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Topic: Is there really such a thing as jumping the shark? Post ReplyPost New Topic
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Warren Scott
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Posted: 19 November 2017 at 1:48pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I know it's become a fun exercise to consider some point at which a television series' quality diminished. But don't most of them just weaken or lose interest more subtly over time?
The episode of "Happy Days" that inspired the term was pretty typical of the episodes of its time. It was later that the show saw the most change, with cast members leaving and others stepping into the role Richie/Ron Howard had played as foil to the Fonz/Henry Winkler.
I see that as more of a phenomenon: cast members leaving or growing up and producers attempting to maintain the format a show had started with.   
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Steve De Young
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Posted: 19 November 2017 at 2:41pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

I see it less as the moment where it all went bad and more as the moment where it sinks in how bad its gotten.  The moment where you realize that its all gotten rather absurd, or just how distant its gotten from the original premise.

By the time the Fonz jumped that shark, the show had gradually turned into something very different.  What had essentially been conceived of as a 'coming of age' sitcom about Richie and his high school pals, with the Fonz as the supporting character who lived over his garage and gave him occasional advice had become 'The Fonzi Show' with the other characters basically there to help set up his adventures and interact with him.  But the fact that people realized they were sitting there watching what had been a biker tough guy character water-ski jump over a shark wearing his leather jacket caused it to sink in just how bad the whole thing had gotten.
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David Miller
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Posted: 19 November 2017 at 2:43pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

“Oh, and for the record, there was an episode of Happy Days where a guy literally jumped over a shark. And it was the best one.”
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 19 November 2017 at 4:02pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

I agree with Steve, it's the recognizable point at which the show loses it's footing and purpose.  The rot may have started before that point and the final nails may have been hammered in later but that particular episode becomes iconic and emblematic of the problems on the show (both in the cast/acting and the writing/production).

I remember watching that particular HAPPY DAYS episode quite well, though I don't recall thinking that it was all that unusual from the episodes that surrounded it.  My brother and I treated it as "Hey, what's Fonzie up to this week?".

On the other hand, Lee Majors sporting a mustache at the start of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN's fourth season in "The Return Of Bigfoot" truly symbolizes the point at which that show took a nosedive and never recovered.   Again, "TRoB" isn't a terrible story but the episodes that followed it made the previous season look like high art -- the episode with the super-strong and smart monkey and the three part Fembot fest of "Kill Oscar" spring to mind, not to mention at least two back door pilots which almost always make for weak episodes of the main series (not to mention they usually sideline the main series characters).

I met Majors in person a few years ago and mentioned the mustache.  He said he defiantly grew it knowing that his star power would force the network to rerun episodes from the current season (and net him more residual money).  Apparently the network wanted his looks to remain constant throughout the series so they could air episodes out of order and from different seasons during repeats.   Just goes to show how seemingly simple changes like facial hair can actually belie much deeper problems with a show.


Edited by Rob Ocelot on 19 November 2017 at 4:05pm
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Brian Floyd
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Posted: 19 November 2017 at 8:23pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

The problem is that Happy Days didn't really jump the shark when Fonzie literally jumped the shark. It happened much later on.






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Tim Cousar
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Posted: 19 November 2017 at 8:46pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

I thought it happened with Happy Days when they changed the theme song from "Rock Around the Clock."
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John Byrne
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Posted: 19 November 2017 at 9:15pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

The problem is that Happy Days didn't really jump the shark when Fonzie literally jumped the shark. It happened much later on.

•••

Or much earlier. I didn't see the shark jumping episode, since the show had ceased to hold my attention long before.

"Jumping the shark" is a metaphor, and as a metaphor two things happen: it gets used incorrectly, and it gets used too much.

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Steven Myers
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Posted: 19 November 2017 at 9:17pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

Happy Days was having ratings problems during season 2. Then they started featuring Fonzie more, and it saved the show. But realism was gone, and the characters were more and more cartoons. I enjoyed it until Cosmos started, then switched my viewing habits. (If I'm remembering correctly.)

Most shows I quit are due to cast changes: Hill Street Blues and ER jump out right now. With some the format gets old: Dukes of Hazzard, CHiPs.  Others I just have other things to do and I watch less TV.
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Brian O'Neill
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Posted: 19 November 2017 at 9:28pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply

The theme song change is pretty much when 'HD' became 'The Fonzie Show'(fall of '75, start of season 3, also when the show began doing every episode with a live audience, and changed the Cunningham living room set accordingly to make room for the extra cameras).
 Steve and Rob have summed up the term as the original (and greatly missed)'Jump the Shark' web site defined it.

