Sunday, September 16, 2007

Seen It

Through an odd coincidence, yesterday I saw two TV shows, which originally aired 25 years apart, that have the exact same plot.

On the next-to-last episode of BURN NOTICE's first season (which ends next week on USA), former U.S. spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is enlisted by a grieving mother, Evelyn (XENA's Lucy Lawless), to find her estranged husband, who has kidnapped their young son Jasper. Westen, who grew up with an abusive father, lets his emotions grab him and jumps into the case without thinking it through. When he and Evelyn eventually track Doug (Anthony Starke) to a campground in the Florida Keys, Michael (and, presumably, the audience, but probably not) is surprised to learn he's been played for a sucker, that Evelyn is not who she seemed, but actually a hardened mob assassin who hired Michael to do her legwork for her.

Flash back to "Ready, Aim...Die," the 16th episode of THE FALL GUY, which aired in the spring of 1982. Stuntman/bounty hunter Colt Seavers (Lee Majors) is approached by a sexy woman, Colleen (Mary Crosby, then quite familiar for having "shot J.R."), with a sob story. Her brother, Lon, is a big gambler with a hitman on his tail, and she needs Colt and his partner Howie (Doug Barr) to find him and protect him before he can be killed. Having already watched BURN NOTICE, it came as no surprise to me when, in the third act, Colleen was revealed to be an assassin who had convinced Colt to do her legwork for her.

I don't believe BURN NOTICE is studying old FALL GUY episodes for story inspiration, but it goes to show how there are a limited number of plots suitable for television action/adventure shows, and a series has to rely on its characters and stars for extended success. I'm sure there are many other examples of this plot being done on TV.

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