Fleeting Demographic Rule

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

A gimmick or storyline may be reused freely and safely after a few years of dormancy.

Kane buries The Undertaker in 2003 (left), Kane buries The Undertaker in 2010 (right). (Note the different red pattern on Kane's tights in each photo.)

The unwritten rule that, after a given number of years, there has been enough turnover in the fanbase that a writer can re-use the same gimmicks and storylines with impunity.

The general principle applies to any work that is enough of a Long Runner and/or has enough of a Fleeting Demographic to outlast most of its initial fanbase.

For example, during the Silver Age of comics, the writers assumed that their demographic was kids ages 9–11—which would make a two-year turnover safe—and that their demographic rarely read comics frequently enough to notice the repetition. They also believed that even if they did read them often, they wouldn't notice. This has been turned away from in recent times because comics are now written by people who love Continuity; if they make events repeat, then they'll eventually come up with a metaplot to explain it.

Not the same as Older Than They Think, this trope's influence extends to tropes, plots, lines and gimmicks of more recent vintage, that the viewer can be reasonably expected to have seen since it was The Big Cool New Thing just a couple of years ago — and a couple of years before that, and a couple of years before that, and...

Compare Recycled Script. Contrast Spiritual Successor where the writers don't have to pretend this isn't a rehash - because it isn't truly a rehash.

Examples of Fleeting Demographic Rule include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Pokémon anime is particularly bad about this. Easily done because most of it is Filler.
    • Probably the most obvious is that (starting with Hoenn) every time Ash goes to a new region, he meets a girl who will soon be his new traveling companion and accidentally destroys her bicycle,[1] mirroring the beginning of the first season. Likewise, starting with Hoenn he stupidly stops using all of his current Pokémon in favor of catching weaker, untrained ones in the new region. Except for Pikachu, of course.
    • And just picked up on this year with the Pokémon: Best Wishes season, Ash's Pikachu's power level gets reset back to one for some reason. In Hoenn, the cause was a big magnet; Sinnoh didn't have an explanation; but Unova on the other hand sees Pikachu getting overloaded by the new Legendary Pokémon Zekrom, and now can't use electric attacks. He recovered them later although Pikachu still inexplicably loses to low-leveled Pokémon from time to time.
      • Best Wishes worsens the problem in particular, as Ash (who supposedly has four regions' worth of traveling experience under his belt) is making stupid mistakes once again - mistakes that one would typically expect a rookie Trainer to make.
    • One of the most blatant (and non-filler) examples: In Hoenn, Ash enters a PokéRinger event in which flying Pokemon compete to collect rings and place them on goal posts. Ash uses his Taillow, a bird Pokemon, which evolves during the competition and surprises its opponent by hitting the ring onto the goal with its wing, rather than carrying it in its beak. An episode that aired about five years later repeated this plot exactly; just replace Hoenn with Sinnoh. Both episodes even use the exact same background music during their respective climaxes.
    • The series in general is a bit weird about this, since despite the recycled plots, there's still quite a bit of continuity, with references to episodes that aired over ten years prior being made. It gives the impression that the writers are trying to have their cake and eat it too.
  • Waiting in the Summer is a Spiritual Successor of Please Teacher!, almost a walking carbon copy even. Proving why this trope exists, far more people are comparing it to the more recent Ano Hana, despite the only similarities between the two series being they're about a group of high-schoolers, there's romance and the same director is involved.