Regarding SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, season 4 is most of what 'civilians' associate with the show, even if it didn't occur as often as some 'civs' thought; ...Steve and Jaime fighting Bigfoot and Fembots(and Steve fighting 'Deathprobe', which is my personal nominee for the 'jump' moment). The 'Bionic Boy' really was intended as a 'backdoor pilot'...but by that time, the idea of a 'Bionic Family' was becoming fodder for jokes in MAD, 'The Match Game', and so on.

Lee Majors shaved the stache after season 4...but grew out his hair, and also staged a short-lived holdout at the beginning of season 5, as he and Lindsay Wagner were unhappy about not getting promised shares of merchandising profits from the Kenner toys. The title sequence was not-refilmed for season 5, so the famous 'helmet hair' look continued to be shown on the open every week, even though Majors no longer 'matched' it in the episodes.

Most true fans, however, like to blame the show's 5th-season death spiral on the hiring of Fred Freiburger as executive producer. One of the lowlights, which was apparently written by 'Spock with no brain', involved Steve being 'gaslighted' into thinking his crashed space capsule had landed in 1984, and he was somehow responsible for Oscar's death. 'Fake time travel' is definitely a shark jumping symptom!


Edited by Brian O'Neill on 19 November 2017 at 9:31pm
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Michael Penn
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 7:39am | IP Logged | 10 post reply

Elsewhere JB commented that virtually all artists (excepting Joe Kubert!) eventually become parodies of themselves. That's what happens with TV shows that go on too long, whenever that might occur. Even the very best TV shows succumb. 
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Eric Sofer
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 9:18am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

Michael Penn - so true about self-parodies. Shucks, I think it took a season and a half for "Lost in Space" to parody itself!
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John Byrne
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 10:52am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

Elsewhere JB commented that virtually all artists (excepting Joe Kubert!) eventually become parodies of themselves.

••

Caricatures, not parodies. An important distinction.

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Michael Penn
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 11:05am | IP Logged | 13 post reply

Ah, indeed. Thank you -- important correction.
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Greg McPhee
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 11:26am | IP Logged | 14 post reply

Hill Street Blues had two major blows that lessened my enjoyment:

1) The death of Michael Conrad
2) The firing of Steven Bochco

After Bochco left, NBC had more influence over the show and despite being brought through the ranks by Bochco, I never felt that Jeffrey Lewis and David Milch were able to keep the original vision of the show on Seasons 6 and 7. 
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Steven Myers
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 6:05pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

I forgot another big reason I used to stop watching a show--something else on another network replaced it. The Cosby Show replaced Magnum PI for instance.

I think from late grade school to early High School I watched TV almost every night with my family. Then I started doing other things when I wasn't interested in what was on.
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 20 November 2017 at 8:34pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

I'm still of the opinion that BARNEY MILLER is one of the few shows that didn't jump the shark or compromise it's core themes or character integrities**.   Maybe it's the combined wisdom of both the showrunners and the Network to quit while they were ahead and end the show with a definite conclusion when the ratings were still good that saved it from this fate.

Far too often shows jump the shark because they are overstaying their welcome or trying to wring another season or two out of an already spent formula.   The shows that struggle initially but then become successes because of minor 'breakout' characters are the ones that seem to devolve the quickest into the ridiculous plots and ratings-grabbing gimmicks.   Even the much-hallowed SEINFELD fell victim to the Kramer-caper-of-the-week syndrome increasingly towards it's end.  

**BARNEY MILLER did break the fourth wall once with it's Jack Soo tribute episode, but it's clearly meant to not be a regular episode of the show or part of the narrative.


Edited by Rob Ocelot on 20 November 2017 at 8:36pm
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Brian O'Neill
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Posted: 21 November 2017 at 1:20am | IP Logged | 17 post reply

BARNEY MILLER was, on the whole, a wonderful show, deserving of its lofty status. Having said that, the loss of Soo, as well as Vigoda, could never quite be overcome. The change in tone resulted in a handful of more serious, 'issue oriented' episodes, which were still good...but it's hard to compare 'Wojo crusades against Agent Orange' to 'Wojo's girlfriend makes pot brownies.'
 Your 'mooshy mooshy' may vary, Barn...
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Greg McPhee
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Posted: 21 November 2017 at 4:11am | IP Logged | 18 post reply

I'd also say "Magnum, P.I." and "The Rockford Files" never "jumped the shark".
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Brian Floyd
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Posted: 21 November 2017 at 4:44pm | IP Logged | 19 post reply

Ehhh.....the last season of Magnum, P.I. wasn't that great.

