As you can see, the telltale trail becomes noticeable only in hindsight.
The moment when an established long-running series changes in a significant manner in an attempt to stay fresh
. Ironically, that moment makes the viewers realize that the show's finally run out of ideas
. It's reached its peak, it'll never be the same again, and from now on it's all downhill.
This expression originates from the episode of Happy Days
in which Fonzie, dressed in his trademark leather jacket, literally jumps over a shark on water-skis during an episode shot on location.
Some examples of clues which may (although by no means necessarily) indicate that a show's made the "jump":
- A popular character is removed from the show, or even killed off. Especially true if the method of removal is unsatisfying or mean-spirited. This can be considered a single-character form of The Firefly Effect. The standard candidate for this treatment is the heart/the chick, who will usually also be an introverted, quiet, and relatively pacifistic character; who the executives will want to replace with a character who is Hotter and Sexier and easier for the writers to develop ideas for, and probably also an actor who has greater artistic ability.
- The writers pen a replacement character who isn't as compelling as the one who left.
- A new character is introduced who earns the hatred of the fandom for whatever reason.
- In cases where Real Life Writes the Plot, when the actor playing a character core to the show's success dies and a decision is made to also kill off the actor's character. This will often force hasty, if not awkward changes to a program that gets, at best, lukewarm acceptance from the audience.
- The Other Darrin: Same Character, Different Actor.
- A child character is added to an otherwise adult cast (or worse, is put in after the kids in the cast "stop being cute.")
- The show's premise is radically altered, such as having the characters change careers or move to a new location.
- Conversely, the show (which is supposedly based on a coherent story arc rather than a series of episodic events) drags on too long without any sort of progress or resolution. May be the result of too much filler or over-reliance on Failure Is the Only Option or the Reset Button. If the plot is based on a Myth Arc, dragging it out too long or piling plot thread upon plot thread without resolution may lead to fans getting the impression that the writers are just making it up as they go along and subsequently tuning out.
- The show experiences mood whiplash in an unbelievable manner, typically a result of executive meddling wanting to make the show darker and edgier or lighter and softer.
- A jarring rise/decline in the sliding scale of villain threat, unless it's written well and/or used for comedic purposes, such as a big bad trying to take over the local 7-11 being usurped by one bent on destroying the galaxy.
- One of the writers puts too much of themselves into the show, to its detriment. They may use it as a pulpit to preach their personal beliefs in a heavy-handed manner, or to display personal kinks which squick the audience out. Common results include author filibuster, drastically increased sightings of straw characters, and going cosmic.
- A baby is added to an otherwise-adult cast, resulting in ill-suited addition of childish themes and endless babytalk from characters who were once intelligent-speaking adults fatally altering the character dynamic.
- The plot is resolved with one too many plot twists or retcons which are inconsistent with the overall narrative, poorly executed, or are just plain stupid, turning the audience away.
- A show's moment of awesome, in the sense that the show never lives up to said moment again, despite trying.
- The official couple (or beta couple) keeps breaking up and getting back together, to the point where it just aggravates not only the characters but the audience as well.
- The plotlines and subplots become too formulaic. (e.g. monster of the week, negative space wedgie, etc.)
- The storylines, character dynamics, etc. are so farfetched or over-the-top that they stretch the audience's willing suspension of disbelief way beyond its limits.
- Too much (or in some rare cases not enough) padding, especially true if "No, really, it gets better!" The audience is likely to grow impatient and give up.
- Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Too much angst (or worse, wangst) makes the audience lose sympathy for the characters and tune out.
- A major plot point is apparently resolved only to be immediately unresolved—over and over again.
- Too many Bottle Episodes gives the audience the impression that there's no more effort put into production.
- Too many continuity errors.
- A Romance Arc overtakes the series; a non-romance plotline key to the story is shelved in favor of focusing on the couple.
