In 1977 the popular Happy Days comedy show had a three-part episode in which the character of Fonzie (Harry Winkler), the favorite rebel-yet-good-hearted motorcyclist, participated in a dangerous stunt: Water skiing over a shark. The scene played against a previous episode in which Fonzie refused to do a motorbike stunt and taught the young viewers not to take dangerous risks. With the shark jumping scene, devoted viewers claimed that it was the moment that killed the show, although it continued for over 50 episodes more.
20 years later, Jon Hein built the website Jump the Shark.com, detailing the moments that meant death notes of TV shows, old and new. Obviously, it was named after the infamous Fonzie scene, and with the popularity of the website, the term ‘Jump the Shark’ was coined. Ranging from categories like wedding (Monica and Chandler in Friends), new baby (Mad About You) or just a change of writers, the website featured almost every TV show ever produced.
I was first introduced to Jump the Shark.com several years ago, unknown to me shortly before it was purchased by TV Guide owner Gemstar. The website went through some designing changes, but it didn’t bother me with the boring old look it previously had. I used to check it once in a while and every time was drawn to spend hours, reading what others thought were the worst moments of my favorite shows. As far as I can remember, Buffy The Vampire Slayer was one show that most voters decided had never jumped the shark. And rightly so.
The most memorable category was named after Ted McGinley, the actor who joined Married… with Children in season 5 and replaced Steve as Marcy’s second husband, Jefferson. Jump the Shark.com condemned him as the main reason for the downfall of the show (which was canceled 6 seasons later), but strangely also the reason for the fall of other shows he joined at some point, like The Love Boat and – ironically – Happy Days. Sometimes he was credited with roles he never played… That’s how much the Jump the Shark.com people “admired” McGinley.
Now, originally I planned this as a BLAARGH! but OtLB is a good enough place. Yet, it doesn’t mean I won’t rant. Why? Because eventually the purchase by Gemstar turned out badly. Earlier this year I went to Jump the Shark.com for the first time in a while and was redirected to a TV Guide.com page titled ‘Jump the Shark’. I tried to search the web, but came up with nothing. Everything pointed me back to TV Guide. Then I realized what happened; the original website is no more, now integrated into TV Guide.com as a poor man’s blog about new TV shows and their alleged “Jumping the Shark” moments. Ted McGinley still has a category of his own, but so far they only posted info about a Hallmark TV movie he appeared in. Jump the Shark.com, sadly, Jumped the Shark.
With Jump the Shark.com gone, I’m left with the hope that one day someone will create a similar website for comic books (heck, maybe I’ll do it myself!) Why is that? Let’s keep it for a future column.
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