Comic Books

  • The rule of thumb in the comics business used to be "No one has a memory over five years old." It was believed that readership would turn over in five year cycles, as older kids stopped reading comics, and younger kids started. The notion of a significant number of fans reading comics well into their late teens or adulthood was never really considered in the Golden Age or Silver Age.
    • Reprints were more common in the Silver Age, though still relatively rare in superhero comics. The "five year rule" was probably a more reliable guide for, say, "teen humor" comics, where a story would probably be just as good (or not-so-good) in 1970 as it was in 1965. This was particularly common in Marvel's various Millie the Model titles. A story first printed in Millie the Model might turn up in Mad About Millie or Chili several years later.
    • Note that this really no longer applies in mainstream superhero comic books, where referencing a minor plot point from decades ago is now considered normal and good. "When did Amanada Waller get her hands on a Manhunter robot?" "During the Millenium crossover, 23 years ago. Try to keep up, dude."
      • Cartoons of comics are even worse about this, but at least have an excuse. They can simply say that they are trying to popularize a comic to a younger generation by making a new series. Hence, X-Men is followed by X-Men Generations, Batman by Batman Beyond (which at least makes an attempt to redo the plotline), and numerous Justice League/Superman incarnations.
  • In old-school Silver Age Superman and Superboy comics, plots were reused frequently, and not just in a "this bears a passing resemblance to that other story" way. More like, Jimmy becomes a werewolf under circumstances that are similar to but completely unrelated to the time it happened three years ago. (Real years, not comic years.) Superboy also became the leader of a wolf pack twice. And Lois or Lana got Supes' powers on enough occasions you may as well consider them reserve superheroes.
    • Craig "Mr. Silver Age" Shutt, in his book Baby Boomer Comics, cataloged 53 "duplicated" Superman stories. Typically, the rewrites would be printed 5–15 years after the original stories, but one Lois Lane story was reused only one year after its first telling.
    • Eventually the writers caved and Lana did become a superhero in her own right - Insect Queen. While this has since been retconned away, there is a current Insect Queen in the DC Universe...with the name of Lonna Leing.
    • This happened in the golden age too, when THE EXACT SAME STORIES were sometimes used only with new drawn pictures.
  • The writers of Teen Titans have also maintained a consistent attachment to the concept "Raven goes evil because of her demonic father".
    • This is at least in part because of Marv Wolfman's immense success with the 'New Teen Titans', which was at the time DC's best selling and most highly acclaimed title for a good while. Many storylines attempt to ape the success of his, with some success and some....not so much success at times.
    • Not just Raven. If it's Wednesday, there's a good chance they'll be fighting a group of evil Titans. Or one of them will die.
      • Titans: Paper, Scissors, Stone actually lampshades this last part as an explicit and inseparable part of the Titans mythos, and one that the new group's leader failed to take into account when she set out to recreate the circumstances of the team's forming.
  • Secret Invasion and Civil War, were awfully similar to past Marvel Universe storylines (ROM Spaceknight and many, many old mutant registration acts), and no hero involved noticed (except the Mutants themselves, whose response to the other heroes asking them to get involved in the Registration conflict, after never once helping when the mutants had to deal with such issues, was an emphatic "Sucks, don't it?").
    • And both of these were extremely similar to earlier storylines done in Astro City.
    • Also House of M. How many times have the heroes woken up one morning to see reality has been changed drastically and they need to fix it? Enough that Cap and Hawkeye's reaction back in "The Morgan Conquest" was basically, "Not again!"
  • Spider-Man examples:
    • Used as justification by the editors of Spider-Man for the "One More Day" continuity reboot, under the theory that if they stick to their guns through reader complaints for five years, no one will have enough of an attention span to remember it ever happened. One More Day was published in 2007 and is still canon several continuity shattering events (that didn't change it) latter, people still hate it.
    • "The Clone Saga" hit the Spider-books in the early 90's, with a similar goal. It was widely considered a huge failure, and Marvel ended up backtracking on its big changes.
  • Wonderfully averted in 52. Booster Gold's storyline was originally going to be finding evidence that the time line was broken, falling apart at the seams, and he would need to fix it to restore order. As the four writers of the book got to work though, they realized each of them had been through this before and none of them really wanted to do it again ("Unless there was a prize for being the hundredth people to write one"). Thus before they got too far into the story, they reworked Booster's storyline so that he spent it butting heads with a new hero called Supernova who turns out to be Booster (isn't time travel fun?), which led into a conspiracy about a time-traveling superhero.
  • In The Beano, The Dandy and other British Comics the seven year rule can sometimes apply to reprints. In that they were seven years until they begin to reprint the strip. This is because the usual reader only reads the comic for 4 or 5 years and so there is a lot of reader turnover.
  • X-Men as an entire franchise has arguably been doing this since 1991. Whatever changes are made to characters, most last five or so years before going back to the status quo that Chris Claremont had before he left the book. It's notable that Claremont 'himself' did not subscribe to this, and things kept changing constantly during his run, and never went completely back to normal most of the time.
  • The original run of long-running (1954–93) weekly UK football comic Roy Of The Rovers was hit hard with this; the summer strips generally involved the Melchester Rovers team touring some South American country and getting kidnapped to keep the story exciting. Since Fleetway didn't think anyone would keep reading longer than three years, Roy was kidnapped five times in 10 years. This sort of thing was parodied in the Viz strip Billy the Fish.