Behind the Scenes
- The show starts relying too much on "special guest stars" (especially if they're celebrities playing themselves) which wreck the verisimilitude of the show.
- Graphical gimmicks such as 3D are used to shore up failing character development.
- The Movie of the series is released, after which the creativity level of the actual show starts to wane. Smart executives will tend to watch a show/franchises's level of popularity, and the release of the movie is usually timed to coincide with said franchise's peak. As a result, it will tend to be a sign that it's all down hill from there.
- The show moves the existing cast to a new setting.
- For games, a Scrappy Mechanic is introduced that changes the balance that made the older games fun.
- A particular gimmick or recurring joke that becomes endearing or otherwise perceived to be core to the show's appeal is dropped, either with or without explanation.
- The show keeps saying how awesome something is, but doesn't actually let you know why (e.g., the characters are promoted to a higher rank, only to get less gadgets and fight even weaker villains).
- They do a Musical Episode or worse, a Clip Show.
- The show tries too hard to stay "current", even when it doesn't make any sense, or when the writers are obviously two decades behind the times.
- A show attempts to become more hip or lose focus by trying to be too many things to too many people. For example, franchises originally associated with a hardcore cult/geek fandom attempt to attract mass mainstream appeal.
- Over-reliance on fanservice, toilet humor, or other forms of turd polish.
- Too many sequels or spin-offs, each one less creative than the last.
- One of the cast members gets into an embarrassing real life scandal. This frequently becomes more interesting than the show itself.
- If your show has been relocated to a family timeslot, that means that now you must now censor yourself.
- The creator of the show gets kicked upstairs or simply "sells out". This means that he can't micromanage his creation anymore. Alternatively, said creator or other key members of the staff that contributed to the work have departed for other projects. Either way, more the better for others to insert their own vision.
- The main cast member becomes either the executive producer or co-executive producer. This often becomes "their show" to the detriment of their resentful co-stars. It often shows onscreen.
- A show's producers (usually a cult show produced or co-produced in Europe, the UK, and sometimes Japan) decide that it's time to go for an international audience. (e.g., Americanization.). These shows are typically already known to an international audience hence their cult status. It is often agreed that these shows have a charm due to their distinct non-American style and lose something when the overseas producers either decide to internationalize or get Americans involved in production.
- A real-life couple in Hollywood is cast as the lead couple, and puts too much of themselves into the characters they play.
- An important role is given to a relative or significant other of some key player behind the scenes, regardless of how competent or well-suited that person is (or isn't). For example, the role of Alice is given to the director's girlfriend.
- A Non-Actor Vehicle.
- A key cast member decides to leave. Especially true of long-serving and/or original cast members. Amplified if said departing cast member also happens to be the last original cast member.
- The creator of the show becomes sick of this particular work, and tries to sabotage it intentionally.
- The show is relocated to a timeslot such as 8 PM Friday night, or Otaku O'Clock, when fewer people are going to be watching, or channel hops to a less successful network.
- The staff folds under unreasonable demands of Moral Guardians (bonus points if they didn't bother researching the show) which can enrage fans no matter how small the changes to the show are.
- The show gains enough star-power to sell by itself and/or the creator becomes a house-hold name, which may led to the writers ignoring their editors and higher-ups out of the assumption that the work will be a hit even when the fans say otherwise.
- The writers start fighting with each other over whose canon is better while forgetting to make stories worth watching.
- An Ascended Fanboy becomes the writer/director/producer. As a result, the show in question may become susceptible to personal overindulgences in Mythology Gags, Internal Homage, excessive Shout-Out, Actor Allusion, Fan Wank and other sorts of love letters to the show. This tends to happen with long running or multigenerational franchises.
Generally caused by executive meddling and/or being screwed by the network
. Too many shark jumping moments in a row can spell seasonal rot
. The specific form of executive meddling which causes this, will often be a non-fatal form of The Firefly Effect
. This is when the show continues for some length of time, but the executives will get rid of the initial premise in an attempt to increase the show's appeal, and the attempt to do so backfires.
