Jumping the Shark

fonz

Jumping the shark is an idiom created by American radio personality Jon Hein to describe the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery. The phrase is also used to refer to a particular scene, episode or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of ‘gimmick’ in a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.

The phrase refers to a scene in the fifth season premiere of ‘Happy Days in 1977: the gang visits Los Angeles, where a waterskiing Fonzie, wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, jumps over a confined shark, in response to a challenge. For a show that in its early seasons depicted universally relatable experiences against a backdrop of 1950s nostalgia, this marked an audacious, cartoonish turn towards attention-seeking gimmickry and continued the faddish lionization of an increasingly superhuman Fonzie.

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