  • The Skulls was a halfway decent, forgettable movie. The writers for Anti Trust apparently thought it was so forgettable that, if they changed the bad guys from an Expy of Skull and Bones to an expy of Microsoft, no one would call them on it.
  • The trailers for Spy Kids 4D are hyping the Smell-O-Vision as if it's a new, revolutionary thing.
    • Not to mention, it came out eight years after the prior entry in the series, Spy Kids 3D, and ten years since the first one. The children who were in the target audience when the original films came out are all grown up while the children currently in the target audience will have probably never heard of the series before (after all, it didn't exactly stay in the public consciousness after it left theaters). As such, the franchise was essentially remarketed as though new.
  • Pretty much the only differences between The Karate Kid and Sidekicks are that the second one has Chuck Norris, and was made eight years later.


  • Used in-universe in Watership Down, due to rabbits' short lifespan. The main events of the novel are the stuff of legend some five years later, and humans are portrayed as driving cars and smoking cigarettes in the mythic past.
  • The production notes for episodes of Stationery Voyagers employed several tropes from earlier Dozerfleet Literature stories specifically counting on the fact that almost nobody had read those earlier stories, so the Author Appeal got a free pass.

Live Action TV

  • Some Star Treks overused their stock plots ad nauseam. The Negative Space Wedgie turning the Holodeck into a death trap is a favorite of Next Generation and Voyager. Just which character is trying to eat them changes... the formula doesn't. Would that it only happened once every two years. And Enterprise basically ate itself this way. Oh, look, more aliens in Nazi uniforms.
    • Parodied on Futurama when Kif shows Amy the HoloShed. He states that nothing in the simulation will hurt her, unless there's a malfunction and everything comes to life again, but that hardly ever happens. Several minutes later, the greatest villains in history (including an ax-wielding Evil Lincoln) show up just after a malfunction. They know the drill and start smashing stuff.
      • In another episode, a Star Trek: The Original Series TOS obssessed Energy Being forces the Planet Express crew and the TOS cast to fight to the death. When asked where he got that "idiotic idea", the alien rattles off the numbers of four TOS episodes where that happened (and Fry adds one he missed, much to the alien's chagrin).
    • Lampshaded in Deep Space Nine:

Worf: We were like warriors from the ancient sagas. There was nothing we could not do.
O'Brien: Except keep the holodecks working right.