A related term is "nuking the fridge", a reference to an infamous scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
. There is little agreement on the differences between jumping the shark and nuking the fridge; commonly named ones are that nuking the fridge is more sudden, more severe, tied to lazy writing rather than attempts to stay fresh, and even specific to film rather than television.
Contrast Growing the Beard
, Win the Crowd
. For a related phenomenon, see Franchise Original Sin
. When it's whole networks instead of just shows, see Network Decay
; for print magazines, see Magazine Decay
. When a work gets its act together and regains its fandom after such an event see Win Back the Crowd
When the people start claiming something's a shark jumping moment immediately
after it happens, see Ruined FOREVER
Has nothing to do with the Discovery Channel
's Shark Week Air Jaws
specials, or tales of people actually riding them
Because there are too many real life examples, and it is probably the most subjective article we have, none will be listed. It is guaranteed that any show of sufficient length (more than two or three seasons) will vary in quality and thus this can start arguments. This page only lists overt lampshades of the phrase instead, preferably self deprecating ones.
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- Knights of the Dinner Table #151 is titled "Jump the Shark". It features Gary Jackson coming Back from the Dead. On their back page jokes section many issues back, normally consisting of fan submitted jokes, they themselves put together a list of examples of what would be jumping the shark for their comic and the above example was included on the list of possibilities. According to the writers though, the plans to bring Gary Jackson back were in the works before this list was published, making this a Self-Deprecation. Now we'll have to see if the Unresolved Sexual Tension between Brian and Sara is resolved (if it's even a two way street).
- Ultimate Spider-Man issue 67 is titled "Jump The Shark", as it's the second half of the Body Swap storyline between Spidey and Wolverine, a two-part Breather Episode following the very bleak Carnage story. To boot, both issues opened with a mini-comic of Bendis apologizing to the reader and engaging in a lot of Self-Deprecation. "Even I couldn't milk three issues out of this..."
- During Spider-Verse, Miles Morales believes his life has reached this moment as he's being chased by the police while riding in a sentient Spider-Mobile. Animated Ultimate Peter suggests it was earlier, back in the cowboy Spider-Man's world.
- In Sharknado 2: The Second One, Fin runs across the backs of several sharks to reach his friends. Martin jokes, "Talk about jumping the shark!"
- Causes confusion in The Long Earth. When a character said to the other that the show jumped the shark, he didn't mean the trope: "Captain Ahab - The Musical" had a show act where the captain literally jumped over a shark.
- In the Arrested Development episode "Motherboy XXX", Barry Zuckercorn (played by Henry Winkler, Fonzie himself) visits Buster on a dock, where his hand has been eaten by a seal. On his way to make a Product Placement for Burger King, he is forced to physically jump over the shark.
- In the self-referential 200th episode of Stargate SG-1, Marty responds to the suggestion of doing the Wormhole X-Treme! movie with Thunderbirds-style puppets by sarcastically suggesting that they have Puppet O'Neill jump over a puppet shark on a scale motorcycle.
- 30 Rock: in the episode "The One With the Cast of Night Court", Jenna Maroney was blamed by Harry Anderson, Markie Post, and Charles Johnson for making Night Court "jump the shark" for her three part episode as werewolf lawyer Sparky Monroe.
Harry: You made us jump the shark! You're the reason we didn't have a tenth season!
Markie: I had just bought my second home when they brought that idiot werewolf lawyer in!
Jenna: (insulted) Uh, that "idiot werewolf" paid for my hand reduction surgery, okay?
- The fifth-season premiere of Reno 911, entitled "Jumping the Shark", featured Lt. Dangle actually attempting to jump over a normal fish tank containing a small shark. Naturally, he doesn't quite make it over, and Hilarity Ensues. Incidentally, it was the first new episode to be aired after the release of The Movie, which can also be a major shark-jumping point for some shows.
