TV Shows that "Jumped the Shark"
In the 1970s, Happy Days was a hit. It was a TV sticom that centered around a typical 1950s family. Arthur Fonzerelli (known as The Fonz), the cool greaser with a big heart, quickly became the show's most popular character. The writers took notice and milked that all the way to the bank.
California 3 was the title to an episode that aired in September 1977. The gang ends up in California, where Fonzie is challenged to jump over a shark in the ocean. In order to prove he is a tough dude, he accepts the challenge. He water skis in the ocean with his swimming trunks and leather jacket. The crowd is scared. Miraculously, Fonzie jumps over the shark! The once scared crowd now cheers! Fonzie did it and a new term was coined: Jump the Shark.
'Jump the Shark' became an idiom to describe the point of a television series where popularity wanes. In order to keep viewers interested, writers come up with desperate, riddiculous and even supernatural plots. Happy Days started off as a nostalgic family show about the '50s. Suddenly, Fonzie is jumping over sharks and doing other cartoonish things. Unfortunately, once that shark's been jumped, there's no going back and many times, it leads to declining ratings and cancellations.
Shark jumping doesn't always lead to cancellation. Ironically, Happy Days went on for many more seasons after it's famous shark episode.
Other Classic Shows That Jumped the Shark
Happy Days wasn't the first show to 'Jump the Shark' and certainly not the last. Do you remember when your favorite show jumped the shark? Here are some of the best shark jumping feats ever done on television.
Fred and Barney Meet The Great Gazoo
The Flinstones 1960-1966
The Flinstones was an animated series that ran in the 1960s. It was the first cartoon to ever air on prime-time. It was a very popular show about a working-class, stone-age couple, Fred and Wilma Flinstone and their neighbors / best friends, Barney and Betty Rubble.
In 1965, in an episode titled 'The Great Gazoo', we meet The Great Gazoo himself. A tiny, green, condescending alien who was exiled to Earth from the planet Zetox. His crime was inventing a Doomsday Machine, so he's an evil little guy. He calls Fred and Barney dum-dums. He tries helping out Fred and Barney but usually lands them in a heap of trouble instead. Did I mention that he has a flying saucer?
The Flinstones was cancelled the following year.
Cousin Arnold Moves in with the Bradys
The Brady Bunch, 1970-1974
Here's the story: A lovely widow with equally lovely daughters meets and marries a handsome widower and his equally handsome boys. It's a saccharine-sweet match made in blended family heaven.
In 1974 the writers got bored or perhaps they realized they couldn't keep twelve-year-old tween Susan Olsen in pigtails forever. In comes cousin Oliver. The other kids didn't like him. Neither did we. The show cancelled and the rest is syndicated history.
Laverne and Shirley Take Hollywood
Laverne & Shirley, 1976-1983
They were best friends, roommates and worked together at the local brewery. Gosh, you'd think these BFF's would be sick of each other! Apparently not. In season six, Laverne and Shirley lose their jobs at the Milwaukee brewery and move to California - with Lenny, Squiggy, The Big Ragu, Pops and Edna in tow. Once, bottlecapping, the girls are now gift wrapping. Pops and Edna left behind their pizzaria to open up Cowboy Bill's, a barbecue joint. Everything has changed, but really, nothing's changed.
Mr. Drummond Gets Married
Diff'rent Strokes, 1978-1985
The story of a super rich milionaire Philip Drummund who adopts two super cute African American kids from Harlem, Willis and Arnold. Diff'rent Strokes was a mega hit show. When ratings started to sag the writers decided that bringing in new characters could give the show a good boost. So Philip got a new love interest, southern belle, Maggie (played by Dixie Carter) and she had a super-duper cute red headed kid named Sam to replace the aging Arnold Jackson. Dixie Carter left the show after one season and was replaced by an actress who didn't even have a southern accent - or perhaps, not a very good fake one.
The plug on Diff'rent Strokes was pulled soon after.
The Facts of Life Girls Move in with Mrs. Garrett
The Facts of Life, 1979-1988
The show had many changes in its nine year run. First Edna Garrett (played by Charlotte Ray) was the housemother of a dormitory at Eastland, a private, all-girls school. Within a year, more than half the cast was cut and Mrs. Garret was 'promoted' to work in the cafeteria as the school's dietician. Four girls remained: Blair, Tootie, Natalie and new-comer tough girl Jo. They get in trouble but instead of being expelled, they were separated from the other girls. As punishment, they worked in the cafeteria with Mrs. Garrett and lived in the room above it.
They liked their punishment so much that they all ended up moving in with Mrs. Garrett after graduation. They worked in her store until the end of the series in 1988.
Bobby Ewing is Dead.. No, He's Alive!
Dallas was a nighttime soap opera that centered around the Ewing family, a rich Texan family in the oil and cattle business. The show was very popular and topped the ratings throughout its run.
Bobby Ewing and Pam Ewing were the central couple of the series. Their characters were loosely based on Shakespere's Romeo and Juliet. In 1985, Bobby Ewing's character was killed off. This had unexpected consequences. Viewers of the show were outraged at Bobby's untimely death and ratings declined. The writers frantically scrambled for ideas. Bobby Ewing was resurrected the following season. The death of Bobby was just a terrible dream that Pam had, thus erasing away everything that happened in the previous season.
Dallas managed to continue on for a few more years before calling it quits in 1991.
Roseanne and Jackie Win the Lottery
Roseanne was an instant hit. It was a show about the Conners, a working class family living in the fictional town of Lanford, Il. People related to the show because it dealt with familiar issues like job lay offs, financial woes and child rearing. The Conners were dysfunctional but loved each other and boy were they funny!
In its final season, Roseanne and her sister Jackie win the lottery. Suddenly, the Conners (and Jackie) become wealthy. The show became unrelatable to the audience and plot lines were bordering on absurdity. In the series finale, we discover that the final season never really happened anyway. Dan died at Darlene's wedding the previous year and everything was just wishful thinking that Roseanne had written down to cope with Dan's death.
Did I Miss Anything?
Do you have a favorite show that 'jumped the shark' that isn't mentioned here? Please share!
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