    • Every iteration of Star Trek does Moby Dick. Plus two movies as well - Khan with Kirk as the whale and in First Contact, Picard has the Borg as his whale. Note that both compare the situation to Moby Dick. Ironically, Stewart actually played Ahab two years later in the Disney version of Moby Dick.
      • And for Sisko and Janeway, we had "For the Uniform" and "Equinox" respectively, both of which involved renegade Starfleet officers. The first instance of a Moby Dick plot was seen as far back as 1967's "The Doomsday Machine."
      • And "Obsession," with Kirk and the vampire cloud.
      • Futurama parodied this as well, with Leela becoming obsessed with getting revenge on an actual space whale, and in the end found out the whale actually feeds on obsession, and antagonizes spaceship pilots because they tend to get obsessed easily.
    • Voyager and Enterprise were especially bad at this, leading to criticism that both ignored their premises to be "Next Gen lite" and recycle old episodes in the belief no one would recall episodes from any prior series. Hence why many Enterprise episodes features technology and species wildly inappropriate for the time; they were introduced back in 1987, and nobody would remember back that far. Not that they cared. And why Voyager did things like base an episode around the legal issue of the rights of artificial lifeforms, even though TNG had resolved that early on.
      • Parodied in Voltaire's "USS Make-Shit-Up". One verse expresses deja vu over Voyager, then has a flash of memory-it was "way back in the sixties, when they called it 'Lost In Space'."
    • The villain from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, VGer, is pretty much a larger version of Nomad, a villain from the original series.
  • Stargate SG-1 self-consciously makes use of this by having similar plotlines (time travel, alternate dimensions) refer to or even depend on previous episodes with similar plots. A Genre Savvy bunch, SG-1.
    • Each time they encounter the same phenomena they will always recap the events of the previous mission, and try to figure out if what they learned that time can be useful again. In Stargate Atlantis sometimes the same solution is used again (or the same problem), with a twist.
    • Sometimes if the plot is similar to that from another media, this will even be lampshaded within the story, such as an episode involving a Groundhog Day Loop when O'Neill referred to the villain who had engineered it as "The King of Groundhog Day".
  • Super Sentai (and by extention Power Rangers) has this going on in regards to their seasonal themes.
  • Both Barney and Friends and Sesame Street are subject to this.
  • 106&Park used to have a segment called the "Old School Joint of the Day". Originally they did play videos that were at least a decade or so old with guests even picking some of their favorite songs for the video. As the show went on they began to play younger and younger videos. After people, even A.J. and Free who were hosting at the time, started to complain the segment began to alternate with "The Flashback Joint of the Day" where they could play songs that were only a few years old without drawing the ire of people who knew they weren't really "old school".
  • Terrence Dicks, Doctor Who script editor during the early 1970s and writer for a longer time, has expressed this in terms of respect for the audience, recommending as a general role that the audience should never be expected to remember canon details from episodes broadcast more than two years before. Note that this was from an age before VHS or DVD.
    • It was also an age before you could be absolutely certain that reruns happened, or otherwise we'd not have lost episodes of, among other shows, Doctor Who. If you're expecting to actually gain new viewers, it's actually quite nice to presume that not everybody was watching two years ago, and those who were cannot be expected to have remembered details from an episode that only ran once (maybe twice) so far back.
    • An example and subversion: One season, the producer and head writer of Doctor Who were planning out the year and decided "It's about time for Terry Nation to do another Dalek story for us again." So they asked him for a Dalek story, and he wrote a Dalek story, but they realized "we like it, but we like it so much, we may have already bought it once or twice." To break the repetition, they had him write a different story, which became "Genesis of the Daleks", which is now considered a classic.
  • Law and Order UK recycles numerous storylines from the original Law and Order into the British legal system.