- An episode of That '70s Show in which Fez, imagining how cool it would be to be the Fonzie, has a daydream of himself performing the original jump. Hyde comments that this was the worst moment in television history, and Fez confesses that he stopped watching the show after that. It's interesting, because this is more of a modern perspective rather than one commonly held at the time it aired... like pretty much everything on That '70s Show.
- In the last episode of Boston Legal after Alan accepts Denny's proposal of marriage Denny says "It'll be great! Like jumping a shark!"
- An episode featured a kid who is believed to be the third Winchester brother. The name of the episode? Jump the Shark. Oh yeah, and the diner where they meet the kid? Cousin Oliver's. Complete with a poster advertising "Fonzarelli's Water Skiing Event".
- Referenced again at the end of the episode "The Real Ghostbusters".
- One episode of House had House, bored out of his skull during clinic duty, constructing a racetrack from medical tape, tongue depressors, and cards. At the end of the track is a ramp, and under the ramp? A shark. Cuddy catches the car in midair, before it reaches the shark. Whew...
- An episode in The X-Files is titled "Jump the Shark". In it, The Lone Gunmen—the quirky trio of conspiracy theorists that had lasted the show's entire run and gotten their own failed spin off—end up thwarting a terrorist's plot to use a neurotoxin made from sharks (somehow). Unfortunately, they died in the process.
- Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide has an episode about making and taking dares that incorporates one character jumping a bicycle over a tank with a shark in it.
- In the Pushing Daisies (somewhat rushed) finale, the Victim of the Week was killed by accidentally leaping into the mouth of a shark. Lampshade Hanging? You decide!
- Web Soup host Chris Hardwick used this phrase when a video in their Things You Can't Un-See segment was legitimately disgusting and nauseating. It was a gaping foot wound, which was crawling with live maggots.
- The upcoming second season premier of Disney's Zeke and Luther, "Zeke Jumps the Shark", promises to be Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
- Community Season Finale: Troy wants to move in with Abed, but genre savvy Abed says their friendship would jump the shark if they did. Troy responds that when Fonzie literally jumped the shark, it was the best episode ever.
- The Trailer Park Boys episode "Jump the Cheeseburger".
- Attack of the Show! did a parody of Discovery Channel's Shark Week with their own jump the shark week, where each day they would jump the shark in classic fashion. Methods included being attacked by a cougar a la 24, having a Dallas style murder mystery, having a Cousin Oliver show up, and having an evil twin a la Knight Rider.
- Wipeout couldn't resist mentioning the trope; an episode featured an elimination game called "Jump The Shark", where players had to, well, jump over a spinning shark.
- In the Angel episode Smile Time, the owner of the titular puppet show made a deal with demons to keep his show on the air when it was losing ratings. Unfortunately, he neglected to read the fine print. While the term "jump the shark" is never actually used, Gunn's research reveals that the demons have tried this before - "You see the last few seasons of Happy Days?"
- The episode "Two and a Half Deaths" from CSI features a scene where Brass mentions the term Jumping The Shark to Grissom. Unfamiliar with what this means, Grissom asks and Brass is about to explain what it means when a scream switches the focus onto something else.
- In the last series of Made In Canada, the trope is discussed by the main characters in the episode "Beaver Creek Jumps the Shark", both regarding the Show Within a Show Beaver Creek (they differ on when the series jumped the shark, but several of the usual candidates - a Cousin Oliver (actually named Oliver), supernatural elements, Shipping Bed Death, a musical episode, a live episode, a real time episode, a guest appearance by Ted McGinley - are mentioned) and their own lives. In the latter case, their lives all seem to have begun their downward slides courtesy of some moment involving their Pointy-Haired Boss Alan Roy.
- Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps once had lead character Jonny attempt (off-screen), to exactly emulate Fonzie's stunt. Given that he died in the attempt and it was a live episode, the producers were no doubt Lampshading these facts. At one point Janet even does a Fonzie impression.
