Reset Button

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Trope · Genre
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See Also: denialfic, fix-it, Breaking the Toys, Story Arc, BOTW
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Hitting the reset button describes a strategy for undoing or rendering void changes to a canon that have occurred within a fanwork or tie-in. Popular reset techniques include amnesia, waking from a dream, or "let us never speak of this again."

Historically, television shows have mainly employed the reset button in order to make the show easier to watch in second-run syndication, or reruns.

Alternately, creators of a canon may hit their own reset button, to discard a storyline that is not working or reinvent the plot. Alias is notorious for regular resets, as are most properties developed by J. J. Abrams.

If rocks fall, everybody dies, and then the main character wakes up to discover it was all a dream, then someone has hit the reset button.

History

Even if a show does not achieve financial success in its first run, if it can be sold to a network that will show it in second-run syndication, it can continue to make money for its producers. Therefore, writers have a very good reason to make sure that the status quo is restored at the end of the show, and it usually is. If a character is fired, they'll get their job back at the end of the episode; if two buddy cops break up, they'll get back together; Gilligan will always mess up the plan to escape from the island.

Since the early 1970s, story arcs have become more common. The availability of full seasons of TV shows on VHS, and now DVD, means that creators know that their audience will be able to watch all the episodes in order whenever they want to. This lets them produce shows like Heroes or 24, where each episode moves several plot threads forward, but may not conclude any of them at the end of 42 minutes. More common, though, are shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer which have a mix of key story arc (or mytharc) episodes with episodes that mostly stand alone.

Influence on fandom

The repeated use of the reset button can lead to characters appearing to have unrealistic emotional reactions to the events of each episode; in a buddy cop show, for instance, it is common for a character to fall desperately in love with a BOTW, and then be torn apart from her, either by death or other tragic circumstances. Then, next week, the affected character shows no signs of depression or even memory that anything happened.

This lack of emotional continuity is not usually seen as a flaw by most casual fans of sci-fi or action-oriented series; however, it is often a spur to fanfic writers. Whether it's called an episode tag, a coda, or a post-ep, almost every fandom whose source text employs the reset button ends up creating a genre of fanfiction dedicated to tying up emotional threads that were left hanging by the reset button.

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