, 2009

I just saw the movie K-Pax, which has a lot of similarities to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next
posted by radioamy at 11:06 AM on August 18, 2009

and then of course, 1998 was the year about asteroids hitting Earth: Deep Impact & Armageddon
posted by witchstone at 11:10 AM on August 18, 2009

Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie are the same show.

Actually I think there's a fundamental difference between the two (and Rykey did ask for shows that are "distinct in their own right," after all). Jeannie screws things up herself. It's rarely Samantha who is causing the trouble; instead, she has to clean up after her family.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:17 AM on August 18, 2009

I (unfortunately) just saw the movie Definitely, Maybe and could not stop thinking that it uses the exact same premise as the TV show How I Met Your Mother -- i.e., a father explaining to his kid his relationships with women, and eventually revealing who the kid's mother is. But the show and the movie are totally different, with Definitely, Maybe serving as an example of how to screw up an idea that works perfectly in How I Met Your Mother.
posted by crLLC at 11:18 AM on August 18, 2009

Frasier often reused premises within the span of its 11 seasons. One example that leaps to mind is the mistaken-as-gay/pretending-to-be-gay storyline (as seen in The Matchmaker, Out With Dad, and The Doctor is Out).
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 11:24 AM on August 18, 2009

Forever Knight and Angel were both about old vampires seeking redemption through crime fighting in a urban setting that told back story through flashbacks. (You could probably find a lot of basic similarities in all shows dealing with vampires.)
posted by carmen at 11:28 AM on August 18, 2009

Joan of Arcadia and Wonderfalls have very similar premises, and the lead actresses even look similar. The two shows were developed around the same time, but Joan of Arcadia made it to television several months earlier, which may have contributed to Wonderfalls' very early cancellation.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:47 AM on August 18, 2009

My Little Margie, Gidget, The Rifleman, Bonanza, Make Room for Daddy, Courtship of Eddie's Father, The Andy Griffith Show, Family Affair, Flipper, Full House, My Three Sons, Diff’rent Strokes, Arrested Development, My Two Dads, (widowed fathers raising kids by themselves) This has always bothered me because they are so over-represented on tv whereas in real life widowed fathers are pretty rare and 9 times out of ten remarry within a year. So it's not like the writers got the idea from real life - they got the idea from watching tv.

But I always thought that Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie were the classic example of shows that ripped each other off but no one knows which came first and in the big picture no one really cares that they are so similar
posted by cda at 11:56 AM on August 18, 2009

Between October 1987 and April 1988, there were three mainstream movies about a father and son (or grandson) switching bodies. They were Like Father Like Son (Dudley Moore and Kirk Cameron, October 1987), Vice Versa (Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage, March 1988), and 18 Again! (George Burns and Charlie Schlatter, April 1988).

I have always remembered this, because I remember seeing commercials and thinking, "another one"?

If you throw in Big (June 1988), that makes three and a half.
posted by Tin Man at 12:08 PM on August 18, 2009

Ocean's (Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen) and the TV series Leverage are very, very similiar (even down to the music at times). There are some slight variations here and there, but basically each episode of Leverage is like a miniaturized Ocean's movie.

Also, "Antz" and "A Bug's Life" immediately sprung to mind.
posted by DiamondGFX at 12:15 PM on August 18, 2009

Forever Knight and Moonlight were both Vampire Cop TV shows. You wouldn't expect that premise to get recycled.
posted by adamrice at 12:21 PM on August 18, 2009

My favorite: out-of-place teacher takes an unruly band of misfits and turns them into an awesome musical group! Sister Act 2, School of Rock, Take the Lead, the new TV show Glee. Expand it a bit and you can include more serious movies like Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers...

Along the lines of "Antz" and "A Bug's Life," the Disney movie "The Wild" had the exact same premise as "Madagascar." Whether the rest of the movie was similar, I don't know, because like most people, I didn't see "The Wild."
posted by lampoil at 12:25 PM on August 18, 2009

K-Pax may resemble One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest, but it's a carbon copy of A Man Facing Southeast.

