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Jump the Shark

Fred Fox Jr. admits in the LA Times that he is the writer responsible for the infamous Happy Days episode in which Fonzie jumped the shark.

The phrase, “Jump the shark,” has entered the English lexicon and means the moment after which it’s all downhill. Other examples provided include The Great Gazoo joining The Flintstones; Vickie’s arrival on The Love Boat, and Obama’s appearance on The View.

Fox argues that the phrase, as pithy, inherently comprehensible and self-explanatory as it seems, is undeserved. He points out that Happy Days continued for many more seasons…many more episodes…and ranked among the more popular shows in television for many years after Fonzie went water skiing. That may say more about the 1970’s and American tastes in entertainment than it does about the quality of post-shark Happy Days, but that is not what provokes me.

Fox also contends that his career was not harmed by having penned the episode knows as “Hollywood 3”. He says:

Fortunately, my career didn’t jump the shark after “jump the shark.” When “Happy Days” ended, I went directly to the ABC Paramount hit show “Webster” and, after that, wrote and produced, among others, “It’s Your Move,” “He’s the Mayor, “The New Leave It to Beaver” and “Family Matters.” In 1987, Brian Levant and I created the action comedy “My Secret Identity,” which won an International Emmy.

THAT is what provokes me. This fucking scribe never had a “career”. His entire professional life – and a rank amateur one at that – has been one vicious assault on decency and good taste after another. The way this talentless hack crows about his resume, you’d think he’d written All in the Family, MASH, Roots, Hill St. Blues AND The Mary Tyler Moore Show while churning out comedy sketches for The Carol Burnett Show just for shits and giggles.
But no…he gave us fucking Webster (a Diff’rent Strokes rip-off attempt to exploit an undersized black kid who oozed cuteness) AND Family Matters (a Webster rip-off that replaced cuteness with nerdiness and high-waisted pants). It says something about one’s creativity when your latest project is just a retooled version of your last project, which was itself a rip-off of something that was mostly a contrived pile of shit to begin with.

I remember watching Fonzie jump the shark. I was hoping like hell he’d be eaten by the shark. It would have saved all of us a bucket full of brain rot if Fred Fox had performed…and missed that jump.

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6 Responses

  1. Be fair. It’s only fitting that appropriate entertainment be provided for the impaired. Don’t think of those shows as sitcoms. Think of them as wheelchair ramps.

  2. I know I saw it in syndication once, but I only remember some fuzzy, awkward, confusing scene that made no sense. Nothing like the great episode where Fonzie jumped some buses/cars on his motorbike. That was clear, understandable, made sense and had some tension. The shark episodes contained none of that.

    People forget how popular Happy Days was in its day. Everybody of every age watched that damn show. It had such momentum, it would take much more than Jumping the Shark to kill it. People still watched the show for several more seasons after that, but the thrill was gone. It was running on pure momentum/past glory from that stupid TV moment on. Remember, in those days, they only had two shows competing with them and I’m sure they were throwaway shows.

    Part of the reason why Jumping The Shark became what it means today stems from the fact that this episode was a cheap ripoff of something they already did before… and did much better the first time.

    Not surprisingly, most of what this Fox guy did is horrible, derivative, shit, but I did like My Secret Identity for some reason.

    Maybe because I thought his little girlfriend was hot or maybe because I realized it was a Greatest American Hero ripoff.

    • Jesus Unshaven Resort Christ! They even stole the fucking theme song. If that’s not a retooled version of the song…I think it was sung by John Sebastian but I might be confusing it with Welcome Back Kotter…no…wait…it was Mike Post!
      Fuck me. How could I forget that? Mike Post wrote every fucking theme song for schmaltz TV show since the 70’s: Magnum PI, Hill St. Blues, The Andy Griffith Show, The A-Team, Law & Order, The Rockford Files…and The Greatest American Hero, which, if I’m not also mistaken, went to #1 on the pop charts.
      (Yeah…John Sebastian did Welcome Back).

      Hmmm. I wonder what other TV theme songs hot #1. This is a job for Google-Fu!
      Answer: Only two have hit #1: Welcome Back, and the theme from SWAT (both in 1976…figures).

      From the article: Joey Scarbury’s sunny hit “Believe It or Not” from “The Greatest American Hero” (WRITTEN BY MIKE POST!) reached No. 2 in 1981, but it was Jan Hammer’s wordless theme from “Miami Vice” that next claimed the No. 1 spot in 1985. It’s a feat no instrumental has achieved since.