- Kingdom of Loathing contains a certain item, equipped in the torso slot, which drops from a shark. As usual, the item description contains several "examples of what plot elements may cause or be symptomatic of jumping the shark."
- One of the skills in the Avatar of Sneaky Pete special challenge path is "Jump the Shark", which gives you extra experience points but causes Sneaky Pete's "studio audience" to hate him (which can actually be useful to some of his skills).
- In Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, one of the missions involves feeding imbecilic oil rig worker Mega's pet shark, Fonzie. That involves jumping over him on your board for some reason. Keep in mind that Mega's the kind of guy to name a shark Fonzie unironically, completely unaware of it meaning anything deeper than "That guy on that show I watched when I was like five. He was cool. Ayyyyy!"
- In Hallrunner, a game on the Videlectrix website (a gaming website hosted by the creators of Homestar Runner), the object of the game is to make your way through various obstacles while running down a neverending hallway. Upon coming to each obstacle, the player has the option of talking to it, fighting it, or jumping it. If the player chooses "jump" when the obstacle is a shark, he gets the response "You jump the shark. Just like homestarrunner.com."
- In Skate 3, the player attempts to jump over a statue of a shark in the opening cinematic. He fails, which is a setup for you to use plastic surgery to create your character. You can jump it in the actual game.
- Jumpman Zero has a level called "Jump The Shark", which is basically a big underwater room with a shark in it.
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance has a trophy titled "Jumping the Shark", which you can get for destroying 10 Hammerhead enemies in the game.
- World of Warcraft has a daily quest in Krasarang Wilds called Jumping the Shark. In which your character, with his or her bare hands, jumps on a shark and beats the daylights out of it. This is far from the most outlandish thing most characters have done by this point.
- Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon features a scene where Rex launches a car over a shark...well, a Sharktopus, to be more exact. HUD even describes the objective as simply "Jump the shark".
- In Saints Row IV, the final mission is called "Punch the shark"(even though no actual sharks are involved). "Jumping" it just doesn't quite cut it anymore.
- BlazBlue Continuum Shift Extend has Ragna say that Valkenhayn is jumping the shark when he prepares for his Uber-Verboten Attack in his joke end.
- As a self-deprecating joke, a TV show literally called "Jump The Shark" figures into the plot of the Deadpool video game. Apparently it consists entirely of Fonzie-expy contestants jumping over a shark tank with a motorbike.
- Sealab 2021: "Sharko's Machine": Sharko (A Cousin Oliver parody who is Marco's half-shark illegitimate son) is seen jumping over several Fonzies during an absurd Hard Work Montage.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends:
- "Sweet Stench of Success", when Bloo becomes an advertising icon who gets his own sitcom spinoff. The preview after the very first episode is "tune in next week when Deo jumps a shark!"
- In the final episode, "Goodbye to Bloo", Bloo thinks Mac is moving away forever, and tries to come up with something big they can do for their last day together. After Mac shoots down several of his suggestions as things they have already done before (they are in fact references to the plots of previous episodes), Bloo decides that the only thing left to do is to Jump the Shark. Unable to find a shark in time, he settles for walking over a fish with a paper fin on a bowl.
- Kim Possible addresses thoughts on jumping the shark, by hanging up on Ron when he brings it up. This Fanfiction takes the idea a bit further, parodying Happy Days and then revealing it all as just a dream.
- Also a Show Within a Show example, is where they lean on the fourth wall about a couple on the show, claiming if they got together the show would practically end. A reference to the soon pairing of Kim and Ron.
- One episode of Dora the Explorer had Dora use Jump Star to "jump the shark".
- One episode of Squidbillies shown Rusty watching a TV show in a dramatic way, showing a Mailman delivering mail into a mailbox. What is worth a mention in this article is Early commenting on the show with the trope name.
