by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
March 19, 2006
IN A SHORT LIFE, THE SHARK-JUMPING MOMENTS STAND OUT
SYRACUSE, Ind. -- Does anyone remember the three-part episode of "Happy Days" where the gang went to California, had all kinds of kooky adventures, sappy love scenes, and finally the big breath-taking, daredevil, Dear-God-I-Can't-Look! scene where Fonzie water ski jumped over a shark after a bet with a smug California beach jerk?
And did anyone notice that the entire opening paragraph was just one long run-on sentence?
According to Jon Hein, that shark jumping episode was the pivotal moment where "Happy Days" officially began their death spiral into overacting campiness, suckiness, and utter stupidity (my description, not his). Some may argue this actually happened when the very first episode aired, but that's like saying we're all closer to dying from the moment we're born. It's true, but you don't want to think about it
Hein, owner of the JumpTheShark.comwebsite, uses the phrase to describe the moment a tv show has reached its full creative potential and is on its way to becoming a punchline on The Tonight Show.
The phrase, started by Hein's college roommate at the U. of Michigan, can be used to describe tv shows, movies, music, jobs, or just life in general, as in "Did you hear about Jill's new job? Man, she sure jumped the shark with that one!"
In other words, even if you do make it over the underwater cage, shark jumping is a bad thing.
Jumping the shark can happen to a show when a character hits puberty, like Gary Coleman in "Diff'rent Strokes" or Fred Savage in "The Wonder Years." Or when a new actor plays the same character ("Bewitched" or "Roseanne"), Or when a new character shows up like Oliver in "The Brady Bunch" or Ted McGinley in "Welcome Back Kotter," "Happy Days," "Married With Children," and "The Love Boat."
According to the Website "Ted is the patron saint of shark jumping. Chances are that if Ted is anywhere near your cast, consider the show on the downward spiral." And apparently, Ted does know he's the patron saint of shark jumping, although Hein says " ... we hope Ted has a sense of humor about it ... Remember, it's business, never personal."
The astute reader will have realized that McGinley is actually a shark-jumping moment on the show where shark jumping originated. But how can he be a shark jumping moment on the show that defined shark jumping? Wouldn't that mean that the by now famous shark-jumping episode was not actually a Jump the Shark moment? And are you sick of the words "jump" and "shark" yet?
In actuality, McGinley's appearance on "Happy Days" was not the shark jumping moment. Rather, it was a kick to the kidneys when the show was already curled in the fetal position.
Jumptheshark.com lists over 2,000 shows that fall into other categories like Birth (Mabel the new baby in "Mad About You"), A Very Special ... (any episode of "Blossom," "Dawson's Creek," or any show involving horny teenagers), or They Did It (David and Maddie in "Moonlighting," or Ross and Rachel in "Friends"). Even Singing is an option.
(And for those of you who remembered my guilty pleasure of "Xena Warrior Princess," no, I did not thing their singing episode was a Jump the Shark moment. That showed failed the jump miserably and was shark poop from day one. But I still can't explain why I liked it.)
Happily, there are shows that have never jumped, like "The Simpsons," "Law & Order," "Newhart," "Magnum PI," or my personal favorite, "Police Squad," the only show to receive a 100% rating on "Never Jumped" votes.
This leads me to wonder, what are some other events that have jumped the shark? Can you point to a shark-jumping moment in your own life? How about politics, sports, or society in general? Did mankind jump the shark when the Roman Empire fell, when we learned the secrets of air travel?
Personally, I think one occurred when Britney Spears and 'N Sync appeared at the Super Bowl XXXV halftime show with Aerosmith.
But it could be worse. I hear next year's Super Bowl will feature a special guest appearance by Ted McGinley.