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Jumping the Shark
aka: Jump The Shark

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As you can see, the telltale trail becomes noticeable only in hindsight... when it resembles a looming shark's fin.

Jumping the Shark is the moment when an established long-running series changes in a significant manner. This can range from something relatively small like the introduction of a new gimmick, all the way up to the magnitude of a full-on Genre Shift, in an attempt to stay fresh. Ironically, it is this moment makes the viewers realize that the show has finally run out of ideas. It's reached its peak, it'll never be the same again, and it's all downhill from here. It's Ruined Forever!!!

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. Aside from being over-the-top, the scene was criticized as betraying Fonzie's character development; in an earlier landmark episode, Fonzie jumped his motorcycle over fourteen barrels in a televised stunt, which left him seriously injured. After the stunt, Fonzie confessed that he was stupid to have taken such a dangerous risk just to prove his courage. Thus, the shark jump was seen as Fonzie forgetting a very important lesson.


For a show that depicted universally-relatable adolescent and family experiences against a backdrop of 1950s nostalgia in its early seasons, the shark-jumping incident marked an audacious turn that many viewers believed was for the worse. Initially a supporting character, the lionization of an increasingly-superhuman Fonzie became the focus of the entire show. The series continued for seven years after Fonzie's shark-jumping stunt, with a number of changes in cast and situations. It was also really boring. Despite this, "jumping the shark" is often erroneously used to describe a moment that leads to a show quickly ending or getting cancelled; while this certainly has happened, Happy Days proved a show can run for a long time after the jump and remain popular.

Some examples of clues which may (although by no means necessarily) indicate that a show's made the "jump":


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    Cast Changes 

    Character Development 

    Plot Development 


This overlaps with both Gimmicks and Behind the Scenes, since the show moving the existing cast to a new setting is often accompanied by a Real Life move from a random-seeming tax-incented location to inside the Southern California studio zone so the cast and crew can be available for other projects. Sometimes it's only one or the other, though (a lot of always-studio-shot Disney Channel shows have done this).

    Behind the Scenes 

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 and Sophomore Slump.

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.

In-Universe Examples Only (which allows references to the term):

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    Comic Books 
  • 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.
  • A particularly oddball issue of Transformers: More than Meets the Eye features a bar titled "The Jumping Shark" as a Funny Background Event.

    Fan Fics 
  • In Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami, this is referenced and lampshaded during a boat chase. "They did a bunch of jumps over a wall and a cruise boat but missed some sharks and didn't jump them (ITS AN INTERNET THINGY)".
  • In Jake English's Mysterious Theater of Scientific Romance from the Year 3000, season 3 ends with everyone gathering around to watch Cronus jump a shark. He fails.
  • In the short House fanfic titled, well, "Shark", House wakes up in bed with Cameron, Cuddy and Wilson. They quickly realize that they've fulfilled just about every shipping combination, and start to worry if they still have an audience.
    "Maybe we can string this out...but let's face facts. We've not only jumped, but boned the shark."

  • 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!"
  • The creation of Indominus rex in Jurassic World is fueled by the executive's desire to attract new visitors, and counteract the Park's lower entry rate. This is lampshaded by one park goer.
    "Jurassic Park didn't need Indominus Rex!"
  • Vin Diesel jumps the submarine in the eighth The Fast and the Furious film. Also a kind of Bilingual Bonus when you realize that the sub is an "Akula" class sub.
  • Referenced near the end of Game Night. After the protagonists have spent most of the night dealing with a murder mystery game being hijacked by a real kidnapping, it turns out that was just another ruse set up by Max and Annie's neighbour. When another set of criminals shows up, Max assumes it's a last-ditch twist and declares that the whole thing's jumped the shark. Unfortunately, these bad guys are very real.

