Happy Days was a break-out hit during the 1970’s. It depicted a simpler time, or rather, people’s memories of a simpler time, with classic cars and bee-hive hairdos and such stirring dialogue as “Sit on it, Potsie.” The show featured Henry Winkler as ‘The Fonz’, a leather jacket wearing greaser who was known for his trademark double thumbs up gesture, and supernatural ability to force jukeboxes to succumb to his will. He was the epitome of cool, and no matter where he went a constant stream of girlish squeals was sure to follow.
Shortly into the fifth season, it was decided that ‘the Fonz’ would jump over a deadly shark on some water-skis. This was a perfect companion piece to an earlier episode in which he had jumped over a set of garbage cans with his motorcycle (and, unexpectedly, had frozen in mid-air for a full week before landing back down again.) Suffice it to say, ‘the Fonz’ succeeded in his daring attempt, but not before viewers realized that maybe, just maybe, the show had veered into ludicrous territory. Happy Days naturally lasted for six more seasons.
The phrase “Jump the Shark” now refers to the sad point in a television program where the quality has obviously passed its peak. This may be due to a shift in location, a Very Special Episode, or the fact that Ted McGinley has been added to the cast. Once something like that occurs, there’s no going back, and though you can keep pumping out episodes, the magic that once filled the town of Mayberry with so much charm will have departed for greener pastures.
Famous examples of TV shows jumping the shark:
– Dick Sargent replacing Dick York as Darrin on Bewitched. They both had the same first name, so who would notice?
– The Beverly Hillbillies switching to color, y’all.
– Laverne and Shirley moving to Los Angeles, for reasons that still aren’t clear to the viewing audience.
– Nancy Reagan appearing on Different Strokes to tell viewers to “Just Say No.”
– Leonardo DiCaprio joining the cast of Growing Pains as a troubled teen when TV executives realized that Jeremy Miller was not going to be the totally hot replacement for Kirk Cameron that they had hoped.
– David and Maddie finally getting together on Moonlighting, thereby removing all sexual tension and the main draw of the show.