Analysis / Jumping the Shark

Garry Marshall has tirelessly reminded us that Happy Days went on for a number of years after the original shark jump, misunderstanding a phrase that judges suckiness, not success. Henry Winkler has elsewhere commented that he's happy with the popularity of the phrase, as its usage in a magazine is often accompanied by a photo of him during a time in his life when he had great legs. The writer of the Happy Days episode has also written in the moment's defense. (Interestingly, the majority of the examples/criteria listed above involving some sort of ongoing/permanent change to a series outnumber those related to a single moment, such as Fonzie's shark jump). used to be run by writer Jon Hein (who now works as part of The Howard Stern Show), who coined the term with his friends in the mid-1980s. The site maintained an ongoing list of series-killing moments (granted, you could vote for every cause, and shows commonly had "Day One" as an option). The website listed actor Ted McGinley as their "patron saint", as he has the most television roles in which the series slowly died off after his first appearance (one of them, appropriately enough, being Happy Days). The longest-lasting show with McGinley in a starring role was Married... with Children, where he went for seven seasons after replacing David Garrison (Steve Rhoades). Ironically, the site itself jumped the shark in January 2009, when it was merged into the TV Guide website, had its content removed along with the voting system, and became a blog by writer Erin Fox. Now, it's nothing but a redirect to

There is some evidence that jumping the shark has no real effect on a show's success. This depends on one's definition; a strict shark jump by definition sets the tone that eventually causes viewers to stop watching, whereas the softer definition used in the article walks the line between this trope and Ruined Forever. Take the trope namer, Happy Days: the moment happened in Season 5, viewers stuck around for one more season, then got sick of the show's new tone (which, in hindsight, started with Fonzie jumping the shark) and left. In the original case, the moment was less "Ruined FOREVER" and more "I hope they don't do more of that" (which they did).