  • On Home and Away, Martha discovered that her boyfriend was in a marriage of convenience. Surprisingly, this did not remind her of her love affair with Ash nearly three years earlier, which ended because he was married with kids and wasn't about to leave them.
  • Hilariously subverted on Saturday Night Live. John Goodman was hosting, along with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. During his monologue, an audience member stopped him to ask if this was a repeat. John reassured that it wasn't-given that it was a live broadcast and all- but kept getting interrupted by members of the audience who insisted that it was a repeat from a few years ago when John also hosted with Tom Petty as the musical guest. John even brought out Jimmy Fallon, a cast member at that time, who agreed with the audience that this show was, in fact, a repeat and that he remembers it because it was aired when he was in high school.
  • Virtually every episode from the last few seasons of Bewitched (the Dick Sargent years) re-used the plot of an episode from the Dick York era.
  • Sometimes played straight in QI. If watching the show from the beginning, you will occasionally hear the same joke twice (not as a Running Gag), or hear a question based on something that was already discussed at length in a previous episode.
    • One example is the story about how Kangaroos got their name and what it means. This story myth was told twice at length in two different episodes. The second time offers no reference to the first, so it isn't an In-Joke.
    • In Series H, Stephen Fry finished one episode with a scat joke about pathologists and dead bodies. This joke was already told by Alan Davies, several seasons back.
  • Buffy: Season seven episode "Him" rehashes the plot of season two episode "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" (a love spell gone wrong causes many women to fall blindly for the same guy, with terrible consequences), only written much, much worse. Xander even reminisces fondly about the prior event (including his best friend leading a mob of women and trying to kill him with an axe).
  • Angel, would occasionally reuse plots from its parent show. For instance, both shows have an episode that involves the main cast getting amnesia and meeting each other for the first time again.
  • Many of the skits in the revival of All That were rehashes and reimaginings of the skits from the original set ("Cooking With Randy" became "Coffee And Sugar," Repairman/Detective Dan/Stuart became Randy Quench: Volunteer Fireman, etc.), which ended three years prior. This became especially obvious in the ten year anniversary special, which involved new skits from both sets.
  • A related version happens in TV made for toddlers. In the cases of In The Night Garden, only 100 episodes were ever commissioned, despite being wildly popular. The logic is that the demographic will only watch for two years then grow out of the show, meaning after 100 episodes you can start from the beginning again and nobody but adults will notice. This is also the reason why the show has no overarching plot or a an episode that acknowledges itself as the first or last.
    • This is similar to many studios only commissioning 65 episodes for its kids', tween, early and late teen shows. It takes a monumental push by fans to get more of the same show instead of using the same 65 scripts for the next one they churn out. This was a pretty big issue in the mid 2000s where the hugely popular Lizzie McGuire ended at 65 episodes in just 2 seasons and Kim Possible needed an obscure contract from a German television station to get a 4th season. Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place have over 85 and The Suite Life On Deck has over 100 when you count both series.
    • Originally, this practice started as something of an insurance policy for all sides—if the show did well, great, it would be signed up for more than 65 episodes. On the other hand, if it bombed and was canceled, 65 was the minimum most stations would purchase for syndication (allowing them to run the show each weekday for 13 weeks without repeats). By ensuring that there would be at least that number of episodes, the producers hoped to guarantee they would make at least some money off the show, and this worked reasonably well. (Famously, the first seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation were produced under such a deal.) But add in the idea that your shows are basically interchangeable dreck that nobody cares too closely about and you end up switching shows each time the grace period expires.

