It’s a term that’s come to stand for the moment in which a TV show goes beyond the point of no return, cemented in a sad decline towards complete irrelevance. It was coined after an episode of Happy Days in which the Fonz jumps over a shark on water skis, which seems to pretty much sum up the sort of stunts desperate shows do to try to keep a tired set of characters interesting. But Fred Fox, Jr., the guy who wrote the shark-jumping episode of Happy Days really thinks you guys are all being pretty unfair.
All successful shows eventually start to decline, but this was not “Happy Days’” time. Consider: It was the 91st episode and the fifth season. If this was really the beginning of a downward spiral, why did the show stay on the air for six more seasons and shoot an additional 164 episodes? Why did we rank among the Top 25 in five of those six seasons?
I have to admit, there was a time I was embarrassed. I was Hester Prynne reincarnated, walking around with a scarlet “S” on the front of my shirt, facing accusing glances and stifled snickering. But this feeling passed quickly, and I likened the popularity to a new fad, where someone jumps on the proverbial bandwagon and soon everyone is doing it, for no rhyme or reason, like the riding the mechanical bull craze. It was ludicrous. All I could do was laugh.
Well, Fred, I’d argue that The Simpsons jumped the shark around 1998, but it’s still on. Ratings and longevity aren’t what jumping the shark is really about. But he seems to have an OK perspective on the whole thing, despite something he wrote basically becoming a huge joke. [via]