  • Where Are They Now Mysteries: Discussed by name in the first book, which focuses on Tilda Harper searching for an actress from the long-ended sitcom Kissing Cousins (about a trio of "normal" siblings and their cousins, a trio of equally "weird" siblings, coming to live with their grandfather and getting into typical sitcom shenanigans), and includes episode summaries, excerpts from interviews with cast and crew, and other reviews of the show. It's noted in narration that another set of cousins (seven-year-old twins, one "normal" and one "weird") were added to try and counter falling ratings in the last season, but it failed miserably - fans considered their arrival to be when the show jumped the shark. (The actresses themselves don't seem to realize how disliked they were.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 Robinson 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!"
  • Supernatural:
    • 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". Played with in that he really is their brother, but is already dead, and he stays dead.
    • Referenced again at the end of the episode "The Real Ghostbusters".
      Chuck: It's not jumping the shark if you never come down.
  • 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.
  • 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?"
  • CSI has two examples:
    • The episode "Two and a Half Deaths" 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 show's final episode, Grissom is clearly aware of it as he holds up two severed shark fins to a bunch of cops and says "Looks like someone jumped a shark".
  • 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. The title of this "very special episode"? When Johnny Met Sharky.
  • The last but one ever episode of The Colbert Report literally did it in the opening credits.
  • In the season four premiere of Wizards of Waverly Place, Alex lied to the reporters that Lady Gaga was going to jump over a shark tank while riding on a motorcycle.


    Professional Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • 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."
    Still, you can wear it around your adorable new baby cousin, or to the wedding that dissipates all the interesting romantic tension in your life. Or you can put it on the new person cast to play your best friend, or wear it to your new job in another part of the city, or during the Old West flashback episode of your life.
    • That last one became Hilarious in Hindsight when West of Loathing came out, along with it's corresponding challenge path.
    • 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"
  • 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.
  • In the intro for Mega Man's Christmas Carol 3, Proto Man has gotten fed up of Christmases that go sour anyway and the doctors acting bizarrely, with this game's Paper-Thin Disguise scenario leading him to outright call it shark-jumping territory. Seeing as this game got released after a lengthy delay, it's definitely intentional.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Becomes a Visual Pun in the 100th episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Vinyl Scratch and Octavia Melody are riding on a giant DJ-platform on wheels to make it to Matilda's wedding in time. As they fly down the road, the station jumps over a plush shark doll for a split second.
  • In the 101 Dalmatian Street Episode; "Dal-Martians", Dolly is telling a Story about how she, Dylan & Dawkins were able to launch a UFO-Shaped Parade Float in to the Canal. When the float launches up a ramp, it shows them flying over a shark.
  • 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 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.
    Troy McClure: 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.
    • "They'll Never Stop 'The Simpsons'" (which was part of a Clip Show) features an image of Homer jumping over a shark (about 28 seconds in), just before launching into a series of stupid ideas that the show could pursue in the future. Note that two of them sort of wind up happening in later seasons.note 
  • 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.
  • In The Replacements, Dick Daring jumps the shark twice in the second episode of the first season, with a Fonz lookalike appearing both times.
  • 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: The Animated 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 is literally all about this trope. Bat-Mite, tired of the show's Lighter and Softer nature, conspires to get it cancelled in the hopes that it'll be replaced by a Darker and Edgier Batman show. He does this by using his Reality Warper powers to inflict several classic shark jumps on the show, including 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 himself) tries to save the day 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. As for Bat-Mite, not only does he not get what he wanted (the replacement is a CG-animated show about Batgirl), but Ambush Bug points out that since he's part of Brave and the Bold, the cancellation affects him too, and a silly character like him would never be included in a Darker and Edgier Batman show. Bat-Mite vanishes into thin air, while the other characters have a party and Batman thanks his viewers for their support.
  • Team Umizoomi has an unusual variation where a shark jumps with the Team.
  • Mentioned in the Regular Show episode "The Heart of a Stuntman".
  • The Transformers: Rescue Bots episode "Movers and Shakers" features Blades, while dealing with the rogue robot that was the episode's problem, jumping over a statue of a shark and even saying the Fonz's catchphrase.

Alternative Title(s): Jump The Shark, Jumped The Shark, Shark Jump, Jumps The Shark


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