Pro Wrestling

  • Coined by Professional Wrestling promoter, writer, on-air personality, and general jack-of-all-trades Jim Cornette, the Seven Year Rule is the unwritten pro wrestling rule that, after seven years, there has been enough turnover in the fanbase that a writer can re-use the same gimmicks and story lines with impunity. As the theory goes, any wait shorter than seven years may result in fans noticing the rehashing, and calling the promotion on the re-use. After that, a few diehard longtime fans may notice and become upset, but almost everybody will accept the product as new.
  • Certain character stereotypes occur so often in Pro Wrestling that it is not unusual to have more than one example thereof existing at the same time - albeit necessarily on different TV shows or in different promotions. Whereas WWE boasts a mentally unstable "monster" who uses the Chokeslam finisher named Kane, TNA has a mentally unstable "monster" who uses the Chokeslam (okay, "Black Hole Slam") finisher named Abyss. And in late 2004/early 2005, this mimicry was seen within WWE itself as Gene Snitsky and Jon Heidenreich each performed the role of an intense monster Heel with This Is Sparta speaking patterns on Raw and SmackDown, respectively. They even lampshaded this fact at the 2004 Survivor Series when they met for the first time.
  • "The Narcissist" Lex Luger was recycled as "The Reflection of Perfection" Mark Jindrak after 11 years, complete with a hammy manager to talk him up.
    • See also "The Masterpiece," Chris Masters, in 2005-07.
    • Though the name similarity isn't there, many people see the similarities between Mr. Perfect, and Dolph Ziggler: long blond hair, tan skin, and an obsession with "perfection." His manager is also an authority figure(see Triple H and Steph below)
  • The Four Horsemen first formed in 1986 with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Ole Anderson, and Tully Blanchard, and at one time held the world, tag, and television championship belts in the NWA. They disbanded in 1991, and reformed from 1995-1997 in WCW. Arn Anderson and Flair were still members, adding Steve McMichael, Chris Benoit, and Brian Pillman. After Arn's neck injury in September 1997, Flair disbanded the group once again, only to have Arn reform it as their manager in September 1998, with Benoit, McMichael, and Flair joined by Dean Malenko. They split up in May 1999 for the last time. WWE had their own homage to the group with Evolution in 2003, with Triple H, Randy Orton, Dave Batista, and Ric Flair holding the world, intercontinental and tag championships all at one time.
  • In 1997, Kane started tormenting The Undertaker, and at the following Wrestlemania (XIV), Taker defeated Kane. This was followed by a long period of general peace and cooperation between them, including a reign as the tag champs. In 2003, Kane buried Taker in a Buried Alive match, and at the following Wrestlemania (XX), Taker defeated Kane, leading to a general period of peace with some cooperation over the past four years. Seven—er, six—year rule magnified exactly.
    • Speaking of The Undertaker and Kane, when The Undertaker first debuted, he was announced as "Cain The Undertaker." They didn't call him by that name again for over seven years, and then his brother "Kane" debuted.
    • In 1994, there was an infamous "Undertaker vs. Undertaker" feud. Or more accurately, "Undertaker vs. Guy In Undertaker Costume Who Is Visibly Shorter And Less Muscular Than Undertaker". Fast forward to 2006, and there was a "Kane vs. Guy In Kane's Old Costume Who Is Visibly Shorter And Less Muscular Than Kane" feud.
    • Recently, Kane has been involved in a storyline where he took out The Undertaker for a few months and The Undertaker came back for revenge. When Kane explained his actions, he stated it was because The Undertaker had shown weakness in his match with Shawn Michaels. Refer to the above, it is very similar to the storyline where Kane buried Taker alive because he showed weakness in helping protect Stephanie from Vince. It's subverted, however, in that this feud fully acknowledges the past storyline, saying that last time, the time wasn't right for Kane's "master plan", and that he's been building up to this since the year after he debuted. The timeline also fits; it's been about another six years.
      • It's also been six years since Undertaker "killed" Paul Bearer, only for Bearer to return to be in 'Taker's corner. Though Bearer then betrayed Undertaker at the "Hell in a Cell" ppv two weeks later. Presumably he still remembers being buried in cement.
      • And now the feud has led to a Buried Alive match with Undertaker losing due to outside interference, leaving Kane to ask for a bulldozer to dump soil into the grave, almost seven years since the last time this happened.
  • Recently, the WWE redid the Montreal Screwjob angle, wherein the referee, the owner/manager, and a smarmy wrestler conspire to screw a fan favorite out of a title. The original screwjob was apparently a shoot (IE, not faked), while the remake is most definitely kayfabe. Anyways, the wrestler who got screwed over is The Undertaker, who then proceeded to abduct Teddy Long, in a manner reminiscent of the Not My Driver portion of the maligned "Higher Power" storyline when he abducted Stephanie in much the same way. Not only are they reusing old storylines, they're mixing them together.
    • The WWE loves to reference and re-enact the Montreal Screwjob. It was repeated merely a year later at the 1998 Survivor Series, with Vince screwing over Mankind.
      • Other companies like to reference it, too. Less than two months after the original, Bret Hart came out after the main event of Starrcade where Hulk Hogan pinned Sting and claimed referee (and nWo lackey) Nick Patrick made a quick count (he was in kayfabe supposed to but mistakenly made a regular count but that's neither here nor there) and yelled he wouldn't let "it" happen again. He restarted the match and Sting got Hogan to submit to the Scorpion Deathlock (which, ironically, mirrors Bret's own Sharpshooter and the move that HBK used on Bret when he was screwed) to win. Years later, in TNA, Hogan and Kurt Angle re-enacted the Screwjob as well.