A few years back there were two TV shows both about someone in their mid-30s going back in time to relive their teenage years - Do Over and That Was Then. (Though you could argue they're both Peggy Sue Got Married).

Apropos of Tin Man's comment, Why Haven't There Been Any Good Father-Son Mind-Transfer Comedies Lately?
posted by O9scar at 12:34 PM on August 18, 2009

The Flintstones and The Honeymooners.
posted by applemeat at 1:01 PM on August 18, 2009

Jezebel just compared scenes in Entourage to scenes in Sex and the City.
posted by brainmouse at 1:10 PM on August 18, 2009

Quantum Leap and Early Edition were the same show (for unknown reasons, an everyday guy and his best friend have to put things right for people, because only they know what's about to happen), only sort of backwards (in QL, the guy came from the future to the past; in EE, the guy was in the present, but he had tomorrow's newspaper). The tone, setting, and characters were very different, though.

Journeyman also looks like it's the same show -- and more of a straight ripoff of QL than "we had a similar idea", perhaps -- but I haven't seen enough of it to comment. Tru Calling also looks like it has the same "putting right what once went wrong" idea, but it combines that with the repeating-day conceit from Groundhog Day.
posted by vorfeed at 1:19 PM on August 18, 2009

The X-Files and the currently-on-TV-in-its-first-season Warehouse 13. Both have the quirky, intuitive guy partnered with the more rational, straitlaced female partner; both have The Government (in Warehouse 13, it's the Secret Service instead of the FBI); both have Explore Paranormal Phenomena as their driving force.
posted by rtha at 1:45 PM on August 18, 2009

She's Having 3 Men and a Baby Boom.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:04 PM on August 18, 2009

There are several pairs of shows that have similar premises, characters and themes but different genres. Blossom and My So-Called Life, for instance, both revolved around smart, independent teenage girls with an interesting fashion sense, bad-boy love interest, quirky best friends and "hip" parents. But Blossom, as a multicamera sitcom, had a very different feel from MSCL's hourlong drama.

Similarly, both Scrubs and Grey's Anatomy are about medical interns coming of age in a hospital, both involve lots of quirky patients whose weird ailments highlight the theme of the week, both have voiceovers by the main character and both mix humor and pathos. But again, the difference in genre gives the two shows completely different tones.
posted by lunasol at 4:26 PM on August 18, 2009

Oh, also, Joey from Friends is the same character as Tony Danza's character on Taxi.
posted by The World Famous at 4:47 PM on August 18, 2009

Cars and Doc Hollywood.
posted by eafarris at 6:08 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Jeannie screws things up herself. It's rarely Samantha who is causing the trouble; instead, she has to clean up after her family.

Also Samantha is married to Derwood Darrin, whereas Jeannie is much more Tony's subordinate.
posted by crossoverman at 10:44 PM on August 18, 2009

Just the shot in the arm I needed. I think I'm gonna go for it. Thanks!
posted by Rykey at 3:55 AM on August 19, 2009

Three Amigos, A Bugs Life, Galaxy Quest, and Tropic Thunder all fit in the "misfit entertainers are surprised to find themselves in a real conflict but get the courage to rise to the challenge using unconventional means." Each is still pretty good on its own.
posted by AgentRocket at 5:55 AM on August 19, 2009

Oh, and find the video "Dude, Where's My Hangover?" on College Humor's site. It does a great job showing how closely The Hangover resembles Dude Where's My Car, with similar direction choices and everything. Yet no one rejects The Hangover as it's own movie, and it takes some thought to even connect the two despite all the similar plot devices.
posted by AgentRocket at 6:00 AM on August 19, 2009

Northern Exposure and Men in Trees.
posted by acorncup at 7:05 PM on September 5, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and True Blood are both about blonde, hot, supernaturally-abled young women dealing with an overabundance of vampires in their small towns.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:13 AM on September 6, 2009

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