      After that, “How Do You Talk to an Angel,” the ballad that opened Fox’s short-lived drama “The Heights,” became a sales success, hitting the top in 1992 (one week after the series was canceled).

      Despite its ubiquity, the “Friends” theme — the Rembrandts’ “I’ll Be There for You” — climbed only to No. 17 on the Hot 100, but it did top radio airplay rankings in 1994.

      Other TV themes that have cracked Billboard’s Top 10 over the years include “Dragnet” (No. 3, 1953), “Peter Gunn” (No. 8, 1959), “Three Stars Will Shine Tonight” from “Dr. Kildare” (No. 10, 1962), “Secret Agent Man” from “Secret Agent” (No. 3, 1966), ” Hawaii Five-O” (No. 4, 1969), “The Rockford Files” (No. 10, 1975), “Makin’ It” (No. 5, 1979), “Hill Street Blues” (No. 10, 1981) and “Bad Boys” from “Cops” (No. 8, 1993).

      • Did you watch far enough to see how the kid turns into the super hero? Just switch aliens for a lab and it’s the same damn scene. Like the TEACHER in Greatest American Hero, the STUDENT also doesn’t know what his own powers are and seeks help from a science teacher.

        Now that you mention it, that theme song certainly does sound a lot more like The Greatest American Hero ‘s theme than I first realized, especially when you adjust for late 80’s vs late 70’s instrumentation and musical style. That shows how derivative even THE THEME SONGS for TV have become.

        The more I think about it, the more it becomes clear Hollywood itself Jumped The Shark a decade or two ago.

        For example, last season and this upcoming season, we’ve been subjected to “new” versions of “old” shows, many of which went off the air under 10 years ago:

        Hawaii 5-0 ( Now there’s a Shark Jump candidate!)
        Knight Rider
        Beverley Hills 90210
        Melrose Place

        Then there’s Nikita. It’s a re-make of the TV show Nikita, which was a TV version of the movie Point of No Return, which itself was a re-make of a 1990 French movie, La Femme Nikita .

        Once upon a time, Hollywood tried to cover the fact they were ripping off older ideas. They used to use the same formula, but with different names and faces. That’s why part of why Jumping The Shark became so poignant. Happy Days was starting to get so lazy, it was ripping ITSELF off, but at least they tried to hide it. Fonzie’s motorcycle jump outside of Arnold’s in a previous season got re-formulated into a trip to California where he traded in the bike for a set of skis and the garbage cans for a shark.

        Today, they have SO LITTLE respect for the audience, they don’t even pretend something is new anymore. They actually draw attention to the fact they are just ripping old shit off or, like the Shark Episode, ripping themselves off. (Law&Order, CSI)

        • Fuck it. If you can’t beat’em, join’em. I’m even gonna double down: I’ll MIX a Fonzie “Whoa” with a Leather Tuscadero two-handed thigh slap / finger snap / point.
          I’m gonna start calling everyone Higgins in that high pitched rising interrogative.
          Oh…and whenever someone does something stupid, I’ll say, “I pity the fool!”

          HAH. That reminds me of my favourite bit from The A-Team. B.A. was afraid to fly, so they always had to trick him.

          “I ain’t gettin’ on no plane, Hannibal. You know I hate to fly.”
          “We’d never ask you to fly, B.A. Here…have a glass of milk.”
          “Yeah. That’s what I need. Some milk. Calm me down. (drinks milk) Zzzzzzzzzz.”
          [later in the same episode]
          “I ain’t gettin’ on no plane, Hannibal. You know I hate to fly. And don’t try trickin’ me with none o’ that drugged milk, neither!”
          “We’d never try to trick you with drugged milk, B.A. Here…have some pie.”
          “Yeah. That’s what I need. Some pie. Calm me down.”
          ….
          Rinse, repeat.

        • In retrospect, that was arguably the most damaging youth market show of all time. Every week, there were huge, entertaining, gunfights and only in “special episodes” did anyone ever get shot. A whole generation of kids got used to the idea of solving their problems with fun, “consequence-free”, violence.

          You know they made a movie remake of The A-Team this year, right? From what I tell, it made the real A-Team look like Masterpiece Theatre. Lots of CGI, but no Mr T. I guess he passed on it.

          I need some herbal therapy. That’s what I need. Calm me down.

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