Two of my favorite shows certainly did jump the shark. I prefer to ignore that the 4th season of Knight Rider exists. And The A-Team fell apart once they introduced Hunt Stockwell and the team began working for him.


Edited by Brian Floyd on 22 November 2017 at 12:32pm
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 22 November 2017 at 8:10am | IP Logged | 20 post reply

Is that the "Super Pursuit Mode" and the instant stopping mudflaps season of Knight Rider?

The last few seasons (syndicated?) of AIRWOLF where it was a completely different show might count as a JTS -- gone were JMV, Borgnine and Bruce-Scott... and just stock footage of the Bell-222 helicopter from previous seasons of the show.   Pee-yew!

Or how about the season of DUKES OF HAZZARD with the 'fake' look-a-like Bo and Luke? (apparently two more 'cousins' to the family).

Didn't MAGNUM PI at one point die and have him walking into a bright light/heaven only to return the next season like nothing had happened?

I think CHEERS actually got better when Shelley Long left.  It takes a good show underneath to survive the loss of a main character and come out winning.   Those changes to CHEERS made FRAZIER possible, IMO.


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Greg McPhee
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Posted: 22 November 2017 at 8:58am | IP Logged | 21 post reply

Didn't MAGNUM PI at one point die and have him walking into a bright light/heaven only to return the next season like nothing had happened?

=======================================================

At the end of Season 7 Magnum was shot and in a coma and it was intimated that he had an out-of-body experience and died and went to the afterlife ( this could have just been a coma induced vision he was having. Although Magnum did have various supernatural themes and tomes throughout the series, so it wasn't a break from the norm), but fan pressure and Tom Selleck not wishing to end the series in that manner ensured an 8th Season where it was stated he was in a coma the whole time.

The next few episodes showcased his recovery from the gunshot wounds as part of a story arc of the 8th season.
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Brian Floyd
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Posted: 22 November 2017 at 12:32pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

Is that the "Super Pursuit Mode" and the instant stopping mudflaps season of Knight Rider?

++++++++++++++++++++++
I meant to put season 4, not 3. Will edit my post. That's when they added the super pursuit mode and mudflaps. And  it got even worse, because they introduced the lame character RC3 and KITT got the `much needed' ability to become a convertible.








Edited by Brian Floyd on 22 November 2017 at 12:33pm
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Ed Aycock
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Posted: 22 November 2017 at 12:50pm | IP Logged | 23 post reply

The first season of "Happy Days" is its best.  I watched the entire thing a few years ago and it's very funny and even a little naughty. (If you watch closely, they never even mention that the show is set in Milwaukee and you get the sense it's set somewhere in the Northeast.)  The second season is still quite good (although they already recast Chuck and had a three-camera episode as a trail run - the one where Fonzie gets engaged to the stripper.)  There is a scene in the second season when Richie and Fonzie have a talk in the schoolyard (outdoor shooting!) about why Fonzie dropped out of high school that's quite well-written.   But, as an article in the AV Club said, Gary Marshall had to kill the show in order to save it and we got 9 additional seasons of Pinky Tuscadero, Leather Tuscadero, sharks, western adventures, aliens, anachronisms and the devil. 
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David Allen Perrin
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Posted: 22 November 2017 at 1:01pm | IP Logged | 24 post reply

'Happy Day's' "jumped the shark" the moment the ABC execs realized Fonzie was the most marketable aspect of the show.

I always preferred him as the near silent street hood who wore a light blue jacket and just sat around looking menacing.  The minute he acquired superpowers....I was done.




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Brian O'Neill
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Posted: 22 November 2017 at 7:17pm | IP Logged | 25 post reply

I've watched just about every episode of 'Happy Days', and I think the 'jump' was when the guys graduated from high school(end of season 4).
The next year came all the dumb 'college' episodes...plus, 'When Chachi Met Joanie....and Leather Tuscadero.('Pinky' was never seen after the season 3 storyline; she would supposedly have become a regular, but Roz Kelly had a major attitude and pissed off too many higher-ups).
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