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Man Who Wrote the "Jump the Shark" Episode Defends His Work

"Jump the shark" is slang term that refers to the moment when an entertainment franchise starts to go downhill. It specifically refers to an episode of the TV show Happy Days in which Fonzie jumped over a shark tank on waterskis. Now Fred Fox, Jr., the author of that screenplay, has come out in defense of that episode:

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?

That's why, when I first heard the phrase and found out what it meant, I was incredulous. Then my incredulity turned into amazement. I started thinking about the thousands of television shows that had been on the air since the medium began. And out of all of those, the "Happy Days" episode in which Fonzie jumps over a shark is the one to be singled out? This made no sense.


Link via blastr | Image: Paramount

Heh. I bought my son the book "Shark vs. Train." I won't spoil it for you, but on one page the Shark and Train are going over a large jump. One of the trucks is labeled on the side, "A. Fonzarelli's" Leather Goods."
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He wrote for Family Matters. It's a pretty sad IMDB entry, a lot of single episodes of second rate shows. "My Secret Identity," "Still the Beaver," "He's the Mayor."

Happy Days certainly coasted on it's success for those last six years, and lots of people watched out of habit or boredom. Doesn't mean it was any good, just a cash cow when an old sit-com could run for a long, long time.
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Wow, don't condemn the man's career because he wrote for shows that you don't consider genius. I never watched Webster but it was popular for a while because of the cute kid. These sound like shows aimed at a young audience, so maybe you just didn't watch them, but the man has a right to feel good about his career, for pete's sake. Have YOU written for TV? Are you a professional writer?

Lay off.
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Look at george lucas. People revere him and his stuff jumped the shark in the second film. Yet, his stuff is adored by cultists all over the world, I guess.
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heh, i think he missed the point altogether - that was just the episode when it became obvious that happy days officially sucks, not when it took a dive in popularity. crappy entertainment is popular all the time, just look at twilight or justin bieber.
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Any time a show made in Hollywood has the characters go to Hollywood I consider it to have jumped some kind of shark.. I wasn't even aware that that was part of the plot before reading this hardworking fellow's rebuttal..

The show ate itself
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Yeah, I don't think he gets it. It's not the point at which the show starts losing viewership. It's not even the point where the TV show becomes "bad". It's the point where most agree that the original ideas and storylines that made the show popular in the first place are obviously no longer being maintained. Many times this is done with a marriage or relationship between main characters, or someone has a baby, or a cute child is brought in out of nowhere, or Ted McGinley shows up.
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"And out of all of those, the “Happy Days” episode in which Fonzie jumps over a shark is the one to be singled out? This made no sense."

No, what makes no sense is to have the Fonz jumping over a freaking shark while wearing his leather jacket! Fonzie was cool and would easily know how much of a dork he looked like skiing with a leather jacket on.
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You would think someone would have just handed him a computer with a web browser pointed to TV Tropes and said "Just read this, then click here. Keep going."
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I don't think he got it. The jump the shark episode was the point whare the show's writers started running out of decent ideas.
If he takes exception to the Happy Days link, perhaps he could refer to the Marcel the Monkey arrives episode of Friends. Same problem.
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Happy Days was pretty dire from the get go, so a downward spiral wasn't really possible. In that respect he's right, it wasn't the start of a downward spiral.

However he seems to miss the point. He witters on about popularity and longevity as if either were some sort of measure of quality. Yeah that's right all popular shows are quality TV. All popular shows are good. Actually popularity seems to be a really good way of identifying a poor TV show.
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It's because that episode was so ridiculous. He's skiing while wearing a leather jacket, and jumping over a shark. It's just completely absurd, as well as a rehash of the episode where he jumped over the garbage cans.
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