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‘Jumping the Shark’ explained

We've all felt that disconcerting moment when a good tv show goes bad. Whether in the form of an unrealistic plot twist, the unexplained replacement of a key character, or a suspicious drift from the original premise, that palatable drop in quality is what tv critics call 'jumping the shark.' The term comes from a moment in the series Happy Days when Fonzie literally jumped over a shark wearing water skis. Until then, he was known for his sex appeal and rebellious nature, not sideshow stunts involving aquatic predators. It was a sign of sorry times for the show, but at least it spawned a catchy industry phrase. A second Happy Days shark jump came with its ill-fated spin-off series Joanie Loves Chachi. What were they thinking?
April 1, 2006

We’ve all felt that disconcerting moment when a good TV show goes bad. Whether in the form of an unrealistic plot twist, the unexplained replacement of a key character, or a suspicious drift from the original premise, that palatable drop in quality is what tv critics call ‘jumping the shark.’ The term comes from a moment in the series Happy Days when Fonzie literally jumped over a shark wearing water skis. Until then, he was known for his sex appeal and rebellious nature, not sideshow stunts involving aquatic predators. It was a sign of sorry times for the show, but at least it spawned a catchy industry phrase. A second Happy Days shark jump came with its ill-fated spin-off series Joanie Loves Chachi. What were they thinking?

About The Author
Senior staff writer Frederick Blichert comes to realscreen with a background as a journalist and freelance film critic. He has previously written for VICE, Paste Magazine, Senses of Cinema, Xtra, Canadian Cinematographer and elsewhere. He holds a Master of Arts in film studies from Carleton University and a Master of Journalism from the University of British Columbia.

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