jump the shark

For somebody not familiar with memes and urbandictionary.com, the phrase “Jumping the Shark” is characterised as follows:

A metaphor that identifies the exact moment a TV show has reached its creative peak. Or to put it bluntly, it’s the beginning of the end of a once great show. The moment in which it becomes clear the writers are out of good ideas and the show has begun its decent downhill. It’s usually some ridiculous stunt, story line, major character change, or huge fundamental shift in the premise of the show that is viewed as nothing more than a desperate attempt to raise viewership and declining ratings.”

-Source: Urban Dictionary

The origin of this phrase comes from a US sitcom based in the late 50’s around a family trying to find their way through life, a series which frankly only the densest of people have never heard of; I’m talking of course of Happy Days. I’m not going to give anyone a history lesson on Happy Days, that’s what Wikipedia is for, but I will give you the link to this iconic TV series and the aforementioned “Jumping the Shark”;

Happy Days had just started their third season and opened with an episode called “Hollywood: Part 3”, and episode where Fonzie answered a call against his masculinity by donning some beachwear (though leaving his trademark leather jacket on, I mean come on!), strapping his feet to some water skis and, literally, jumping over a shark in confined water. This on its own doesn’t sound like much of a big deal on paper, but the issue was that this moment is what the whole episode was marketed on:  “Will Fonzie Jump the Shark?!” and when you are having to market your sitcom based on a gimmicky 5 minute moment in a 30 minute (give or take) TV show it is a sure sign that the writers are running low on ideas.

Although Happy Days ran for several seasons after this moment it never really recovered from this ‘creative peak’ and viewer loyalty began to dwindle until the show was cancelled in 1984, and whilst there were other contributing factors to its subsequent failure (e.g. Richie Cunningham leaving, Fonzie becoming a teacher) the fabled shark jump was the start of the long road to the end in many people’s eyes, so much so that it has become the huge idiom that it is today.

Now that I have bored half the readers to tears with a brief history of nothing; let me move onto the meat of my article; ‘10 TV Shows That [in my opinion] Jumped the Shark’ I have scoured websites and youtube.com for a few days now and created a list of shows which I think truly lead up to the base meaning of the ‘Jumping the Shark’ title. Now I know people will disagree with my list because, let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the internet otherwise; but I feel I should give you my disclaimer before people start emerging from under their bridges to troll me and my goats:

1) No I haven’t watched all of these shows, whilst that may seem hypocritical of me to name shows as Shark Jumpers when I haven’t even ‘given them the benefit of the doubt’ I will simply say that to make a list of shows based only on shows that I have watched is firstly very arrogant and self centred and secondly not very broad minded; for me to completely ignore a show that could arguably by the top Shark Jumping show just because I haven’t watched it narrows your field far too much and luckily the internet can help make up for that for me.

2) The idiom itself has grown very much over the years to not only accommodate TV shows but most kinds of creative areas these days. To me the origin of this phrase was in TV so therefore I will be pure to its very routes and stick ONLY to TV.

3) In my opinion a show that is deemed to have jumped the shark MUST be in syndication now, i.e. no longer being shot. This isn’t something associated with the urban dictionary term but ultimately a show that has jumped the shark that is still running to me isn’t yet a failure; so for example some have said that Two and a Half Men has now jumped the shark, whilst I do believe that after the Charlie Sheen meltdown the show has been a mess the fact is it is still limping along so therefore doesn’t count.

4) I will not be including reality or game shows in the list. Game shows don’t really have any creative process to lose sight of like a TV show does and anyone who watches reality TV enough to think that there was ever a shark jumping moment should have their TV taken off of them because you’re part of the problem!

5) Finally; Happy Days is NOT going to be on the list. Why? Because it is the trend setter by which everything is measured. To me it is like Laurence Olivier winning the Olivier Award; this may have happened (I’m not that versed in theatre history) but to me how can someone set a standard in theatrics and win the award for that standard? To me it doesn’t make sense. Plus Happy Days ran for a good 7 years after the Shark Jumping episode so one could argue if it truly had that moment in the first place.

I’m nearly at a thousand words and so far I haven’t even gotten to my list, I don’t know if that is a good thing or a band thing? Rather than dwell on that maybe I should just finally get to the list. So here it is, my list of shows that jumped the creative shark;

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This article was first posted on July 16, 2013