    • And now they've done it again, but this time with a Subversion. At Money in the Bank 2011, controversial heel CM Punk threatened to leave the company with the belt after beating then current champ John Cena. When Cena had Punk locked in his signature submission, Vince and the head of talent came down trying to screw Punk out of the title; however, Cena knocked out Vince's crony, saying that he was going to win this his way, only to have Punk use the distraction to hit Cena with the Go To Sleep, pin him, and leave the company with the championship.
  • In late 1999, Triple H, the top heel, married Stephanie McMahon and used her power in the company to rule the roster with an iron fist as the McMahon-Helmsley Regime, allowing him to keep a strangle hold on the Championship. Cut to 2008 and the same thing is repackaged with Edge and Vickie Guerrero. Ironically, back in 2000, Edge and his tag team partner Christian voiced confusion on whether the group was a regime or a faction (both terms were used throughout the stable's history) and settled on "Fac-gime."
    • Life Imitates Art: In late 2003, Paul Levesque (Triple H) married Stephanie McMahon, and (it can be argued) used their combined power in the company to rule the roster with an iron fist, allowing him to keep a strangle hold on the Championship.
  • The current feud between The Undertaker and Triple H at WrestleMania XXVII is this. They last competed each other at WrestleMania X-Seven. WWE has been going out of its way not to bring this up.
  • In 1999, The Rock stole a win in an I Quit match over Mick Foley by playing a recording of Foley yelling "I Quit!" and fooling the officials into awarding him the match. In 2011, The Miz stole a win in an I Quit match over John Cena with the exact same trick. It didn't work.
  • There are strong parallels between CM Punk's mid-summer 2011 storyline (TL;DR: his contract is revealed to be expiring the night that he competes for the WWE Championship, before which he proceeds to verbally shit all over WWE under Vince McMahon and John Cena's hegemony, threatening to take the belt to other promotions, and then actually won the belt in his hometown while letting his contract run out) and the "Summer of Punk" storyline in Ring of Honor (his supposedly final match was for ROH World Championship, which he won only to reveal that he was going to WWE, sign his WWE contract on the title and then would be "chased" by the ROH roster attempting to take it back before he could run off with it).
  • Much of the Ric Flair / Rick Steamboat feud of 1989 was a rehash of earlier angles, including Steamboat stripping Flair naked in the ring. The two hadn't wrestled in five years, and in the interim the business had experienced almost 100% fan turnover. Ergo, a slick updating of five-year-old spots was probably the top feud of the year.
    • as much due to time as the original version occurring pre-TV
  • In 2003 Brock Lesnar was in a match against The Big Show for the Heavyweight Championship, one spot called for them to supersuplex off the second rope, which imploded the ring. Fast forward to 2011 and the Vengeance PPV and the spot happens all over again, this time with Mark Henry and The Big Show, again. Interestingly enough, Big Show was the victim of the "superplex" both times. Unlike the With Lesnar/Show, which was at the end of the show, the match for the WWE Championship was next with John Cena and Alberto Del Rio. It was a Last Man Standing Match, which worked out amazingly well.
  • 1997-ish, Mini Mankind & Mini Vader. 2009-ish, Mini Everyone
  • Like the popularity of Stone Cold Steve Austin leading into the Attitude Era in the late 90s, it's happening all over again now with CM Punk being the straight-talking, Pepsi drinking Anti-Hero who rebels against the WWE's management. Punk being likened to Austin, as well as a new Attitude Era coming, certainly help in making the comparison to the late 90s. Whether this is all an elaborate storyline/gambit on the part of Vince McMahon and the creative team is unknown, but if it is, it makes this one hell of a Batman Gambit, and Vince one hell of a Magnificent Bastard / Chessmaster for him to know the fans would immediately love Punk. Luckily, with the much derided and reveiled PG era coming to an end, this is a prime example of why Tropes Are Not Bad.
  • Around 2004 former WCW wrestler Ernest "The Cat" Miller made his WWE debut, basically a joke character who danced in the ring to the song "Somebody Call My Mama", and provided the 2004 Royal Rumble with it's very own Non Sequitur Scene before pretty much disappearing. Eight years later, a wrestler named Brodus Clay made his Raw debut (he was formerly an NXT rookie and a bodyguard for Alberto Del Rio), another dancer, with the exact same theme song that everyone onscreen acts like they've never heard before.
  • In 2002, Hulk Hogan and The Rock finally met in the ring for the first time at WrestleMania X8. It was touted as a meeting of two legends from two eras. Ten years later, The Rock and John Cena meet under the same terms at WrestleMania XXVIII. It would be no surprise to see John Cena and the then-current force in professional wrestling having the same encounter at the 38th WrestleMania.
  • Rock & Wrestling Era: a mega-heel called the One Man Gang (a big white guy from Chicago) is transformed into the "African Dream" Akeem after "discovering his African roots". WWE, Inc. Era (a return to the cartoonish-ness of the Rock & Wrestling Era): A-Train (a huge white guy; before that, he was known as Albert) returns after 8 years as Lord Tensai, having "found himself" in Japan.
    • This one actually has some basis in reality, since Matt "A-Train" Bloom did spent several years wrestling in Japan as Giant Bernard.

