Friday, September 16, 2011

Jumping the Shark

I've been pondering the meaning behind the modern idiom, "jumping the shark".  I learned about this when it was referenced on the wonderfully entertaining but short-lived "Arrested Development", which featured Ron Howard as the narrator and Henry Winkler as a lawyer named Barry Zuckercorn.  The inside joke originates from a few angles.  One is that Winkler and Howard shot to fame together on "Happy Days" a few decades earlier, when they were both much younger.  On the premiere episode of that show's fifth season, Winkler's character, known as Fonzie, performed a waterskiing stunt, (wearing his leather jacket!) by jumping over a shark in an enclosure near a beach.  The other is simply the physical act of jumping the shark-- Winkler "winks" at his past by literally jumping over a dead shark on a dock on "Arrested Development".  The joke is also a self-deprecating (though untrue) poke at "Arrested Development".

Here are the two clips, first from "Happy Days" and then the funny reference on "Development"
This is the idiom's current meaning as defined by Wikipedia: 
"Jumping the shark is an idiom, first employed to describe a moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery.
In its initial usage, it referred to the point in a television program's history where it has "outlived its freshness" [1] where viewers feel "the writers have run out of ideas" and that "the series has [lost] what made it attractive."[2] These changes were often the result of efforts to revive interest in a show whose audience had begun to decline.[3]"

 This is just a little something to watch for.  There have been many instances of this being done over the years, and I guess it's really a matter of personal opinion for viewers as to when they feel a show has "jumped the shark". And if you haven't watched "Arrested Development" yet, you really should.  It's one of the best TV shows I've ever watched. It's not for everyone, and it can get kind of naughty-- adult jokes, it's not for kids. But it's very funny and clever.


Chris said...

Well thought-out observations, Steph, as always. One minor tweak: While "Happy Days" did indeed shoot Henry Winkler to stardom, Ron Howard (as Ronny Howard) had been a child star for years, from "The Andy Griffith Show" to "The Music Man" to lots of others before "Happy Days" came long. (Oh, I'm so old.)

Steph said...

Dude, I know, that's true. I didn't want to make it about him, so I lumped it together... and most of the people I know don't even know who I'm talking about (SAD!!!). Thanks, though, as always, for clarifying. You've always been my best editor. :)

By the way, I think he was stinkin' adorable in "The Music Man". So cute with that little lisp!