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TV Shows that "Jumped the Shark"

Updated on February 14, 2012

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, 1978-1991

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, 1988-1997

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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    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 

      6 years ago

      I remember all of these shows and you're right on the money with them. The last season or two of each of them took such lame, desperate turns. I think Laverne and Shirley jumped shark twice, lol. 1st when they moved to California, second when Shirley left the show and they continued it with just Laverne.

      X-files did for me (about season 8 when they started phasing Mulder out and Doggert in, and Scully's pregnancy became a plot point).

      Scrubs did, too... they had a great show finale, and were unexpectedly renewed for a year. They grabbed it and went on, even though the lead character left. It was lame... they should have left it.

      More shows should go out with dignity when the story is actually ready to end-- like Breaking Bad.

    • amymarie_5 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amy DeMarco 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      So true Alecia! Thank you for reading and glad you enjoyed this!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      7 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I forgot that Flintstones episode but I'm sure I'm not the only one. The Facts of Life is probably one of my all time favorite shows but I bet they wouldn't have lasted as long had they came on the scene in recent years. Like Deb said- you know a show's over once there was a baby cousin or new sibling in the mix.

      Fun hub!

    • amymarie_5 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amy DeMarco 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      Lol! I remember that about him too! Thanks for commenting!

    • amymarie_5 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amy DeMarco 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      Lol! I remember that about him too! Thanks for commenting!

    • benisan85745 profile image


      7 years ago from Tucson, AZ.

      I also remember Ted McGinley as the sitcom killer, any shiw that man was on....cancelled or failed in ratings, including Happy Days.

    • amymarie_5 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amy DeMarco 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      Hey Elephant! Thanks for commenting. You are so right- esp South Park. I quit watching a few yrs ago. I don't like how they changed it. Especially getting rid of Chef and changing Cartman's personality.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Shows that also jumped the shark:

      SpongeBob: Was good for all ages in seasons 1-3, but ever since season 4, it now seems like the show is only for 5 year olds.

      The Simpsons: Was a hilariously enjoyable animated sitcom from 1991-2002, but now I struggle searching for a scene I could chuckle at.

      South Park: Similar to The Simpsons. It was great from seasons 1-9, but now Stan and Kyle act EXTREMELY serious, Kenny rarely dies anymore, Cartman went from a spoiled brat to an aggressive psychopath maniac, and most of the wittier background characters (Chef, Dr. Mephesto, Mrs. Crabtree, Pip, Ned etc.) have been written out of the series. Also, Butters seems to be the main character in too many episodes no and the plots only seem to revolve around whatever happened yesterday in the world.

      Family Guy: Was funny from seasons 1-half way through season 8, but now it's just boring and relies only on potty humor. It also tries way too hard to be like South Park these days.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Beverly Hillbillies jumped the shark w/ those Shorty Kellums episodes. Mork & Mindy jumped the shark when Jonathan Winters became their infant son. However it wasn't Cousin Oliver that killed The Brady Bunch; it was competition from NBC's new sitcom hit Sanford & Son. The 6 Brady kids had outgrown their cuteness & Oliver was a desperate attempt to bring new life to a show that would've been cancelled soon anyway.

    • T. R. Brown profile image

      T. R. Brown 

      7 years ago from Nashville, TN

      That would be Grey's Anatomy not Grey's Antinomy. Typo monster got me.

    • T. R. Brown profile image

      T. R. Brown 

      7 years ago from Nashville, TN


      I was never a big fan but Grey's Antinomy clearly jumped the shark when they did the musical episode and or when the blonde (can't remember her name) started having a relationship with her dead boyfriend. That may be the first show to jump the shark twice.

    • profile image

      Olde Cashmere 

      7 years ago

      Entertaining and well written hub. Loved the topic. I remember growing up and watching the Roseanne episodes after the lottery. Great show but I couldn't stand the last season, so far removed from everything they built up to that point. Voted up, great job with this one.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      7 years ago from Planet Earth

      I've heard the shark-jumping term before, but never knew the genesis until now. Thanks for a very original and entertaining hub! I remember a few of these too-absurd efforts to revive flagging ratings. Some almost insulted the viewer in their improbability. Voted up, interesting and SHARED with my followers.

    • Born2care2001 profile image

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 

      7 years ago from Asheville NC

      Hi AnnMarie 5,

      Great hub and well presented. I don't watch TV or Movies much anymore. Probably because I spend so much time on HubPages...or maybe it's that I "Jumped the Shark" too many times. I watched every one of these shows. I too, appreciate the trip down memory lane!

      Voted Up and Funny!

    • A.A. Zavala profile image

      Augustine A Zavala 

      7 years ago from Texas

      That's weird, because I hated cousin Arnold also. That kid actor appeared in other shows, and I still hated him. Oh well...

      Awesome, thank you for sharing...

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 

      7 years ago from Iowa

      What a great trip down memory lane. You just knew a show had jumped the shark any time the young, precocious cousin moved in!

    • amymarie_5 profile imageAUTHOR

      Amy DeMarco 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      Hi Sarcasticool,

      I do remember that episode with Mork and Fonzie battling it out! That was so out there! I'm glad you liked this! Thanks for commenting!!

    • sarcasticool profile image


      7 years ago from New Zealand

      Excellent, my kind of hub. I love stuff like this. Re: Happy days, I also remember an episode when Mork from Ork (Robin William)appeared in an episode of Happy Days. Mork has a showdown with the Fonz. Cooolness vs Alien powers.

      I really enjoyed this hub. thanks for writing and sharing this! voted up :)


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