10 Most Groundbreaking TV Episodes Ever

The revolution was, in fact, televised.

Star Trek Kirk Uhura Kiss
CBS Television Distribution

A good TV show entertains you. It can take the edge off after a hectic day at the office, like a glowing security blanket that comforts you with its pleasant characters, reliable rhythms, and simple storylines that can be wrapped up in the time it takes to cook a frozen pizza.

But a great TV show does much more than just lull you into a good night's sleep. The best television challenges you, rattles you, shakes up your worldview, and most importantly, it stays with you.

Some episodes of television are so important that they actually changed the course of history -- or at least the course of entertainment. They put something truly new -- and maybe even a little taboo -- out into the world that wrinkles the status quo and breathes fresh air into the medium.

Whether those involved with these revolutionary shows knew it or not, they were changing the way we'd watch television for years to come. They were the first to talk openly about homosexuality, the first to suggest it was okay to kill off a main character, and the first to cram a bunch of strangers into the same room and let the cameras just...roll.

The following episodes gave television a much-needed kick in the pants, and made history in the process.

10. Happy Days - "Hollywood, Part 3"

Star Trek Kirk Uhura Kiss
CBS Television Distribution

Historic Impact: Origins of "Jumping The Shark"

Not all examples on this list are positive. Because sometimes you make history in a bad way. It happens. And it happened in the most unfortunate of ways during the 5th season of Happy Days.

In its first few seasons, Happy Days was gleefully beholden to the nostalgia of the 50s, complete with simple, relatable stories about friendships and families. But as the show went on, the storylines became bigger, the comedic performances became broader, and The Fonz transformed from a bit character into the larger-than-life center of it all.

Fonzie had become almost superhuman in his coolness, which led to the writers piling on one outlandish idea after another. Enter, this pile of ridiculousness, wherein Arthur Fonzarelli -- wearing swim trunks and his signature leather jacket -- ski jumps over an actual shark.

Not only was the stunt pointless from a story standpoint, it actually went against many of the characterizations that had been built up by that point.

The show remained on the air for another six years, but it was never quite the same. Fonzie jumping the shark signified a major cultural shift in the television industry, and gave us a brilliant shorthand for the moment a show becomes too gimmicky for its own good.


Jacob is a part-time contributor for WhatCulture, specializing in music, movies, and really, really dumb humor.