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40,000 and other Warhammer Fantasy Battle products have new revisions brought out every four or five years, that being the length of time most players stick with the hobby, according to Games Workshop.
  • Played with in Magic: The Gathering with functional reprints. Also, Standard never uses cards that have not been printed in the past two years.


  • LEGO will always have a Space-like, underwater-like, castle-like or robot-like theme. Only the characters and sets are new.
    • And every generation of the castle theme has a catapult set.
      • In the town theme, new police and fire stations are released on a 3 year cycle, like clockwork.
  • Many action figure companies (especially back in the '90s, and especially Kenner) release versions of a figure or vehicle from a couple years ago with a new color scheme, and attempt to pass it off as a new one. Usually by this time the original is no longer for sale and has been dropped from the listing on the back of the box/card. Amusingly, sometimes the "new" figure will have completely new flavor text and new names for its special actions and accessories, even though it's just describing the same thing in different words.
    • Transformers, in particular, makes absolutely no attempt to hide this. In fact, in the franchise's first year, several sets of characters who were just each other in different colors came out all at once, with the toys sold on shelves right next to each other and the cartoon and comic book making no effort to disguise their identicalness. In fact, the cartoon took it Up to Eleven, using variously-colored Starscreams as generic Mooks.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • Loading Ready Run parodied this by pretending to be remaking a sketch that had been released just a few weeks earlier. As it turned out one of their members was manipulating them into position so he could use them for his own sketch, which the others had shot down.

Western Animation

  • The seventh season of South Park began with a rerun of the first episode. After a while, the characters all became aware of this and things went differently
  • For decades, Disney would release their animated films in theaters every seven years, starting with the re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) in 1944. Walt Disney thought that after seven years, there would be a new crop of children who hadn't seen the earlier release. This way, Disney reasoned, not only does it refresh the movies to a new generation, but avoids the Animation Age Ghetto by making the otherwise age-focused fare into nostalgia value. This was considered such holy writ that, when then-CEO Michael Eisner looked to release Disney movies to the VHS market in a desperate attempt to save the company, there was more than the usual amount of teeth-gnashing and doomsaying over how he was selling the farm and no one would ever buy Disney products again.
  • Family Guy had an episode in 2001 where Lois begins fighting using "Tae Jitsu" because Peter runs all over her and doesn't respect her. Fast forward 9 years, and there's another episode where Lois becomes a boxer because Peter runs all over her and doesn't respect her.
  • During The Golden Age of Animation, this trope was employed partly due to the fact that movie theaters wouldn't rerun older cartoons anyway, particularly if they were from the black and white era once Technicolor became the standard. So plots could be re-used after enough years had gone by. The Popeye series was particularly guilty of this, once Famous Studios took over.

Real Life

  • Eidetic memory is the exact opposite of this. But cases of it are extremely rare. Yet, even if it were more common, most have a built-in Weirdness Censor that prevents It's Been Done warnings from being taken seriously.
  • To an extent and modified for regional issues, all politicians love to abuse this trope, worldwide, making promises to attract votes that they more likely than not won't keep, even if they actually intended to do so when making them.
  • Anything aimed at a university or college audience on-campus inherently has an audience with a collective memory of four years - if that's the length of the undergrad programme. Those who remember graduate and leave, a fresh class of students replaces them, everything is new again. Back when the Internet was primarily an academic research network, Usenet was infamous for an influx of new, inexperienced users every September; the 1993 entry of commercial providers (such as AOL) who could flood the net with inexperienced new users year-round was nicknamed the "Eternal September".
  • Scammers also love to abuse this trope, hoping that their potential victims won't recall reports of every other time the scam they want to attempt has harmed others.
  • The 2009-2012 global economic crisis had a root cause: overleveraging shaky mortgages. Nothing like this has ever happened before.
    • Most economic crises have happened before. Ebenezer Scrooge was the product of a great depression... in 1843. Countless market bubbles have burst since then, including the "$600 for radio" bubble where one share of RCA sold for hundreds of dollars in 1929, similar bubbles in TV (and later colour TV), the turn-of-the millennium Internet "dot-com bubble" and the real estate bubble which preceded the Great Recession. These bubbles tend to happen right when things are so good that people's inherent Optimism makes them think that the past will not be repeated.
  1. Subverted with Iris - Pikachu shocked her instead of a bicycle.