- In an episode of What's New, Scooby-Doo? where the gang goes to the set of an action film, the director ends up modifying the script to have Scooby and Shaggy launch on a motorcycle over a tank of sharks. Velma remarks, "Never thought I'd see Scooby-Doo jump the shark."
- One "Previously On" for a two-part episode of South Park had scenes of Fonzie about to jump a shark cut in. Then when he makes the jump, he gets eaten, seeming to say "Not yet, viewers".
- My Life as a Teenage Robot "In-Des-Tuck-Able" serves as the final episode where Tuck is performing a series of dangerous stunts including riding a motorcycle over a Shark Pool. Brad provides the lampshading.
"Once you jump the shark, the show is over."
- The Simpsons:
- The series lampooned this trope by showing an episode where Bart buys a race horse (Lisa already did that), Lisa notices Marge's gambling problem (we already know that) and adds an improbable twist that horse jockeys are elves in disguise (complete with schlocky musical number). Lampshaded by Comic Book Guy when he is seen wearing a "Worst Episode Ever" shirt.
- One Couch Gag had the family do it to land on the couch, only for Homer to lose both legs.
- One of the Clip Show episodes featured a song lampshading both clip shows and the sort of absurd plots that normally constitute a shark jump, complete with a still image of Homer on waterskis◊.
That's it for our spinoff showcase. But what about the show that started it all? How do you keep "The Simpsons" fresh and funny after eight long years? Well, here's what's on tap for season nine: Magic powers! Wedding after wedding after wedding. And did someone say, "long-lost triplets?" So join America's favorite TV family, and a tiny green space alien named Ozmodiar that only Homer can see
, on FOX this fall. It'll be out of this world! Right, Ozmodiar?
Ozmodiar: Damn straight, Troy my man!
- This one also constitutes a Meta reference, since in an interview Matt Groening said that you'd know The Simpsons had jumped the shark when they introduced a Great Gazoo-style character.
- During the Teen Titans episode where the Titans chased Control Freak into TV land, Robin finds himself on some kind of action challenge show being forced by a suspiciously familiar looking host with a funny accent to waterski off a ramp, at which point a shark leaps out of the water underneath him.
- The Fairly Oddparents:
- A Cut Song from The Movie ''Channel Chasers" had Timmy jumping a shark with a guy who looked a lot like The Fonz.
- Also in the later episode that introduces Wanda's twin sister Blonda, the B-plot of the episode consists of Timmy doing various "EXTREEEEEME!!" stunts. The very first stunt was him rocketskating over a shark tank.
- Fanboy and Chum Chum referenced jumping the shark during the episode "Total Recall". One of the shows they liked had the title character, an octopus spy named Agent 8 jump a shark. They found the show got better after.
- Dante and Randal in the Clerks series reminisce about the iconic scene from Happy Days, except in their recollection, the shark came back and ate Samuel L. Jackson.
- In The Venture Bros. the Monarch references this trope regarding henchmen. You say "jump" they say "what shark".
- The series finale of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Bat-Mite, tired of the show's formula, conspires to get it cancelled by inflicting several classic shark jumps. The list includes giving Batman a love interest and sickeningly cute daughter, inserting obvious toy tie-ins, changing Aquaman's voice actor (to Ted McGinley, no less), giving Ace the Bat-Hound a very familiar nephew, moving the show to Malibu, and finally making Batman use guns. Ambush Bug (voiced by Henry Winkler) tries to stop him by telling Batman that they're in a TV show and if they don't get back to normal fast, declining viewership will destroy their world. They're too late to save the show, but at least they manage to salvage its dignity. The series ends with a giant wrap party where Batman tells the viewers that he'll always be around to fight evil, but for now this is goodbye.
- Team Umizoomi has an unusual variation where a shark jumps with the Team.
- Mentioned in the Regular Show episode "The Heart of a Stuntman".