When a television show “jumps the shark” it’s supposedly the moment when the series goes downhill. While the term was coined after a Happy Days episode when a leather-jacketed Fonzie jumped over a shark on water skis, on the Happy Days 30th Anniversary Special producer Garry Marshall pointed out that that episode hardly marked the demise of the show- Happy Days went on to churn out over 100 more episodes.
I agree Happy Days didn’t jump the shark when Fonzie jumped the shark. It jumped the shark when Richie (Ron Howard) left the show. Or when Joanie loved Chachi. Or when that Ted McGinely guy joined the cast.
In any event, most long-running series inevitably jump the shark, usually after an attempt to add a fresh element (like a new little kid) to the show. Here are the moments when some popular television shows jumped the shark:
New Kid in Town
The adorable new kid theme almost always marks the beginning of the end of show. The Brady Bunch did it when cousin Oliver joined the cast (the show was unceremoniously canceled just episodes later). Growing Pains added new daughter Chrissy, who grew to age 5 overnight, The Patridge Family brought in kid actor Ricky Segall once Chris and Tracy got a little long in the tooth, and The Cosby Show– undoubtedly the worst offender- brought in Raven Symone as Denise’s stepdaughter, which was a blatant attempt to recapture the cute, early years of the show when youngest Huxtable daughter Rudy was little.
Oh boy, the ol’ “dream” jump the shark. Dallas did it when the previously dead Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), turned up alive in the shower and his wife woke up to find him, stunning fans with the revelation that the entire season of the series had all been just a dream .
Roseanne’s series finale had us all bamboozled when it was revealed that everything we’d seen for the past nine seasons was all a figment of Rosie’s imagination. Grrrrr. So you mean they didn’t really win the lottery?
Actors may come and go, but when it’s on an established TV series it almost never works and could be considered a jump the shark moment. Examples?
Bewitched– Darren #2
Roseanne– The back and forth Becky switch (actors Lecy Goranson and Sarah Chalke shared the role)
Married With Children– When the character of Marcy’s husband, Steve, disappeared from the show and was replaced by Ted McGinley as her new husband, Jefferson.
More Jump the Shark Moments:
The Real World– After the Las Vegas season, when it turned from an interesting look at 20-somethings at a crossroads in their lives, to a show mainly about partying and hookups. Sorry, but don’t we have Jersey Shore for that now?
American Idol– When Ellen DeGeneres was signed on as a judge. I like Ellen, but we all know how that panned out…
Grey’s Anatomy– When Denny the Friendly Ghost came back to haunt Seattle Grace. Grey’s has a death wish. Besides Meredith kinda sorta dying a couple of times, the show decided to bring the character of Denny Duquette back- as a ghost. And while I liked the chemistry between Denny and Izzie, I have to draw the line at ghost sex.
The Bachelor/Bachelorette- When Jake Pavelka came back during Jillian Harris’ season to “warn” her that one of her suitors, Wes, had a girlfriend back home. Could this “reality” show have looked any more scripted?
The Facts of Life– Edna’s Edibles. Need I say more?
Happy Days 20th Anniversary Reunion Special,2005