Every now and then, the writer of a script for one series will write a similar script for another series. It’s very interesting when that happens, especially when the parallels are quite glaring and easily picked out!
I believe I first saw it happen when an episode of Remington Steele closely followed the plot of the season 2 Diagnosis Murder episode where they go on the set of The Young and the Restless. The Steele episode didn’t involve that soap opera, but the details of the mystery were so similar regardless that I couldn’t help noticing.
Usually there’s enough differences that both versions are enjoyable. But on a more recent occasion when I saw this happen, the remake was so grossly similar to the original (even lifting the exact same lines and giving them to completely different characters!), that it was very difficult for me to fully enjoy the remake. The episodes in question here are an early Six Million Dollar Man venture where someone’s trying to kill Oscar on an airplane and a Bionic Woman remake where they’re after Rudy instead. (I prefer the Oscar version. Naturally.) They did try to make a few things different the second time around, including the addition of an amorous passenger crushing on Jaime, but overall the episodes were so extremely similar all the way along that it was seriously cringe-worthy. And in this case, with one show being a spin-off of the other, it’s highly likely that many viewers saw both versions.
I must admit that I myself enjoy recycling certain plots or plot elements between stories for assorted series. However, I certainly do not recycle dialogue in large quantities and give it to other characters! Since my love is character interaction, and all characters are different, the stories (and the dialogue!) come out different every time. Some basic themes are the same or similar, but I always try to make the majority of the details of the plots different for each attempt.
This past week I had out a Mannix disc. And I discovered that a particular season 3 episode, Murder Revisited, bears some striking plot similarities with the season 9 Perry episode The Midnight Howler. This is no doubt because Orville Hampton was partially responsible for the storyline of the Mannix episode (even though IMDB.com doesn’t credit him for it). Although he did not write Perry’s The Midnight Howler, he was, of course, one of the story consultants at the time and most likely thought of and remembered the unique plot when writing the Mannix episode. Robert E. Kent wrote The Midnight Howler, so a shout-out should be given to him for thinking of that very interesting plot.
Instead of an obnoxious radio host, for Murder Revisited we have an obnoxious television host. But he still calls the murder victim on the air, the murder still (supposedly) happens on the air, and Mannix eventually proves that the call was a recording and the guy was already dead at the time—killed by the television host.
Other details are different from The Midnight Howler. Instead of a custody battle over a son, we have Perry alumnus Arlene Martel playing twin sisters, one of whom is tricked into going to the murder house and ends up arrested for the crime. And the victim and the murderer don’t have the same connection with each other that they do in The Midnight Howler. But the crime itself is so unusual and unique that one can’t help but be put in mind of the earlier Perry venture.
I think it’s generally neat when writers reuse specific plots or plot elements, as Orville Hampton did here. (Just as long as they don’t overdo the connections, as in the Bionic Woman episode Fly, Jaime. Oy vey!) Perhaps they really like the particular plots and want to use them again when it seems fitting. And perhaps, in the past at least, they often didn’t think anyone would remember the similar plots. When I spotted the Remington Steele episode and its similarities to the Diagnosis Murder one, I was told that the writers consider it a compliment when someone is paying enough attention to the scripts they write to notice when there are similar plots. Well, since Robert E. Kent wrote The Midnight Howler, I will consider it a compliment to him that I recognized elements from his script in Murder Revisited.
And speaking of writing, I am happy to report that my Meddling Medium sequel is underway and moving swimmingly. I now know the basic plot for the entire story, and although I am writing it as one long oneshot, I will probably post it in several pieces, as I did with last year’s Halloween story. Last year’s story just got too long to possibly think of posting it all in one piece!