Those, like myself, who watch way too much T.V. probably hear this all the time: “I can’t believe it, they really jumped the shark on that episode.” Usually this statement is made after the birth of twins, a character returns from the dead, or Ted McGinley joins the cast (more on that later). But with recent news of Henry Winkler joining the cast of Royal Pains, it got me thinking about where that particular phrase came from, and how it has evolved from it’s original context to what is now just an angry fan blowing off some steam. Allow me to elaborate.
In September 1977, Happy Days had a very special episode that had the Fonz test his bravery by jumping over a shark on water skies. Although the series ran for several years after that, that one shining moment became the symbol for a show that had reached it’s apex, and spiraled downward in quality. The actual phrase was not used until 1985, when John Hein said it to describe programs that “would never be the same.” In Happy Day’s case, it went through a variety of cast changes, including one with Ted McGinley, who is notorious for joining shows that are about to be canceled (Dynasty, Married with Children, Love Boat, the list goes on, which is why he receives his own category). Hein later created a website that allowed people to list the moments they believe their favorites have jumped the shark, which is now part of TVGuide.com.
In my opinion, opening this up was a great idea at first, but has now given people the misconception that anything they don’t agree with constitutes jumping the shark. It’s sort of become a cliche, and has lost it’s original meaning. However, now you know the truth, and can use that to show off your new found wisdom. You’re welcome.
Here’s a video of that moment via Youtube: